Stackoverflow: first class Q/A for software developers
For some time now I was aware that the Question/Answer platform from Joel Spolsky, StackOverflow.com, was up and life.
But I didn't bother any further as I was quite happy with Google and the set of references and personal know-how I've build up over the time.
A few days ago I had a problem which was not solvable with my usual batch of resources and in my desperation I hopped over to StackOverflow and tried to find help there.
Within a day I got exactly the hint I needed to be able to solve my problem and continue the work.
Quite happy with this experience, I decided to give it a bit more thought and maybe also answer some questions myself if I knew a bit about it.
After some time I noticed a bar on top of the site telling me that I had earned a "Student" badge and seconds afterward a "Scholar" badge. What were these? Reading on I found out that the "Student" badge means that someone accepted/voted on my question when he thought it was an useful question. And the "Scholar" badge means that an answer from me had been accepted as the most helpful one for the questioner. And then I noticed that on top of the page there was some sort of Score, the Reputation and also a small statistic on my earned badges.
After thinking about it some more now and continuing to participate on the site I came to the conclusion that the way the questioning and answering works on StackOverflow.com is the most ingenious way to help developers I've seen so far in my life.
StackOverflow.com turns the boring process of writing a question and giving an answer on forums and webpages into an exciting game, where good questions and answers are rewarded (by upvoting) and bad ones are hindered (by downvoting). And you also have a running score (the Reputation) which you can compare to others and is calculated from up/down-votings on your questions and answers and also how often your answer was considered as the best one for the one having the question. Even the factor how often your question has been found and visited counts to points and badges.
Earning a lot of different badges and improved abilities on the site (e.g. leaving comments at Rep of 50, Retag questions with Rep 500 and even edit other peoples posts with a Reputation of 2000) add to the fact that one wants to reach the goals and also has a long-term motivation to continue giving help.
And this means qualitatively high questions and answers as this earns more points faster and consistently on the long term than quick answers which only contain tiny pieces of help and get a few points for just a few hours.
I personally already have added StackOverflow.com as a quick, reliable and qualitatively high resource to my recherche-sources and will continue to build up my highscore :)