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Podcast 022

Revision #51, 9/24/2008 12:06 PM
User: "Tried to start adding Jeff, but he really talks fast in this part. Yeah I agree its really funny that Jeff has ... all through this section. I was laughing my ass off until I realised it hadn't been transribed. Like Joel was talking to himself."
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Podcast 022

Revision #52, 9/25/2008 4:10 PM
User: "malleable was incorrectly shown as mailable"
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[incomplete]

Intro, advertising

[01:21]

Spolsky: Hello, OK so the technology is working now, and the bamboo for our lobby has arrived.

Atwood: Ooo neat.

Spolsky: We're in the new office and it's going to be really noisy:  There's a guy doing some drilling to install the shelf for the AV gear where we're going to install all the electronics that we need to play Rock Band in the new office so there'll be some noise from that.  None of the walls are here or the doors to any of the offices - there was this plan was that the front of every office would be a glass wall with a sliding glass door.  But those are nowhere to be seen and apparently they'll be coming in mid to late october.

Atwood: Do you guys have the computer setup so you can actually work? Do you have the internet and stuff like that?

Spolsky: Yeah, and in fact, our systems administrators did just a a fantastic, heroic effort - came in on the weekend while everything was being moved and pretty much had everything up and running for us for us by the morning.  Uh oh!  There's a guy that's bringing - this is not good...

Atwood: Is a one man band approaching?

Spolsky: There's a guy delivering a shelf. 

Hey Liz? ...  Looks like they are delivering this couch here and it needs to go where the dumpster is... the dumpster is  ...  Although actually, I guess they're gonna set it up tomorrow so it doesn't matter. ... Alright. Probably safe.  They're moving the dumpster.

Oh, [someone] just glided by on a scooter.  We've got people bringing in bicycles and scooters since the office is much bigger than it used to be.  So it just takes longer to get all the way down to the other end, it's just a long straight shot from Rector Street to Broadway Avenue. You can check it out on Google maps.  And we basically go from one street to the next.

Atwood: Thats very cool. You guys don't have Segways yet though?

Spolsky: That would be good, I'm all for Segways.

Atwood: Yeah, that's fair. So, the big news this week, in addition to you guys getting moved in which is cool.  Is, of course we now have a public website.

Spolsky: Congratulations! We launched.

[3:47]

Atwood: So you wrote a blog post and I wrote a blog post and I think the amazing thing to me is that the site is still up because I really wasn't sure - I really didn't know.

Spolsky: Yeah

Atwood: It's just hard to do that level of load testing but the site has survived and just to give you an idea of the dramatic increase in load our CPU graph used to be at 2-3% most of the time. Minimal, even under pretty heavy beta load and now it's pretty regularly at above 50% sustained.

Spolsky: Wait a minute....  When I publish something - on my blog at least - there's always like a day or two of heavy traffic that it generates but then it ends, I mean it subsides.  I'm sure the same is true for you.  And I also send out an email to 52,000 people who subscribe to my email newsletter.  What a blast from the past that is! Email newsletter - what's that?

Atwood: Right. You'd assume this is some kind of worst-case scenario, right? This is probably more attention than we are going to get later which is good because we gotta have some room to scale.

Spolsky: There'll be a lot of attention now but that will sort of be covering up an underlying growth curve so once the noise goes away there'll be some pretty heavy growth there.

Atwood: Right. I actually got an email from Jeff. We did hook up Google Analytics and I do have some actual numbers if you want to hear them for day one.

Spolsky: Oh yeah, totally!  Totally!

[5:16]

Atwood: On day one - just random numbers here - 1,500 questions were asked and in context during the entire length of the beta I think we had 8,500 questions and that was a month and a half so in one day we generated a pretty sizable percentage of everything that was done during the beta. Almost 6,000 answers, 1,700 comments were left, 62,000 unique visitors, and almost 700,000 page views.

Spolsky: 700,000 page views.  In a day?!  Wow!

[5:55]

Atwood: Our site is kind of amenable to people looking at pages over and over, right? I mean, you want to see the new questions. It's the kind of site you hit refresh a lot.

Spolsky:  One of the things that struck me as - you know how we talked last week about how we're all stupid? So here's a stupid thing that people said.  [laughs]  You know a lot of people had been commenting saying that StackOverflow is great with this elite super-dooper beta with very few people coming in but what's going to happen when a million people come flooding in and start asking questions?

Atwood: Yes.

Spolsky: And your questions only stay on the home page for two minutes instead of 15 minutes or something.

Atwood: The lowest I saw it get during the beta was about 20 minutes. Now it gets down to two minutes so it's ten times higher.

Spolsky: But the point is that we also have ten times as many viewers - as much traffic - and so a post is still seen by about the same number of people even though it survives for less time on the home page. I think the only problem is if the unanswered questions count starts climbing uncontrollably.  That might be a sign that somehow that we've lost the balance.  We did have a balance in the beta where things were getting answers - they really were.  Only very obscure questions weren't getting answers but the only way to fix that is just to have gigantic scale where we've got a couple of hundred thousand regular visitors so there's likely to be somebody who knows about that Quickbooks XML integration with VisualBasic 4.0 bug.  So for that you need huge scale, you need Google and that's something were never going to get good answers to those questions until we had much more critical mass.  But in terms of a person asking how to do X with some technology getting answers then their question is going to appear to about the same number of people as it would have before the beta - even if it doesn't live as long on the home page.  

[8:00]

Atwood: Right.

Spolsky:  Assuming that the mix of people looking to answer and looking to question is roughly the same and the demographic mix of the people looking to come into our real site are the same mix of demographics as those that came into our beta - and I really think they are, I think they are pretty close.

[8:17]

Atwood: Well I do think, as we've said, many times before one thing that works in our favor is that it's kind of a selective audience. I mean, it should really be programmers. I can't imagine any sort of random internet user coming to our page and ...

Spolsky:  Caring.

Atwood: ... wanting to stay there for any length of time. Because it's just much of technical jibba-jabba about really arcane things ...

Spolsky:  Jibber Jabber.

Atwood: ... but that's the strength. That's why we think it's going to work. And yeah, we were lacking a long tail of programmers in the private beta. I did get one email from Jason Cohen of Smart Bear Software and I guess he works with Justin Standard. And Justin was the person that asked you at the Business of Software Conference about the community-owned questions. That was actually Justin. 

Spolsky:  Mm hmm.

Atwood: So they're heavily involved with the site and I got some passioned email from him (Jason and Justin) urging us not to take the site public. They were really deeply, deeply concerned about the eternal September thing of just, you know, bunches and hordes or random users coming in and really diluting the quality of the site. But I don't actually think it works that way. I don't agree that's really a risk. I think the bigger risk is having an insular community where you don't have the long tail so these really obscure questions can never really get answered. So I think there's a bigger downside to being a closed community than an open one in our case. Now, if we were something like Yahoo! Answers maybe. And actually this brings up a good point and a transition to something I want to talk about. We're going to have a special guest in this call. So MetaFilter - there was a nice topic on StackOverflow on MetaFilter and it got quite a bit of discussion and that was really a big honor because I've been a big fan of MetaFilter. But MetaFilter is a closed community. It costs $5 to sign up for MetaFilter. I'm looking at Wikipedia - that's something institutied in late 2004 - but it's really kind of a selective community. You can read it of course but you can't really do anything unless you pay the $5 lifetime membership fee. It's really just a little barrier to get people in there, and the quality of the community is, in fact, very high.

