codinghorror

Jeff Atwood

Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON June 08, 2017

Discussion

codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
Hi - I'm Jeff Atwood, programmer and long time blogger at Coding Horror, cofounder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Happy to be here, ask me anything about running a startup or online community!
Ayrton De Craene
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
You're a huge advocate of gamification, what would you recommend reading/doing for someone who has no experience with it at all?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@ayrton I wouldn't say I am a huge advocate of gamification per se, I am an advocate of having fun. So the correct way to look at this is "how can I make my community more fun?" I don't mean literally adding games... for example, badges on Stack Overflow are a whole lot more interesting and engaging than reading a manual or watching a demo video. Look at how games work, but you don't need (or want!) to turn your product into a game per se. For example here's a good primer, the video in this is essential.. watch it! https://blog.codinghorror.com/le...
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hi Jeff, If you had to start a community from scratch tomorrow, how would you go about building it?
Julio Protopapas
Julio Protopapas@julioprotopapas · julioprotopapas.eu
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@bentossell part of why we founded https://discourse.org is to start people off with a "civilized discourse construction kit" that gives them a high chance of success out of the box. The sad truth, though, is that software can only do so much. I can't snap my fingers and make 100 (or even 5!) daily users materialize to post and reply and keep the community alive. The short answer to your question is "be famous" because that solves a whooole lot of problems. ;) If you are not famous, then recruit people who will show up every day and talk amongst themselves -- even if it's just your internal team. There is a surprising amount of value in making your internal discussions public, insofar as you can. Of course it's easier for me to say that as an open source software company ;)
Arjun Tina
Arjun Tina@arjun_tina · NYC Labs CEO
What do you think the key to stack overflow's crowdsourcing is? Do you think the points and the ability to get certain privileges was a key part of it? The mission? Or a combination of factors?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@arjun_tina we have known for a long time that the best way to motivate a programmer is for another programmer to tell them they are wrong ;) https://blog.codinghorror.com/ho... More seriously, think pair programming .. Stack Overflow is pair programming on the Internet.
Bit-Booster!
Bit-Booster!@gsylviedavies · Sole Proprieter, bit-booster.com
@locnarorb @arjun_tina "Are you coming to bed?" "I can't. This is important." https://xkcd.com/386/
Julio Protopapas
Julio Protopapas@julioprotopapas · julioprotopapas.eu
@arjun_tina generalistic question
Arjun Tina
Arjun Tina@arjun_tina · NYC Labs CEO
@julioprotopapas over your head
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Jeff! Coding Horror!!! I remember obsessively reading your blog while in my tiny cubicle at my first programming internship. 😀 Now for an actual question: Would love to know more about the process behind designing the badges/permissions system for Stack Overflow. Were the first permission levels something you iterated on a lot? I imagine figuring out the correct threshold for being able to downvote/moderate as being very tricky.
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@mscccc it is less tricky than you would think, because the vast majority of people don't get much rep.. see the sidebar counts at https://stackexchange.com/league...
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hey Jeff, thanks for joining us today. What are your top tips for building an open online community that maintains honesty and integrity without giving way to trolls?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@ems_hodge there is absolutely no substitute for strong moderators that take visible (and fair!) action on a regular basis. We try to build super easy one-click moderator tools into https://discourse.org everywhere, and we have a "trash can on every street corner" in our simple, clear flagging system for community members (which will auto-hide posts that have been flagged a lot), but ... sadly, none of this matters if your moderators never show up. It's also important to have a mission statement or community guidelines that explain what your community stands for, and aspires to be. Almost nobody will actually read it, of course, but it matters a lot to those who _will_ read it and point to it as a goal .. and those are your most essential community members in my experience.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
Hey Jeff! Thanks for joining us. What are some of the things that helped build the Stack Overflow community in the early days?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@nivo0o0 Early on it was largely the audience of Joel Spolsky's blog, and my blog. That is a big advantage, what I call the "be Radiohead" strategy to digital music distribution ;)
keyul
keyul@keyul · Maker of Quick Code & Bot Stash
Hi Jeff, Thank you for building lifeline for the developer community. Where were people look for coding related questions before Stack Overflow born?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@keyul filthy printed books, apparently! It was a dark time!
Bit-Booster!
Bit-Booster!@gsylviedavies · Sole Proprieter, bit-booster.com
@locnarorb @keyul Darker than the printed books was "Experts-Exchange"! Honestly, the makers of SO deserve a turing award for the productivity boost they provided the entire software industry.
Milan Zoufal
Milan Zoufal@mzoufal · Embracing the possibilities
@keyul Usenet
Aaron Bell
Aaron Bell@aaron_bell
I'm new to programming and want to build a online community for business students. Whats the the best way to bring users to the community?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@aaron_bell we have a short blog post which covers community building basics -- we are trying to have Discourse do as much of this as possible on your behalf, but there is no substitute for the human touch, particularly early on: https://blog.discourse.org/2014/...
Julio Protopapas
Julio Protopapas@julioprotopapas · julioprotopapas.eu
@aaron_bell face to face pitching
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What are some interesting question/search trends you've seen at Stack Overflow?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@andrewett I find it very interesting that the overall amount of USA traffic has been declining since 2011! The world is a very big place, and there are great programmers everywhere.
Julio Protopapas
