For the uninitiated - Joel is a bit of a software hero. I don�t think I've ever met a developer who hasn't headed to Stack Overflow for an answer to some pressing question at one point or another. His blog at Joel on Software is both useful, amusing, and so popular it's been translated into over 30 languages! So, it's fair to say their was a bit of buzz of anticipation as the crowds gathered.
As the first in in our new First Floor Forums series, we hacked the Flex Member space on the first floor of TechHub@Campus, pushing back the tables and lining up the office chairs to create an intimate, informal space for the TechHubbers to get up close and personal. Working in TechHub means you're never far away from a tech event, but an event practically at my desk was a new high for me!
But what did he tell us...?!
Joel started by talking about the problem of scaling online communities. Using the example of Wikipedia, he looked at the problems with �notability� and why Wikipedia used this criteria to try and make sure that everything on it was on verifiable. He then went on to talk about Stack Exchange, and how the way their system works has evolved.
He spoke about why Stack Exchange have chosen to make some of the rules they have - as one of their aims is to help not just the person asking the question, but also anyone who finds the question via Google afterwards. It�s a great example of how a company�s aims and principles can inform their product decisions in a meaningful way.
One of the ideas that he discussed was to do with the way that as your community evolves, you will discover ways of operating that you might not have expected. Despite the fact that he spoke about this specifically in respect of the growth of online communities, I think that it's a lesson any startup or product person can afford to remember - what we discover from our users may be something we hadn't imagined, but learning from it and adapting can really help our products.
Understandably, some of our TechHub members were really excited to quiz Joel on his varied areas of expertise (or let him know how fantastically useful they find Stack Overflow!) but the Q&A gave rise to some other gems - Like how the different Stack Exchange communities have evolved different rules, how they are aiming to create lots of different verticals to improve discussion and how the best physicists in the world apparently hang out at Physics Stack Exchange! Well, where else would they want to be?
Thanks to Joel, and to the guys at Stack Exchange - it was great to have you here!
Hope Thomas is TechHub�s Product manager. TechHub is a unique environment where technology startups can start up faster. We nurture an international network of like-minded and focused tech entrepreneurs, providing places where they can work, meet, collaborate, network, learn and have fun. By getting the right people together in a physical space, good things happen. - @TechHub