[8:47]

Spolsky:  We have our own five dollar barrier.

Atwood: What's that?

Spolsky:  It's called OpenID. [laughs]

Atwood: That's a pretty minimal barrier.

Spolsky:  It's about five dollars. It's about five dollars of headache.

Atwood: I disagree. One of my favorite threads and I think I had to close this one because it was beta stuff was somebody was complaining about OpenID and then the highest voted answer was - I don't remember who this was so I apologize - I think I'm going to make up a name. "My name is Jim. I was a VB programmer for 16 years. I was able to sign up for this site." Even if you're a Visual Basic programmer you can figure it out and make it work. I think there's some complains about it, but the people that are complaining about it - I don't get it. I think the status quo is so... evil. Having just thousands of logins across thousands of sites.

Spolsky:  I think if we can do something to promote OpenID then it's worth it.  Speaking of VisualBasic programmers:  Another frequent gripe that we've been hearing is - there's the vacuum cleaner, I was telling Jeff earlier that they're vacuuming in the office and he said:  "Can we not just do the podcast after they've finished vacuuming?" and I said:  "Yeah, that will be in November sometime." [laughs]  There's sort of an asymmetric long tail to construction projects, they just go slower and slower and slower as they get to the end of the project.

Atwood: Right.

Spolsky:  Can you hear the vacuuming or is my excellent microphone...

Atwood: A little tiny bit, it's not in any way obnoxious.

Spolsky:  Well, yay Seinheiser.  But the real point was:  You mentioned VB and another - I don't want to say criticism - observation that we got from a few people was that the site seems heavily .Net oriented:  C# and .Net are the biggest categories of questions.  I actually didn't think that we were disproportionately .NET oriented.  I don't have statistics for this but I actually believe that our distribution of tags is probably pretty close to the actual distribution of working programmers in the world.  I don't think people realise just how common it is to be a C# .Net programmer because it's mostly the internal and the enterprisey applications that do that.   The people that make a lot of noise are the bloggers with their web [me-]too-point-oh startups using the Ruby on the Rails but I just think that actually our distribution of tags feels to me to be pretty close to the actual distribution of programmers working today - the actual technologies people are using.  I don't know that that's true, maybe a listener can suggest something we could compare ourselves to - maybe books or job listings or something.

Atwood: Right, I was actually surprised and pleased.  This is one of the major goals when we launched the site, right, was to be agnostic. Right we are not saying this is a place to discuss Windows programming, this is just a place to discuss programming, period. 

Spolsky: Mm

Atwood: I think really the challenge for us is that there is still lots of people even though I have like ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Yeah

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Well what do you mean by...  If it's a question that's just "What's the best programming chair?" - that's kind of a programming question.  Or...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Oh.  Yeah.  If there was a real way to tag those out of view...  You know what I mean?...  If they came in appropriately tagged and I never saw them I wouldn't care personally.  And that goes back to the question of tags which I want to bring up.  The first time I tried to do a Q&A site it was really just discussion groups, and there's still one of them which is the .NET questions on my home page - if you click on .NET Questions there's a discussion group there (which I'll probably close down now we have Stack Overflow) where people ask questions and answer them about .Net.  Of course for some reason in the past I used to think that the right way to go about building something like Stack Overflow would be to start small with something that you can easily accomplish and to go narrow so that you at least have a chance - I would generally tell people to pick a narrow niche because it's easier to reach the people that are in your niche.  Maybe I would have said:  "You know what?  Let's just make a site for Ruby programmers trying to learn Python."  And if that's really successful then you can expand it.  You see all those Q&A sites out there for individual technologies - there's a lot of Microsoft SQL sites, four or five of them - in fact those are notorious for being behind paywalls.  Obviously there are great sites for other technologies, Ruby - what was the one I keep forgetting - Delphi; there are great Delphi sites - but the idea of tags allows you to make one site, make it super broad and not worry about it and not have to reach anybody, just tag it and it's really kind of working in a way.  I mean think of the original UseNet which had - I'm sorry, I'm being distracted because they are rearranging the couch that was just delivered.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Yeah

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: It's so much better not to have to find the right place in the hierarchy to randomly tag on the fly even though yesterday I was the first person to use the tag for the DHTML edit control - an obsolete piece of technology I'm still working with, to my chagrin - but that tag is correct, in fact it's also tagged VB6 because that's VB6 code.  And you know what?  I got a great answer to that question - I asked how to implement smart quotes using VB6 and the DHTML edit controller and I got code that did it!

[17:57]

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Can you believe it?

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Another thing that I think is funny - I guess this is a third point of criticism that we're getting which is:  "Well, look at this question!  It has two bad answers and one even worse answer and the even worse answer has even more votes!"  So:  OK, go vote it up!  [laughs]  That's why there's a little vote button right there!  You can provide a new answer.  A lot of the problems are reminding me very much of the way the mainstream media responded to Wikipedia, which is when Wikipedia was first coming out you would see all these mainstream media articles saying:  "Well, I went to Wikipedia and I looked up this, that and the other thing and this was wrong and that was incorrect and the other thing didn't even have an article at all, and literally by the time this thing made it into print and was in people's hands, in the black and white newspaper printed on newsprint paper and delivered to somebody's front lawn with a rubber band around it for the birds to poop on [huh, huh - he said "poop"] by the time this had arrived there the Wikipedia entries had all been fixed. 

Spolsky: I think that's where people miss the point about the editing and the answering that you can say: "Here's an example of something that's not right." But when you have a mailable site, it just gets better and better and better. Which ever argument you try to use, it's just going to get weaker and weaker weaker.

[19:37]

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Oh!  It's working!

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  You dingy?

[20:00]

Spolsky:  Uh you know? It just ended the call recording and started a new one.  Thats ok, because I can merge them if its really...

Atwood: ...

Josh Millard: Thanks, am I coming in ok here?

Atwood: ...

Millard: I've got kind of a fiddly setup, ok.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Josh, are you on an airplane using the WIFI on American Airlines with a laptop?

Millard: Actually using the built in mic on my Macbook Air was my main concern, I didn't know how good it was gonna sound, but if its coming out ok, then we're in good shape.  I'm actually going over a Spring EVO? card which has been rock solid since I got it, so... so yeah!

Atwood: ...

Millard: Sure

Atwood: ....

Millard: Yeah! What is MetaFilter is one of those weird unanswerable questions, but the stock line at this point is that its a community weblog and its essentially a collaborative blogging site on the front page MetaFilter.com where anyone int eh user base can make a post on whatever subject, its a generalist sort of anything goes place.  Kind of in the same circles of what you think of as like BoingBoing or like reddit if you took only the 20 or 30 top posts and didn't make it quite so tech centric.