Julio Protopapas@julioprotopapas · julioprotopapas.eu
@locnarorb @andrewett india is hot ;)
Bit-Booster!
Bit-Booster!@gsylviedavies · Sole Proprieter, bit-booster.com
On the topic of gamification! I have 875 points on SO. Is it possible I could ever get to 100K in this day and age? My gut says the goldrush days are over, and all the whoppers (e.g. how to exit vim) are answered. I suspect I'll be stuck below 5K forever. (Here's me: https://stackoverflow.com/users/... ).
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@gsylviedavies more answers = more rep! Note that for reasons of fairness and life balance, nobody can get more than 200 rep in a day, as we have a daily cap. If we didn't have that, the "rich get richer" would be VERY rich indeed.
Bit-Booster!
Bit-Booster!@gsylviedavies · Sole Proprieter, bit-booster.com
I still think the rich get richer because of the drive-by upvotes on the early whoppers. For example, five minutes ago I got stuck in vim and coudn't exit...
Oluwabajio
Oluwabajio@oluwabajio · android developer at Bajio Tech.
what are the strategies you applied to get traction(users) during the early days of stackoverflow
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@oluwabajio Mostly we focused on listening to early user feedback and improving Stack Overflow to make it a better experience for them. There were a LOT of things that needed improvement! Perhaps my main advice here, is have a place to talk about the place.. we call it "meta", or it could be "product feedback forum" for your most avid users.. that's what https://discourse.org is for!
Saiph Savage
Saiph Savage@saiphcita
How do you envision the future of interfaces that help a wider portion of the population to learn coding skills within a community?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@saiphcita I am a huge HUGE fan of codepen https://codepen.io/ it is like this infinitely shareable scratch and doodle pad for code. I see that as the future of programming in many ways.
Mayank Mehta
Mayank Mehta@mayank_mehta
Did you guys have specific growth strategies for Stack Overflow in the beginning? What experiments did you run to grow the community and what was the cadence of these experiments?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@mayank_mehta I don't really run experiments, I have more of a field of dreams approach to this stuff https://blog.codinghorror.com/th...
Cory Zue
Cory Zue@czue · Indie hacker and maker, Dimagi
Hi Jeff, thanks for coming on - been a fan ever since the early days of the Stack Overflow podcast. I'm curious what made you motivated to start Coding Horror in the beginning? Was it just for fun or did you have the notion that building up an audience would eventually serve you well? Also, how did you build up your audience before you had one?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@czue I wanted to have a public research notebook where I wrote up what I learned, and that was the origin of the blog. It's still an excellent strategy for anyone, just getting a regular pattern of activity going is the hard part. Consider it exercise: the very first step is to do it every day, if you can. Until you can do it consistently, and keep doing it, nothing else matters.
Smokie
Smokie@xtoq · Smokie Does Stuff
What do you think about the remote workforce and its importance to the future of technology, both startups and established companies?
Smokie
Smokie@xtoq · Smokie Does Stuff
Also thanks so much for doing this!
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@xtoq I am a huge fan! The internet unlocks the geniuses around the world, not just the ones we happen to live close enough to! http://firstround.com/review/Her...
Julio Protopapas
Julio Protopapas@julioprotopapas · julioprotopapas.eu
@xtoq future of technology? how about the present? :)
Smokie
Smokie@xtoq · Smokie Does Stuff
@julioprotopapas Oh of course I also mean the present, but just because it's relevant now doesn't necessarily mean it's relevant in the future. I just like to keep abreast of the remote work situation. ;)
Smokie
Smokie@xtoq · Smokie Does Stuff
@locnarorb Thank you so much for your response and the article! Great read. Despite the apparent self evidence of the importance of hiring the best not just the local best, I find that often companies say they are open to "remote" work but they are really paying lip service to that invisible elephant in the room. Then there are companies that believe that hiring local is the best choice for their business, and sometimes that's right and sometimes maybe it's not. Either way, glad to see that you are still adhering to the "hire the best" mentality. Thanks for your hard work and dedication to the industry and the community! <3
Mayank Mehta
Mayank Mehta@mayank_mehta
When you're setting up a community like Stack Overflow, how important is it to figure out the nature of discussions that are permitted? Did you guys figure this out early on and stick with it or did it morph over time based on where the community took you?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@mayank_mehta it is very much reacting to what people are doing. It is a waste of effort to assume much about your community before you get in there and observe them doing their thing. I call this "going on safari with your users". You need to walk alongside them and see how they behave and why.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What was your biggest growth driver in achieving a network effect?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@andrewett build a product that people get excited about, and naturally want to talk about. You gotta do better than "meh, seems OK"! Also, if nobody hates what you are doing, it probably isn't very interesting.. so there's that ;)
Ruben Gomez
Ruben Gomez@rubenzeo · Entrepreneur + Strategist
Hi Jeff. Thanks so much for lending us your brain. Q.What launch strategy tips could you provide for an early stage company that focuses on building communities.
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@rubenzeo when it comes to community, don't build too much and plan too far ahead, build "just enough" then observe how your community uses and adapts to the software to plan the next steps. It is a huge mistake to assume almost anything about human beings and communities.. far better to go on safari with your users, observe how they use it, gather their feedback, and build based on that!
Ruben Gomez
Ruben Gomez@rubenzeo · Entrepreneur + Strategist
@locnarorb Read this and never thanked you. Many thanks Jeff!
Manuel Abarca
Manuel Abarca@damean · Web/Mobile/Game Developer
Hello, its great to have you here! What are your recommendations to build and keep a nice work/community culture?
codinghorror
codinghorror@locnarorb
@damean First, show up every day, this is 90% of parenting and life in general. Second, retain your sense of humor. If it stops being fun something is very wrong and you should ponder that before proceeding.