Almost a week with Ask SQLTeam

I launched the updated Ask SQLTeam almost a week ago and I’ve noticed a few interesting things.

First, a big thank you to the people answering questions.  As people answer questions and their answers are voted up they get “reputation”.  Right now the top 3 users in terms of reputation are mrdenny, Kristen and TG.  Overall 27 people have earned the “Teacher” badge.  That means they’ve answered at least one question that someone else voted up.  Anyone that has earned 15 “reputation points” can vote up answers.  When your answer is voted up you get 10 reputation points.

I expected we would be a little short of questions to start with but I didn’t realize that would be the biggest limitation on the site so far.  We have plenty of people willing to answer questions.  There just aren’t enough good questions to answer.  Hint: Ask your SQL Server questions!  There are lots of bright people willing to help out with SQL Server questions.  I considered seeding the site with fake questions but that just doesn’t seem right.  Hopefully allowing people to log into the site with their forum username and password will make it easier for people to participate.

The format is certainly a BIG CHANGE from a traditional forum.  I often gazed longingly from afar at StackOverflow.  I used the site a little to get my ASP.NET MVC questions answered but always felt a little too guilty to go answer SQL Server questions.  If you’ve participated at StackOverflow then you’re used to it already.  If not, it truly is a different way to ask and answer questions.  The biggest change is that people are expected to edit their questions and answers rather than posting additional information.  If you ask a question and someone wants clarification you’re expected to update your question rather than just add another post.  Answers are the same way.  This takes a little getting used to if you’re just interested in throwing up another post.

Some of the questions that have been asked would probably be better as a forum discussion.  These are cases where it’s less of a Q&A and more of a guided discussion toward the answer.  I’m not sure what the best way is to weed these out.  Hopefully as people get more experienced with the site they’ll learn what’s appropriate. 

One of the interesting questions people have is whether this will take traffic away from our existing forums.  I don’t know the answer to that yet.  Check back in six months and we’ll both know.  I do expect it to take a certain amount of traffic but my hope is that the combined traffic is higher than just the forums before.  People will probably prefer one over the other and gravitate to one location.

If you want your own site based on StackOverflow you can sign up at StackExchange.  They are in open beta right now and won’t start charging for a while yet.  The list of existing sites covers a fairly broad range of topics.  Since this group was seeded from StackOverflow the list tends toward the technical in nature.  One of the most popular is about World of Warcraft.  Go figure!  Another interesting site doing very well is – a site for parents to share parenting advice. 

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