Atwood: ...

Millard: But everyone in the community has a right to post, everybody in the community has a right to comment in threads, so somebody makes a post, everybody kind of jumps in and talks about it, some get a whole lot of discussion, some not so much.  Thats sort of the classic MetaFilter function.  A few years ago we started "ask MetaFilter" which is probably the most heavily visited part of the site where folks can go to ask questions to get answers.  You had mentioned that you saw the thread yesterday on MetaFilter where from MetaFilter users side you could see some of the discussion in terms of stackoverflow vs ask MetaFilter.  Which I thought was kind of interesting seeing those two going against each other, but you can see kind of the identification people have on the site with that function as well.  So thats basically the two big things the site does, it also has some other sub sites that are less well trafficked.  I'm one of the three main moderators there. Matt Howie of course started the site back in July of 99 and he's been running it since day one, Jesamine West has been moderating on the site since I guess the beginning of 2005, and I came on as moderator early last year, so I've been there about a year and a half now.

[23:00]

Atwood: ...

Millard: Oh, yeah:  Been there for ever.

Atwood: ...

Millard:  I think April 2001 is when I joined - spare time in college and memepool didn't have enough posts on any given day so I've been hanging around there for ever and grown up in the mean time.  I definitely wouldn't want 2001 me moderating the site.

Atwood: ...

Millard:  Yeah, it's strange - the time dilation, especially with the Internet.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Sure.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Millard:  On Metafilter it's only happened twice - or I should say two and a half times - but Jessamyn coming on, that was a big move for Matt because he'd been doing it by himself and just plain hadn't gone there previously(?) and it became, as much as anything, a workload issue.  But she had also displayed really good sensibility towards Ask Metafilter since it launched and he saw that she was someone who really got what was going on with the site, which was obviously important, but that she was also someone with a pretty even temperament, someone who did not wear her proclivities on her sleeve, she was able to disagree with someone without flipping out in classic Internet fashion. I think it was really that was what he ended up identifying in her was here was someone who was cheerful, someone with a good demeanor who was good talking to people, who can actually state fairly why she made a decision and who really, really gets the site.  I think having just glowingly described her and saying - gosh - the same thing for me feels a little self serving.  But, you know, that's how I got into - I was around, I spent a lot of time on the site, probably since about 2006 I became really involved and interested.  I spent a lot of time in meta talk which is the back channel part of the site where people can actually talk about site policy, and moderation, and what should fly, and weather someone is miss-behaving etc, etc

Atwood: ...

[27:00]

{to be transcribed}

[30:07]

Spolsky:  Hey, Jeff?

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  I'm kind of with you.  I still sort of really hate when discussion groups become about the discussion group and one of the reasons - I think my reason - I just want to hear, Jeff, why you were so viscerally against talking about StackOverflow on StackOverflow, because my reason was always that the questions were always newbie questions - "Why does this work this way?" - and they were very very very repetitive.  What would happen is people would wander into the site for the first time and immediately start asking all the same questions about it.  So discussion of the site, or of the discussion group, on the discussion group was inevitably extremely boring to the people that had been there for more than 25 minutes.  And they could have read the FAQ but people wouldn't, and people on StackOverflow every single day from now until the end of the Universe you're going to have a person wandering on saying:  "What is this OpenID?  Can't we do this without OpenID?"  And that's going to be the first question they ask.  And you're gonna have one of those until the end of the Universe - officially.  Guaranteed.  And they'll be like:  "Why are you down modding me to negative 364?  I'm a newbie here!  You guys are mean!"  [laughs]  Jeff:  Did you have any other reasons why you don't like the site becoming a site about the site?  Other than the sheer arrogance... [laughs] of the site that is about itself?  [laughs]

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Mmm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Mmm Hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  The question is...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Can you make a place for them to socialize?

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Yeah.

Atwood: ...

[32:16]

{to be transcribed}

[38:21]

Spolsky:  Josh - I disagree with you there.  I have not seen spam on the home page of Digg or Reddit for years.

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  If it's not good stuff it gets voted down early on.  In the early days of Reddit there was some discussion and questioning about if it was OK to post a link to something you had just written on your blog and they decided it was OK - that you can post your own thing and there was no reason to down vote it; just go read it and if it's good, vote it up and if it's bad, vote it down.  In fact...

Atwood: ...

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  My involvement with Reddit is nothing really, I guess.  I just met those guys really early on...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  That's true.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  You could make one now.

Atwood: ...

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  It seems to me - and I maybe missing something that's going on here - but it seems to me that just having the idea of a community vote is extremely effective in getting rid of spam very, very quickly...

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  Because the only way to fight it is to make a bunch of fake accounts and have them all vote.  You know spammers do do this so you need algorithmic ways to check for the people making a bunch of fake accounts and voting things up, but it's just been forever since I've ever seen something on the home page that I thought the community didn't want there.  Now, what the community wants is a whole 'nother story - because Reddit, for example, changed very much from a hacker startup site with a bit of a libertarian bent, into...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:   Exactly!  It just became, and for some reason, there was a particular political community that just really fed on that and drove out everybody else amid a certain amount of conspiracy theory and a certain amount of the Ron Paul business, and everything the mass media does is against us.  Their favorite kind of article would be some injustice that was done to a ninth grader somewhere by their librarian - and that was the ideal Reddit article that would immediately zoom to the top of the home page.  OK, that was fine and that's the reason they created a Joel Reddit because I told them:  "Listen - one of the things that..."  I mean, my suggestion to them when their site was barely even up yet, there was nobody outside of Y-combinator using it, that I thought that at some point that it would become a self fulfilling prophesy where a small clique of people started voting up a particular type of article driving away people who didn't agree with that type of politics, or just disagreed, and eventually you would wind up with a particular niche and you could never become a horizontal application everyone wants to use - you could never become a huge mass success in the way that Facebook is - because no matter what, you're eventually going to get very very like minded people...

Millard: Yeah, absolutely.

Spolsky:  And so I said:  "You gotta make it possible to make multiple Reddits."  As long as you have these niches you want to have a lot of them.  It's fine.  You want to be the atheist conspiracy theorist site, that's terrific but let me also make one for people that are interested in the business of software and so that was what the Joel Reddit was.  [...]  The history it that they've then used that idea to build a site for Conde Nast called "Lipstick" - I think, I don't really know what the name of the site is, it has Lipstick in it - and it's just a version of Reddit that Conde Nast sponsors and that introduced them to Conde Nast who bought the company.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:   You can make as many as you want and there are a whole bunch of sub-Reddits.  You can do this really nice thing on Reddit, which I wish you could do on StackOverflow, where you can say:  "I'm interested in programming AND business and... UFOs" and you'll get a home page that shows you a bunch of all that stuff.

