Find the answer to anything with StackExchange

When you hear the word "forum", what comes to mind? Ugly websites, lengthy wait times, dead ends, and 1999.

When you hear the word "forum", what comes to mind? Ugly websites, lengthy wait times, dead ends, and 1999.

The guys behind Stack Overflow have redefined the web forum into something interactive, easy-to-use, and surprisingly reactive.

On Stack, you simply ask a question about any programming topic, tag it, and someone in the community will answer the question. Sometimes you will three or four answers, and you can vote up an answer if it's accurate. Users get reputation points for answering and asking questions, which add a competitive and addicting element. Questions are organized by tags, which makes the site easily searchable and browsable.

It's really helpful if you have a problem that you are stuck on. Chances are, someone else had that same problem and they will give you their solution.

A posting on Slashdot proclaims that Stack Overflow has a few new flavors. They are taking this question and answer platform and applying it to every possible topic.

"StackOverflow, the successful question-and-answer website for programmers, is now over a year old and its top user has just passed 100,000 reputation points. Now one of the creators of StackOverflow, Joel Spolsky, and his company Fog Creek, are developing a software-as-a-service form of the StackOverflow engine called StackExchange to support any topic you want. The software is currently in private beta, but the first few beta sites have surfaced. Topics include business travel, the home, parenthood, the environment, finance, and iPhone game development."

Two interesting things to note about the Stack platform:

  1. You can only use OpenID to login. There is no signup form on Stack Overflow. Instead you use open authentication to start using the site.
  2. You can't make friends. What is a social network if you can't make friends? Interestingly enough, there is really no point to add anyone as a friend on the Stack sites because all you are doing is asking questions and answering questions. If you want to make friends with someone, click on their user page and add them on Facebook.

Building your own Stack platform is not free, but for the 1 million page view limit, it's only $129 a month. StackExchangers can override CSS, insert HTML, and even use any domain name they want. If you want more info about this project, check out the Meta StackExchange.

This is an interesting endeavor by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood.

They blew my mind with the first iteration of Stack Overflow, and then they built similar coding sites more focused on front end web development. Now they are branching off into more avenues, and it's really exciting.

The semantic web is about answers, and these guys understand that. The future of the web is coming, and this idea will be relevant for a while. Access to accurate information is the end goal. What do you think of this project? Are you a user of Stack Overflow?