Atwood: Hey, OK Joel, how long have you worked with me now ? Do I strike you as the type of person who's gonna file my taxes like the first day I possibly can ? Does that strike you as at all possible ?
Spolsky: No that doesn't strike me, also remind me that [laughs], you're right that makes no sense
Atwood: [laughs] sorry
Spolsky: You know, is there a date between april 15th and april 16th I can use?
Atwood: Oh that's bad. It's amateur, it's amateur
Spolsky: Also, we should remind our listeners we need an underwriter for this show. This sort of like NPR. All these bandwidth costs and stuff are just being absorbed by The Conversations Network. If you are interested in underwriting this show, you get a little announcement in the beginning. It's really really appreciated; so contact, you know, us. Go ahead and email podcast at stackoverflow dot com and I'll forward it to the appropriate people who are of course Doug K.
Atwood: Yeah, The Conversations Network has to be clear. People need to get this straight: it truly is a non-profit organization. They are doing this for the greater good of the world. It brings you this content for free.
Spolsky: And it's not really an advertisement either. It's sort of a public announcement in the beginning, like they have on public radio.
Atwood: That's right
Spolsky: Anyway there we did that in the beginning, so now on to the news of StackOverflow.
Atwood: Yes. So some StackOverflow happenings. We did roll out some email support in a very basic rudimentary way. It's working now. So the way it's working now... I am going to make some changes to this today actually. If you haven't been to the site in 7 days, we can see that. And if there has been activity on your stuff... in other words if people have responded to your questions or commented on your posts, we will email that information to you every 7 days. So that's in fact, in part, default behavior. But I do want to offer people, like at they are sigining up for the first time that checkbox "notify me by email if any updates to this question" I want to give people way to opt in because I something unorthodox, I guess you'd say, with the email in that in order to test it and in order to sort of rekindle a relationship with people who haven't been to the site in like multiple months, I kinda turned it on for people who hadn't been to the site in a long time.
Spolsky: That sounds like you'd get the death penalty if you did something like that.
Atwood: Yeah. I realise it was morally ambiguous. For that I apolgize. But the thing the people who have been gone in a long time, I don't think they realized they had the option, right. Plus, we are sending them stuff direct responses to them. This is in no way a marketing email from us. It is just that your activity, stuff.
Spolsky: If there has been no activity, you would not get an email.
Atwood: You would only get an email if there is activity in your stuff since the last time you had been to the site. And I do want to make it more visible so you can opt in. And we do have a one-click unsubscribe. Like literally it's one click: you click and BAM! you are done. No take a survey and... you know, have you ever got one of those emails for those unsubscribe things. Like you click on unsubscribe and it's like the form... it's like the voting ballot in Florida in 2000.
Atwood: People can help each other; on a one to one basis. Let me give you a crappy example from high school, but I think it totally emphasises the human factor here. We were sitting in this high school English class and this girls says: does anyone have any gum?
Atwood: Right, she is just asking the room. She is not asking a person. And of course, nobody steps up and gives here any gum.
Atwood: Then she turns to the person next to her and says: Joe, do you have any gum? And he's like: here is some gum. This is what I am talking about. Like you have to have that personal relationship cause people don't ignore each other. They ignore...
Spolsky: That's a principle. That is a psychological principal called the "diffusion of responsibility". Because she was asking the whole room, the responsibility to answer was diffused.
Atwood: Yes, exactly. And I think that's what: If you give them a couple of copies of "Code Complete" and it's like "read it whenever". You know - maybe I read it, maybe I won't . But if you sit down and actually go through the code, the principles. You take your code and you say here in the book: we talk about "don't repeat yourself" and here in the code we have the same code in two places. It is a much more interactive and much more helpful on a one to one basis. I think that is really the only way to help programmers like that.
Spolsky: You know, this is sort of an interesting question. Because it sounds to me like the problem is that this person is not really motivated.