[43:05]

{to be transcribed}

[48:24]

Spolsky:  15 dollars for a piece of checked baggage.  Which is that?! [laughs]  Is it spam?  Or whatever?  I mean, it's obviously offensive! [laughs]

[48:35]

{to be transcribed}

[54:41]

Spolsky:  Hey, hey, hey - we can have them rate each other's pictures!

Millard: ...

Spolsky:   I was thinking more like:  We already got Wikipedia, Reddit and Sex Exchange - why not also have Hot-or-Not?

[55:02]

Millard: It could work, you've already got the voting architecture.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah. 

Atwood: [...] my life sort of ends, right?

Millard: The scale thing is obviously a real concern.  With MetaFilter, we've been trying to keep it from going crazy with scale - I mean the site's obviously grown continually over the last nine years, and it's going to keep growing - but it's not zooming.  We're not trying to turn this into something that's going to scale into a million users.  I can't imagine what that MetaFilter would look like.  That may be a little bit different from how people are approaching these type of things.  You see someone who want to set up a community site, they may really want it to be a hit, they want it to be big, they want it to be huge.  But to some extent, with that kind of scaling, [ringing] if what you're doing is primarily social, you're kind of trying to set up Yahoo Answers [ringing], and Yahoo Answers is not what I'd consider a success as something with communities.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah, you can find that stuff. 

Atwood: ...

[56:41]

Spolsky:   Jeff, think about the whole scaling problem:  If you have one person who's making stupid Gravatars that are problematic, on a huge site  - even if you have ten people - you still have the same proportion of people that have this particular problem, that are anti-social in this particular way.  If that proportion is low enough, who cares?  So there's one or two people that are doing unacceptable things, the chances that anybody would even encounter them on a site are very slim.  You know what I mean?

[57:17]

Millard: If you provide something like an offensive flag or a way for people to let you know there's a problem, then even when it does come up, you can deal with it as you go [beep]

Spolsky:   Yeah

Millard: So I don't think it's necessarily a huge issue, if you can keep on top of it.  Obviously if it's scaled beyond your ability to control it you have to find another way.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah.  And that's the sort of thing: if you've got a user who's really causing problems to a point where people are flagging a lot of their content, behind the scenes are moderators you can see that easily enough.  We certainly, as far as aggregate experience goes, Me an Matt and Jess can really tell if a user is a problem, we don't need anybody to be able to put a black mark on that user's record for the public to see.  If we get repeated issues, yeah: we're going to talk to that person.  Without it having to be a spectacle.  You don't have this aspect of public shaming necessarily is how it's handled.

Which I think is a good thing, I really dislike that aspect of how things work on some sites I don't really like the idea of what you're going to do is that you're going to mock your users in public as a way to deal with them.  That's certainly not a unanimous feeling; there's a certain social value to public shaming, but it's certainly not something that I think works well on MetaFilter, and I think in any site that's trying more for community than a certain function that happens to have people driving it.  If you really want a community, you've got to have the mutual respect all around, which means you don't have the people in charge treating users - even jerky users - like crap.  You gotta take the high road - period.  Which is hard to do.

Atwood: ...

[59:54]

Spolsky:   Not right now.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:   I'm going to think of it as soon as we get off the call.  I'm gonna be like: "Wait a minute - what did you do about..."

[1:00:06]

Millard: [laughs]

Atwood: ...

Millard: We didn't really engineer it in on purpose, but the fear that new people feel about making a post to the front page I think is actually part of what makes it stay pretty good.  A lot of people have expressed in MetaTalk that they don't post because they're not sure that they'll do a good job.

[1:00:38]

Spolsky:   I've always been worried about that because actually I have the exact same problem which is that I keep discovering pockets of people that won't apply for a job as a programmer at Fog Creek because we have a reputation as being so strict about who we hire and, unfortunately the thing I'm afraid of is that a lot of the people who are really, really good don't think they're that good, and a lot of the people who are not that good think that they are that good.  And so for people to self censor themselves and say I'm not going to apply and I'm not post to the home page of MetaFilter, I'm not going to ask my question.  Maybe you get filtering but you don't know if it's necessarily quality based filtering.

[1:01:13]

Millard: Yeah, it's a mixed bag, I've seen the same thing and it's interesting: the front page has that fear aspect for some people who won't post, or at least are very hesitant and slow to finally post because they're worried about that.  Then you look at the AskMetaFilter side of it and it's some much more obviously "let us help you out with something" function that I don't think we see that at all!  We see people who sign up - and we make people wait a week before they can post their first question to avoid - again - a speed-bump [something] random spammy stuff, and we get email probably once a week from someone asking "Hey what do you mean I have to wait a week?" so there's a complete inversion of that, people are really enthusiastic to jump in, 'cause anybody can ask a question, it's not like writing a post about seventeenth century art

Spolsky: Or buying a handbag!

Millard: Yeah [laughing] So yeah, it's an interesting dynamic on the site itself in it's different parts.

[1:02:12]

Atwood: ...

Millard: No, thank you for having me.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah, no , I'll definitely let you know.  I'll be exploring the site some.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Well, we have a couple of announcements.  First of all, the new office means that we have a T1 line for our phones, which means I have a phone number that you can call (you being our listeners) we're going to have a phone number to call into the show, leave a message, leave some comments, or something you want us to talk about, ask questions about the site, or just general questions about life (in English preferably) less than 90 seconds.  The phone number is 646-826-3879; that's in the United States (for our international listeners: do whatever it takes to do make your phone make a little plus, and then press 1 - 'cause that's our country code here - then 646-826-3879) that's the StackOverflow mailbox which you can call, leave a message and if it's good we'll play it on the show.  Also you could just record an MP3 if you want, and email it to podcast@stackoverflow.com.  In the meantime, the site is now live, so we don't have to advocate for beta testers or anything like that.  What's the URL of our website again Jeff?

Atwood: It's very complicated, it's StackOverflow.com

Spolsky: StackOverflow.com - thanks Jeff.  And finally, there's a transcript of the show, a transcript wiki, it's a wiki where people contribute to a transcript of the show.  Which is very helpful for finding things that we said that are embarrassing later, or for quoting the show from your blog.  Right, you did that yesterday.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Just make 'em badges, just give 'em badges.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: The transcript wiki badge.  Hey, the whole idea of Stackoverflow is built on the concept that we don't need to reward people; that people do things out of the goodness of their own heart.

[1:04:55]

Atwood: That is true, but I find that it gets done a lot faster when you -

[laughter]

Spolsky:  Disagree.  If you are doing the transcript out of the goodness of your own heart transcribe things I'm saying.  If you are doing it because you believe you are going to get some kind of a badge, or Jeff is going to owe you something in a future universe, or that you'll get some coupons in the mail good to buy songs on Rock Band II - transcribe things that Jeff said and we'll see who gets more of their Jibber-Jabber transcribed.

Atwood:Okay, alright.

Spolsky: In the meantime, once again the phone number is 646-826-3879 which goes to a voicemail box.  Leave us a message and we'll play it on the next show.  Thanks very much and we'll see you all next week.

Atwood: And thanks Josh.

