My 12/27/09 Missoulian column
Almost all of us have read and used blogs, and the blog model of online discussion works fairly well for many subjects, from personal blogs to business and just about any other subject. There are billions of blogs out there, and the number increases each day.
Over the years blogs, have evolved into different styles of online question and answer forums. But a problem remains, and that problem is probably evident to anyone who has participated in the blogosphere: How does one encourage good discussions, and also importantly, some sort of accountability for correct information?
After all, that’s one of ideas of the usability of the Internet, right? Finding and sharing accurate information on any number of subjects, and being able to discuss it, too?
A fairly new way of working and participating online has come along, and it’s a step toward more democratic blog-style discussions, and at the same time it’s well suited for complex discussions and pure, knowledge base-style sites that work with sophisticated subject matter.
It’s called StackExchange, and the software was first introduced in April, 2008. Stack Exchange isn’t entirely new, as many ideas have been borrowed from the blogosphere, from Wikis and forums. But Stack Exchange was put together for expressed purpose of encouraging the accuracy of information and the accountability of users and contributors.
The first Web site to use the software is called Stack Overflow, which is a wide-ranging site for computer programming questions and answers. Stack Overflow has more than 430,000 programming questions, and at least that many answers, contributed by more than 110,000 users.
Stack Overflow works through a point system that lets users build “reputations.” If you’re looking for help, you ask questions. If you’re knowledgeable, you answer questions. And if you’re wrong, you will be corrected. All of your question and answer activity goes toward your reputation, which everyone can see.
Next week: How the Stack Overflow model works.
This week in Mac Q & A: Perian, the Swiss Army Knife of QuickTime.