Over the last 3-6 months I have had an interesting time following a really innovative new developer “questions and answers” site emerge at StackOverflow. It’s been interesting because the site, put together by Jeff Atwood, of Coding Horror fame (always a *great* read btw), and Joel Spolsky (of Joel On Software fame) have been both very transparent (thanks to their great Podcast) and really innovative.
The primary objective of their site is only to be the best place on the internet to get answers to developer questions. I have to say, my experience with the site indicates that they are, if not there, then certainly on the way. The site itself sits somewhere in between a Blog, a Wiki and an Xbox 360 game, and it’s a fantastic case study in how software should be designed with human psychology in mind.
What do I mean? Well, there a many interesting elements to the site, but the one that has attracted the most attention is their concept of reputation points. Like all good ideas, this isn’t new, but its application has been done with great care, and in a way that I think really drives people to get the most possible value from their site. This is especially the case when these points are combined with “Badges”, or for your Xboxers out there, what you would refer to as “Achievements”. Whenever you do something on the site, like answer a question, vote on an existing answer, or post a question, you get a certain number of reputation points and you may also get a badge, for example “Editor” or “Teacher”. The badges come in different types, indicating the relative difficulty in achieving them, Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Overall, this system combines to provide a positive feedback loop that, on the surface, appears really geeky, but can actually be really addictive!
Anyway, the reason this has landed on my blog is not just because I think there are some great ideas here that could be applied to the social software (like our blogging platform) we are all building on SharePoint, but because I have seen steady growth in the number of questions posted with the “SharePoint” tag, and there are some really good ones.
So, if you haven’t yet checked it out, may I suggest you head on over to StackOverflow and take a look around, you really wont regret it!
Thanks Jeff and Joel!