Millard: Yep, thank-you!

Spolsky: Thanks Josh.

[1:05:49]

Outro, advertising

[1:07:08 ends]

[incomplete]

Intro, advertising

[01:21]

Spolsky: Hello, OK so the technology is working now, and the bamboo for our lobby has arrived.

Atwood: Ooo neat.

Spolsky: We're in the new office and it's going to be really noisy:  There's a guy doing some drilling to install the shelf for the AV gear where we're going to install all the electronics that we need to play Rock Band in the new office so there'll be some noise from that.  None of the walls are here or the doors to any of the offices - there was this plan was that the front of every office would be a glass wall with a sliding glass door.  But those are nowhere to be seen and apparently they'll be coming in mid to late october.

Atwood: Do you guys have the computer setup so you can actually work? Do you have the internet and stuff like that?

Spolsky: Yeah, and in fact, our systems administrators did just a a fantastic, heroic effort - came in on the weekend while everything was being moved and pretty much had everything up and running for us for us by the morning.  Uh oh!  There's a guy that's bringing - this is not good...

Atwood: Is a one man band approaching?

Spolsky: There's a guy delivering a shelf. 

Hey Liz? ...  Looks like they are delivering this couch here and it needs to go where the dumpster is... the dumpster is  ...  Although actually, I guess they're gonna set it up tomorrow so it doesn't matter. ... Alright. Probably safe.  They're moving the dumpster.

Oh, [someone] just glided by on a scooter.  We've got people bringing in bicycles and scooters since the office is much bigger than it used to be.  So it just takes longer to get all the way down to the other end, it's just a long straight shot from Rector Street to Broadway Avenue. You can check it out on Google maps.  And we basically go from one street to the next.

Atwood: Thats very cool. You guys don't have Segways yet though?

Spolsky: That would be good, I'm all for Segways.

Atwood: Yeah, that's fair. So, the big news this week, in addition to you guys getting moved in which is cool.  Is, of course we now have a public website.

Spolsky: Congratulations! We launched.

[3:47]

Atwood: So you wrote a blog post and I wrote a blog post and I think the amazing thing to me is that the site is still up because I really wasn't sure - I really didn't know.

Spolsky: Yeah

Atwood: It's just hard to do that level of load testing but the site has survived and just to give you an idea of the dramatic increase in load our CPU graph used to be at 2-3% most of the time. Minimal, even under pretty heavy beta load and now it's pretty regularly at above 50% sustained.

Spolsky: Wait a minute....  When I publish something - on my blog at least - there's always like a day or two of heavy traffic that it generates but then it ends, I mean it subsides.  I'm sure the same is true for you.  And I also send out an email to 52,000 people who subscribe to my email newsletter.  What a blast from the past that is! Email newsletter - what's that?

Atwood: Right. You'd assume this is some kind of worst-case scenario, right? This is probably more attention than we are going to get later which is good because we gotta have some room to scale.

Spolsky: There'll be a lot of attention now but that will sort of be covering up an underlying growth curve so once the noise goes away there'll be some pretty heavy growth there.

Atwood: Right. I actually got an email from Jeff. We did hook up Google Analytics and I do have some actual numbers if you want to hear them for day one.

Spolsky: Oh yeah, totally!  Totally!

[5:16]

Atwood: On day one - just random numbers here - 1,500 questions were asked and in context during the entire length of the beta I think we had 8,500 questions and that was a month and a half so in one day we generated a pretty sizable percentage of everything that was done during the beta. Almost 6,000 answers, 1,700 comments were left, 62,000 unique visitors, and almost 700,000 page views.

Spolsky: 700,000 page views.  In a day?!  Wow!

[5:55]

Atwood: Our site is kind of amenable to people looking at pages over and over, right? I mean, you want to see the new questions. It's the kind of site you hit refresh a lot.

Spolsky:  One of the things that struck me as - you know how we talked last week about how we're all stupid? So here's a stupid thing that people said.  [laughs]  You know a lot of people had been commenting saying that StackOverflow is great with this elite super-dooper beta with very few people coming in but what's going to happen when a million people come flooding in and start asking questions?

Atwood: Yes.

Spolsky: And your questions only stay on the home page for two minutes instead of 15 minutes or something.

Atwood: The lowest I saw it get during the beta was about 20 minutes. Now it gets down to two minutes so it's ten times higher.

Spolsky: But the point is that we also have ten times as many viewers - as much traffic - and so a post is still seen by about the same number of people even though it survives for less time on the home page. I think the only problem is if the unanswered questions count starts climbing uncontrollably.  That might be a sign that somehow that we've lost the balance.  We did have a balance in the beta where things were getting answers - they really were.  Only very obscure questions weren't getting answers but the only way to fix that is just to have gigantic scale where we've got a couple of hundred thousand regular visitors so there's likely to be somebody who knows about that Quickbooks XML integration with VisualBasic 4.0 bug.  So for that you need huge scale, you need Google and that's something were never going to get good answers to those questions until we had much more critical mass.  But in terms of a person asking how to do X with some technology getting answers then their question is going to appear to about the same number of people as it would have before the beta - even if it doesn't live as long on the home page.  

[8:00]

Atwood: Right.

Spolsky:  Assuming that the mix of people looking to answer and looking to question is roughly the same and the demographic mix of the people looking to come into our real site are the same mix of demographics as those that came into our beta - and I really think they are, I think they are pretty close.

[8:17]

Atwood: Well I do think, as we've said, many times before one thing that works in our favor is that it's kind of a selective audience. I mean, it should really be programmers. I can't imagine any sort of random internet user coming to our page and ...

Spolsky:  Caring.

Atwood: ... wanting to stay there for any length of time. Because it's just much of technical jibba-jabba about really arcane things ...

Spolsky:  Jibber Jabber.

Atwood: ... but that's the strength. That's why we think it's going to work. And yeah, we were lacking a long tail of programmers in the private beta. I did get one email from Jason Cohen of Smart Bear Software and I guess he works with Justin Standard. And Justin was the person that asked you at the Business of Software Conference about the community-owned questions. That was actually Justin. 

Spolsky:  Mm hmm.

Atwood: So they're heavily involved with the site and I got some passioned email from him (Jason and Justin) urging us not to take the site public. They were really deeply, deeply concerned about the eternal September thing of just, you know, bunches and hordes or random users coming in and really diluting the quality of the site. But I don't actually think it works that way. I don't agree that's really a risk. I think the bigger risk is having an insular community where you don't have the long tail so these really obscure questions can never really get answered. So I think there's a bigger downside to being a closed community than an open one in our case. Now, if we were something like Yahoo! Answers maybe. And actually this brings up a good point and a transition to something I want to talk about. We're going to have a special guest in this call. So MetaFilter - there was a nice topic on StackOverflow on MetaFilter and it got quite a bit of discussion and that was really a big honor because I've been a big fan of MetaFilter. But MetaFilter is a closed community. It costs $5 to sign up for MetaFilter. I'm looking at Wikipedia - that's something institutied in late 2004 - but it's really kind of a selective community. You can read it of course but you can't really do anything unless you pay the $5 lifetime membership fee. It's really just a little barrier to get people in there, and the quality of the community is, in fact, very high.

