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New Programming Q&A Web Site Goes Public

by Abel Avram on Sep 16, 2008 |

Stack Overflow, a web site for programming questions&answers, has been made public while still in beta. The site offers programmers the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers from fellow coders for free, and intends to become the right source of answers for any programming question.

Stack Overflow is a simple web site with one goal: host any imaginable programming question and let others answer it. The creators' description is:

Stack Overflow is a collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers — regardless of platform or language.

Joel Spolsky, one of the site creators and CEO of Fog Creek Software, maker of FogBugz, a bug tracking software, comments on the reason why he and Jeff Atwood, author of Coding Horror blog, started this project:

If you’re very lucky, on the fourth page of the search results [while searching for a programming answer to a question], if you have the patience, you find a seven-page discussion with hundreds of replies, of which 25% are spam advertisements posted by bots trying to get googlejuice for timeshares in St. Maarten, yet some of the replies are actually useful.

... I thought that the programming community could do better by combining the idea of a Q&A site with voting and editing.

Following is an explanation of how the site is supposed to work, according to Joel:

Every question in Stack Overflow is like the Wikipedia article for some extremely narrow, specific programming question. ... This question should only appear once in the site. Duplicates should be cleaned up quickly and redirected to the original question.

Some people propose answers. Others vote on those answers. If you see the right answer, vote it up. If an answer is obviously wrong (or inferior in some way), you vote it down. Very quickly, the best answers bubble to the top. The person who asked the question in the first place also has the ability to designate one answer as the “accepted” answer, but this isn’t required. The accepted answer floats above all the other answers.

Good answers are rewarded with a better reputation on the site. People with good reputation receive the right to edit the questions and the answers, contributing to the creation of a coherent and rich database of programming Q&A.

Stack Overflow is free and promises to stay free:

Stack Overflow is a programming Q & A site that's free. Free to ask questions, free to answer questions, free to read, free to index, built with plain old HTML, no fake rot13 text on the home page, no scammy google-cloaking tactics, no salespeople, no JavaScript windows dropping down in front of the answer asking for $12.95 to go away.

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