[8:47]

Spolsky:  We have our own five dollar barrier.

Atwood: What's that?

Spolsky:  It's called OpenID. [laughs]

Atwood: That's a pretty minimal barrier.

Spolsky:  It's about five dollars. It's about five dollars of headache.

Atwood: I disagree. One of my favorite threads and I think I had to close this one because it was beta stuff was somebody was complaining about OpenID and then the highest voted answer was - I don't remember who this was so I apologize - I think I'm going to make up a name. "My name is Jim. I was a VB programmer for 16 years. I was able to sign up for this site." Even if you're a Visual Basic programmer you can figure it out and make it work. I think there's some complains about it, but the people that are complaining about it - I don't get it. I think the status quo is so... evil. Having just thousands of logins across thousands of sites.

Spolsky:  I think if we can do something to promote OpenID then it's worth it.  Speaking of VisualBasic programmers:  Another frequent gripe that we've been hearing is - there's the vacuum cleaner, I was telling Jeff earlier that they're vacuuming in the office and he said:  "Can we not just do the podcast after they've finished vacuuming?" and I said:  "Yeah, that will be in November sometime." [laughs]  There's sort of an asymmetric long tail to construction projects, they just go slower and slower and slower as they get to the end of the project.

Atwood: Right.

Spolsky:  Can you hear the vacuuming or is my excellent microphone...

Atwood: A little tiny bit, it's not in any way obnoxious.

Spolsky:  Well, yay Seinheiser.  But the real point was:  You mentioned VB and another - I don't want to say criticism - observation that we got from a few people was that the site seems heavily .Net oriented:  C# and .Net are the biggest categories of questions.  I actually didn't think that we were disproportionately .NET oriented.  I don't have statistics for this but I actually believe that our distribution of tags is probably pretty close to the actual distribution of working programmers in the world.  I don't think people realise just how common it is to be a C# .Net programmer because it's mostly the internal and the enterprisey applications that do that.   The people that make a lot of noise are the bloggers with their web [me-]too-point-oh startups using the Ruby on the Rails but I just think that actually our distribution of tags feels to me to be pretty close to the actual distribution of programmers working today - the actual technologies people are using.  I don't know that that's true, maybe a listener can suggest something we could compare ourselves to - maybe books or job listings or something.

Atwood: Right, I was actually surprised and pleased.  This is one of the major goals when we launched the site, right, was to be agnostic. Right we are not saying this is a place to discuss Windows programming, this is just a place to discuss programming, period. 

Spolsky: Mm

Atwood: I think really the challenge for us is that there is still lots of people even though I have like ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Yeah

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Well what do you mean by...  If it's a question that's just "What's the best programming chair?" - that's kind of a programming question.  Or...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Oh.  Yeah.  If there was a real way to tag those out of view...  You know what I mean?...  If they came in appropriately tagged and I never saw them I wouldn't care personally.  And that goes back to the question of tags which I want to bring up.  The first time I tried to do a Q&A site it was really just discussion groups, and there's still one of them which is the .NET questions on my home page - if you click on .NET Questions there's a discussion group there (which I'll probably close down now we have Stack Overflow) where people ask questions and answer them about .Net.  Of course for some reason in the past I used to think that the right way to go about building something like Stack Overflow would be to start small with something that you can easily accomplish and to go narrow so that you at least have a chance - I would generally tell people to pick a narrow niche because it's easier to reach the people that are in your niche.  Maybe I would have said:  "You know what?  Let's just make a site for Ruby programmers trying to learn Python."  And if that's really successful then you can expand it.  You see all those Q&A sites out there for individual technologies - there's a lot of Microsoft SQL sites, four or five of them - in fact those are notorious for being behind paywalls.  Obviously there are great sites for other technologies, Ruby - what was the one I keep forgetting - Delphi; there are great Delphi sites - but the idea of tags allows you to make one site, make it super broad and not worry about it and not have to reach anybody, just tag it and it's really kind of working in a way.  I mean think of the original UseNet which had - I'm sorry, I'm being distracted because they are rearranging the couch that was just delivered.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Yeah

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: It's so much better not to have to find the right place in the hierarchy to randomly tag on the fly even though yesterday I was the first person to use the tag for the DHTML edit control - an obsolete piece of technology I'm still working with, to my chagrin - but that tag is correct, in fact it's also tagged VB6 because that's VB6 code.  And you know what?  I got a great answer to that question - I asked how to implement smart quotes using VB6 and the DHTML edit controller and I got code that did it!

[17:57]

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Can you believe it?

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Mm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Another thing that I think is funny - I guess this is a third point of criticism that we're getting which is:  "Well, look at this question!  It has two bad answers and one even worse answer and the even worse answer has even more votes!"  So:  OK, go vote it up!  [laughs]  That's why there's a little vote button right there!  You can provide a new answer.  A lot of the problems are reminding me very much of the way the mainstream media responded to Wikipedia, which is when Wikipedia was first coming out you would see all these mainstream media articles saying:  "Well, I went to Wikipedia and I looked up this, that and the other thing and this was wrong and that was incorrect and the other thing didn't even have an article at all, and literally by the time this thing made it into print and was in people's hands, in the black and white newspaper printed on newsprint paper and delivered to somebody's front lawn with a rubber band around it for the birds to poop on [huh, huh - he said "poop"] by the time this had arrived there the Wikipedia entries had all been fixed. 

Spolsky: I think that's where people miss the point about the editing and the answering that you can say: "Here's an example of something that's not right." But when you have a malleable site, it just gets better and better and better. Which ever argument you try to use, it's just going to get weaker and weaker weaker.

[19:37]

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Oh!  It's working!

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  You dingy?

[20:00]

Spolsky:  Uh you know? It just ended the call recording and started a new one.  Thats ok, because I can merge them if its really...

Atwood: ...

Josh Millard: Thanks, am I coming in ok here?

Atwood: ...

Millard: I've got kind of a fiddly setup, ok.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Josh, are you on an airplane using the WIFI on American Airlines with a laptop?

Millard: Actually using the built in mic on my Macbook Air was my main concern, I didn't know how good it was gonna sound, but if its coming out ok, then we're in good shape.  I'm actually going over a Spring EVO? card which has been rock solid since I got it, so... so yeah!

Atwood: ...

Millard: Sure

Atwood: ....

Millard: Yeah! What is MetaFilter is one of those weird unanswerable questions, but the stock line at this point is that its a community weblog and its essentially a collaborative blogging site on the front page MetaFilter.com where anyone int eh user base can make a post on whatever subject, its a generalist sort of anything goes place.  Kind of in the same circles of what you think of as like BoingBoing or like reddit if you took only the 20 or 30 top posts and didn't make it quite so tech centric.

Atwood: ...

Millard: But everyone in the community has a right to post, everybody in the community has a right to comment in threads, so somebody makes a post, everybody kind of jumps in and talks about it, some get a whole lot of discussion, some not so much.  Thats sort of the classic MetaFilter function.  A few years ago we started "ask MetaFilter" which is probably the most heavily visited part of the site where folks can go to ask questions to get answers.  You had mentioned that you saw the thread yesterday on MetaFilter where from MetaFilter users side you could see some of the discussion in terms of stackoverflow vs ask MetaFilter.  Which I thought was kind of interesting seeing those two going against each other, but you can see kind of the identification people have on the site with that function as well.  So thats basically the two big things the site does, it also has some other sub sites that are less well trafficked.  I'm one of the three main moderators there. Matt Howie of course started the site back in July of 99 and he's been running it since day one, Jesamine West has been moderating on the site since I guess the beginning of 2005, and I came on as moderator early last year, so I've been there about a year and a half now.

[23:00]

Atwood: ...

Millard: Oh, yeah:  Been there for ever.

Atwood: ...

Millard:  I think April 2001 is when I joined - spare time in college and memepool didn't have enough posts on any given day so I've been hanging around there for ever and grown up in the mean time.  I definitely wouldn't want 2001 me moderating the site.

Atwood: ...

Millard:  Yeah, it's strange - the time dilation, especially with the Internet.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Sure.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Millard:  On Metafilter it's only happened twice - or I should say two and a half times - but Jessamyn coming on, that was a big move for Matt because he'd been doing it by himself and just plain hadn't gone there previously(?) and it became, as much as anything, a workload issue.  But she had also displayed really good sensibility towards Ask Metafilter since it launched and he saw that she was someone who really got what was going on with the site, which was obviously important, but that she was also someone with a pretty even temperament, someone who did not wear her proclivities on her sleeve, she was able to disagree with someone without flipping out in classic Internet fashion. I think it was really that was what he ended up identifying in her was here was someone who was cheerful, someone with a good demeanor who was good talking to people, who can actually state fairly why she made a decision and who really, really gets the site.  I think having just glowingly described her and saying - gosh - the same thing for me feels a little self serving.  But, you know, that's how I got into - I was around, I spent a lot of time on the site, probably since about 2006 I became really involved and interested.  I spent a lot of time in meta talk which is the back channel part of the site where people can actually talk about site policy, and moderation, and what should fly, and weather someone is miss-behaving etc, etc

Atwood: ...

[27:00]

{to be transcribed}

[30:07]

Spolsky:  Hey, Jeff?

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  I'm kind of with you.  I still sort of really hate when discussion groups become about the discussion group and one of the reasons - I think my reason - I just want to hear, Jeff, why you were so viscerally against talking about StackOverflow on StackOverflow, because my reason was always that the questions were always newbie questions - "Why does this work this way?" - and they were very very very repetitive.  What would happen is people would wander into the site for the first time and immediately start asking all the same questions about it.  So discussion of the site, or of the discussion group, on the discussion group was inevitably extremely boring to the people that had been there for more than 25 minutes.  And they could have read the FAQ but people wouldn't, and people on StackOverflow every single day from now until the end of the Universe you're going to have a person wandering on saying:  "What is this OpenID?  Can't we do this without OpenID?"  And that's going to be the first question they ask.  And you're gonna have one of those until the end of the Universe - officially.  Guaranteed.  And they'll be like:  "Why are you down modding me to negative 364?  I'm a newbie here!  You guys are mean!"  [laughs]  Jeff:  Did you have any other reasons why you don't like the site becoming a site about the site?  Other than the sheer arrogance... [laughs] of the site that is about itself?  [laughs]

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Mmm hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Yeah.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Mmm Hmm

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  The question is...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Can you make a place for them to socialize?

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  Yeah.

Atwood: ...

[32:16]

{to be transcribed}

[38:21]

Spolsky:  Josh - I disagree with you there.  I have not seen spam on the home page of Digg or Reddit for years.

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  If it's not good stuff it gets voted down early on.  In the early days of Reddit there was some discussion and questioning about if it was OK to post a link to something you had just written on your blog and they decided it was OK - that you can post your own thing and there was no reason to down vote it; just go read it and if it's good, vote it up and if it's bad, vote it down.  In fact...

Atwood: ...

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  My involvement with Reddit is nothing really, I guess.  I just met those guys really early on...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  That's true.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:  You could make one now.

Atwood: ...

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  It seems to me - and I maybe missing something that's going on here - but it seems to me that just having the idea of a community vote is extremely effective in getting rid of spam very, very quickly...

Millard: ...

Spolsky:  Because the only way to fight it is to make a bunch of fake accounts and have them all vote.  You know spammers do do this so you need algorithmic ways to check for the people making a bunch of fake accounts and voting things up, but it's just been forever since I've ever seen something on the home page that I thought the community didn't want there.  Now, what the community wants is a whole 'nother story - because Reddit, for example, changed very much from a hacker startup site with a bit of a libertarian bent, into...

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:   Exactly!  It just became, and for some reason, there was a particular political community that just really fed on that and drove out everybody else amid a certain amount of conspiracy theory and a certain amount of the Ron Paul business, and everything the mass media does is against us.  Their favorite kind of article would be some injustice that was done to a ninth grader somewhere by their librarian - and that was the ideal Reddit article that would immediately zoom to the top of the home page.  OK, that was fine and that's the reason they created a Joel Reddit because I told them:  "Listen - one of the things that..."  I mean, my suggestion to them when their site was barely even up yet, there was nobody outside of Y-combinator using it, that I thought that at some point that it would become a self fulfilling prophesy where a small clique of people started voting up a particular type of article driving away people who didn't agree with that type of politics, or just disagreed, and eventually you would wind up with a particular niche and you could never become a horizontal application everyone wants to use - you could never become a huge mass success in the way that Facebook is - because no matter what, you're eventually going to get very very like minded people...

Millard: Yeah, absolutely.

Spolsky:  And so I said:  "You gotta make it possible to make multiple Reddits."  As long as you have these niches you want to have a lot of them.  It's fine.  You want to be the atheist conspiracy theorist site, that's terrific but let me also make one for people that are interested in the business of software and so that was what the Joel Reddit was.  [...]  The history it that they've then used that idea to build a site for Conde Nast called "Lipstick" - I think, I don't really know what the name of the site is, it has Lipstick in it - and it's just a version of Reddit that Conde Nast sponsors and that introduced them to Conde Nast who bought the company.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:   You can make as many as you want and there are a whole bunch of sub-Reddits.  You can do this really nice thing on Reddit, which I wish you could do on StackOverflow, where you can say:  "I'm interested in programming AND business and... UFOs" and you'll get a home page that shows you a bunch of all that stuff.

[43:05]

{to be transcribed}

[48:24]

Spolsky:  15 dollars for a piece of checked baggage.  Which is that?! [laughs]  Is it spam?  Or whatever?  I mean, it's obviously offensive! [laughs]

[48:35]

{to be transcribed}

[54:41]

Spolsky:  Hey, hey, hey - we can have them rate each other's pictures!

Millard: ...

Spolsky:   I was thinking more like:  We already got Wikipedia, Reddit and Sex Exchange - why not also have Hot-or-Not?

[55:02]

Millard: It could work, you've already got the voting architecture.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah. 

Atwood: [...] my life sort of ends, right?

Millard: The scale thing is obviously a real concern.  With MetaFilter, we've been trying to keep it from going crazy with scale - I mean the site's obviously grown continually over the last nine years, and it's going to keep growing - but it's not zooming.  We're not trying to turn this into something that's going to scale into a million users.  I can't imagine what that MetaFilter would look like.  That may be a little bit different from how people are approaching these type of things.  You see someone who want to set up a community site, they may really want it to be a hit, they want it to be big, they want it to be huge.  But to some extent, with that kind of scaling, [ringing] if what you're doing is primarily social, you're kind of trying to set up Yahoo Answers [ringing], and Yahoo Answers is not what I'd consider a success as something with communities.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah, you can find that stuff. 

Atwood: ...

[56:41]

Spolsky:   Jeff, think about the whole scaling problem:  If you have one person who's making stupid Gravatars that are problematic, on a huge site  - even if you have ten people - you still have the same proportion of people that have this particular problem, that are anti-social in this particular way.  If that proportion is low enough, who cares?  So there's one or two people that are doing unacceptable things, the chances that anybody would even encounter them on a site are very slim.  You know what I mean?

[57:17]

Millard: If you provide something like an offensive flag or a way for people to let you know there's a problem, then even when it does come up, you can deal with it as you go [beep]

Spolsky:   Yeah

Millard: So I don't think it's necessarily a huge issue, if you can keep on top of it.  Obviously if it's scaled beyond your ability to control it you have to find another way.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah.  And that's the sort of thing: if you've got a user who's really causing problems to a point where people are flagging a lot of their content, behind the scenes are moderators you can see that easily enough.  We certainly, as far as aggregate experience goes, Me an Matt and Jess can really tell if a user is a problem, we don't need anybody to be able to put a black mark on that user's record for the public to see.  If we get repeated issues, yeah: we're going to talk to that person.  Without it having to be a spectacle.  You don't have this aspect of public shaming necessarily is how it's handled.

Which I think is a good thing, I really dislike that aspect of how things work on some sites I don't really like the idea of what you're going to do is that you're going to mock your users in public as a way to deal with them.  That's certainly not a unanimous feeling; there's a certain social value to public shaming, but it's certainly not something that I think works well on MetaFilter, and I think in any site that's trying more for community than a certain function that happens to have people driving it.  If you really want a community, you've got to have the mutual respect all around, which means you don't have the people in charge treating users - even jerky users - like crap.  You gotta take the high road - period.  Which is hard to do.

Atwood: ...

[59:54]

Spolsky:   Not right now.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky:   I'm going to think of it as soon as we get off the call.  I'm gonna be like: "Wait a minute - what did you do about..."

[1:00:06]

Millard: [laughs]

Atwood: ...

Millard: We didn't really engineer it in on purpose, but the fear that new people feel about making a post to the front page I think is actually part of what makes it stay pretty good.  A lot of people have expressed in MetaTalk that they don't post because they're not sure that they'll do a good job.

[1:00:38]

Spolsky:   I've always been worried about that because actually I have the exact same problem which is that I keep discovering pockets of people that won't apply for a job as a programmer at Fog Creek because we have a reputation as being so strict about who we hire and, unfortunately the thing I'm afraid of is that a lot of the people who are really, really good don't think they're that good, and a lot of the people who are not that good think that they are that good.  And so for people to self censor themselves and say I'm not going to apply and I'm not post to the home page of MetaFilter, I'm not going to ask my question.  Maybe you get filtering but you don't know if it's necessarily quality based filtering.

[1:01:13]

Millard: Yeah, it's a mixed bag, I've seen the same thing and it's interesting: the front page has that fear aspect for some people who won't post, or at least are very hesitant and slow to finally post because they're worried about that.  Then you look at the AskMetaFilter side of it and it's some much more obviously "let us help you out with something" function that I don't think we see that at all!  We see people who sign up - and we make people wait a week before they can post their first question to avoid - again - a speed-bump [something] random spammy stuff, and we get email probably once a week from someone asking "Hey what do you mean I have to wait a week?" so there's a complete inversion of that, people are really enthusiastic to jump in, 'cause anybody can ask a question, it's not like writing a post about seventeenth century art

Spolsky: Or buying a handbag!

Millard: Yeah [laughing] So yeah, it's an interesting dynamic on the site itself in it's different parts.

[1:02:12]

Atwood: ...

Millard: No, thank you for having me.

Atwood: ...

Millard: Yeah, no , I'll definitely let you know.  I'll be exploring the site some.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Well, we have a couple of announcements.  First of all, the new office means that we have a T1 line for our phones, which means I have a phone number that you can call (you being our listeners) we're going to have a phone number to call into the show, leave a message, leave some comments, or something you want us to talk about, ask questions about the site, or just general questions about life (in English preferably) less than 90 seconds.  The phone number is 646-826-3879; that's in the United States (for our international listeners: do whatever it takes to do make your phone make a little plus, and then press 1 - 'cause that's our country code here - then 646-826-3879) that's the StackOverflow mailbox which you can call, leave a message and if it's good we'll play it on the show.  Also you could just record an MP3 if you want, and email it to podcast@stackoverflow.com.  In the meantime, the site is now live, so we don't have to advocate for beta testers or anything like that.  What's the URL of our website again Jeff?

Atwood: It's very complicated, it's StackOverflow.com

Spolsky: StackOverflow.com - thanks Jeff.  And finally, there's a transcript of the show, a transcript wiki, it's a wiki where people contribute to a transcript of the show.  Which is very helpful for finding things that we said that are embarrassing later, or for quoting the show from your blog.  Right, you did that yesterday.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: Just make 'em badges, just give 'em badges.

Atwood: ...

Spolsky: The transcript wiki badge.  Hey, the whole idea of Stackoverflow is built on the concept that we don't need to reward people; that people do things out of the goodness of their own heart.

[1:04:55]

Atwood: That is true, but I find that it gets done a lot faster when you -

[laughter]

Spolsky:  Disagree.  If you are doing the transcript out of the goodness of your own heart transcribe things I'm saying.  If you are doing it because you believe you are going to get some kind of a badge, or Jeff is going to owe you something in a future universe, or that you'll get some coupons in the mail good to buy songs on Rock Band II - transcribe things that Jeff said and we'll see who gets more of their Jibber-Jabber transcribed.

Atwood:Okay, alright.

Spolsky: In the meantime, once again the phone number is 646-826-3879 which goes to a voicemail box.  Leave us a message and we'll play it on the next show.  Thanks very much and we'll see you all next week.

Atwood: And thanks Josh.

Millard: Yep, thank-you!

Spolsky: Thanks Josh.

[1:05:49]

Outro, advertising

[1:07:08 ends]