What are we trying to build?

Joel had some regrettable ideas and this would be one of them IMO. :confused:

Again, I can’t help but be reminded of Stack Overflow Documentation. The awesome idea that endured months of poor quality contributions and still couldn’t manage to get rid of that culture after a few iterations - and ended up failing catastrophically. Not saying we can’t do better, but hey, we can also do better on top of something that was already better to begin with.

  1. The asker is the one contributing the question though, and supposedly has a genuine problem at hand and we should consider helping both OP and future readers.
  2. The recent changes were made for the sake of advertising traffic only. Terrible move. It was fine as it was before.

Yep, this is an extreme position. I hope we can aim for some middle ground!

Extremely good point!

Maybe not, but why differ for no good reason? For the sake of keeping things simple - and intuitive, I advise we display scores on both questions and answers likewise.

That isn’t a realist scenario at all… this simply does not happen as described.

Like we already do on Stack Overflow (and many other SE sites)? :)
SURE! (it works, is all I’ve been saying).

(end pt. 2)

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Final words:

  1. vBulletin has a reputation system that doesn’t display a score number.
  2. Discourse has a trust level system that doesn’t display a score number.
  3. It is possible that both of these rely on algorithms that have internal trust score numbers, they are just never displayed. It is also possible that these algorithms simply take into account the various stats that would compose a trust score, instead.

It can be done. Easier or harder, but possible.

In this thread, we seem to have agreed on what we’re trying to build, albeit not so much on one specific aspect - the displaying of a public reputation score. It is probably time to declare consensus on the former. Regarding the latter, we can open a vote, or even another discussion thread. We can do that now or defer it to later months.

As for me, personally, I think I’d prefer the system to have public reputation, but this is something to keep in my mind for the weeks ahead. We can definitely get some ground work started without that.


We need to work all this out, of course. But one way to work on this is to build a schema that supports:

  • Metrics of various “events” (Q/A/Comments, Upvotes Q/A/Comments, Downvotes Q/A/Comments, Edits of other user’s posts approved, update profile, take the Tour, whatever)
  • Multiple Reputation Values based on various metrics (which if there is only one Reputation Value then this is like SE, but could be 2 or 3 or more)
  • Privileges granted based on one or more Reputation Values. (and if there is only one Reputation Value, this is like SE - but with multiple could be that you get “vote to close privilege” if you have a Q-based Reputation 100 or a A-based Reputation 200 or whatever)
  • Badges granted based on one or more Reputation Values or Metrics - e.g., Bronze/Silver/Gold “Q badge” at 500, 1000, 2000 Q-Reputation; “Editor badge” at 100 Edits; etc.

We build a flexible “Black Box” that does the calculations for each user whenever something changes. This would allow for pretty much any of the ideas that have been proposed and lets us move forward with the rest of the design while still working out the “best” reputation/privilege/badge system to actually use. It would allow total flexibility (since it is all database-driven) for changes system-wide or community-specific.

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A post was split to a new topic: Handling wrong/outdated content

Attention everyone!

This thread has become really, really long. Also many posts here are also quite long. Please restrict responding to this post to responses, that really answer the question:

What are we trying to build?

Please reply here with broad, general suggestions about what our site should be. Do not reply with specific, detailed suggestions for individual features. They belong into standalone posts with the tags #mvp (for features that should be required in MVP) or #non-mvp (for other features).



Is there any proof it never has in any situation on any site in the SE network? I agree the way I contrived this particular case is unlikely and may never have happened, but it is a possibility.
I went extreme as the quick simple example, but does it work better if the +25 are from users with 10+ years of professional experience with the topic on hand in multiple environments with multiple projects versus -15 from users with less than two years of experience and have worked for a single company on a single project? Much more possible situation to occur, but also far longer to type and read.

Nevertheless the point I was making still stands; without a statistically significant number of votes to offset “odd” situations like those proposed, the actual vote count does not provide actual relevant data to the end user as they cannot know the “value” of those votes. They are simply left with the potentially wrong conclusion that more votes is better or that posts without negative votes are better than those with negative votes (if they can check).

  1. A free open-source customizable core of a Q&A platform which anyone can adapt to their own needs;
  2. A rival/friendly and better than SE network based on a customized version of that under non-profit, quality content oriented government.

The below in short: I would wish to see something build that allows better ways to cross-link questions and answers.

StackExchange has this by means of duplicate (which is more like closing the question) or by adding an overview of related and linked questions. But, I feel that it must be possible to do it better.

I wouldn’t be against any brainstorm idea before the brainstorm is over. But maybe I missed whether it had already been decided ‘what we’re trying to build?’ My particular brainstorm idea was related to Bertieb’s “we should welcome useful content from anyone”. If that is desired then we need ideas about how to make that workable (mixing MathOverflow and math.SE ; is that gonna work without any technical changes?).

I do not believe that there needs to be a lot of technical changes for this particular brainstorm idea:

  • Already now StackExchange is linking questions. One can mark questions as ‘duplicate’ and then the question becomes linked to the previous question. The downside is currently that those duplicate questions are also closed, any activity on them is stopped, and there is no link back from the older duplicated question.

    Some softer way of linking questions together might be useful. Or at least, on the statistics page I encounter many questions which seem a lot the same (very often it is the same concept/topic but in a different setting and not different enough to become duplicate) and it would be nice to have more ways to bundle them (just some additional duplication/copy/linking option) rather than having them swimming around separately.

    What this would potentially achieve is that a lot more questions will get attention and will work synergetically together instead of sort of ‘competing’ against each other. (On wikipedia: when initially looking for a single question/topic, then I often end up clicking on several links, a browser window full of tabs, and me spending several late hours to read it. On StackExchange this never happens)

  • Another example from statistics.SE : There’s an option to tag questions as homework questions. This provides a way to treat different types of questions on the same site. But it could be organised a bit better. Maybe not necessarily hierarchical, but… you have to come up with something when you wish to make it work for a wider range of quality/interest levels.

So that is the hierarchy I was thinking of: to have the possibility to have homework questions and link them to some canonical question; this would be just coupling two already existing functionalities on StackExchange. So technically it might not need to be so difficult. I agree with you that it might be more difficult for the community to organize the posts/questions, but this also depends on the goals of the particular community (personally, I would have little interest to grow the number of questions, but instead I would wish to improve and organise the current questions and answers).

I would agree that the suggestion I made about hierarchy may not be the best. But is there something better? Or… is the solution to do nothing different at all?

To get back on topic. Do we want to build Q&A site that is a vanilla copy from Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow? (which I believe is only suitable for the mono-culture communities and does not allow a mixing of “content from anyone”) Or do we want to build a more modern adaptation that improves SE/SO flaws?

It is not so clear to me in all these dozens of posts (also in other topics) in which directions we wish to deviate from Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow? Obviously there is the management issue and related stuff like licensing; and we need to discuss ways to import and export data/content. But are there other ways in which the site is ought to be different? Those other ways are being discussed on a technical level but it is not made very clear whether is actually gonna be necessary. When the Codidact community is not clear about this then a lot of the discussions ends up long, repetitive and confusing.

Maybe we should quickly get some clarity about potential users such that these discussions about features can be much more streamlined (goal/user-oriented; rather than hypothetical)?

Don’t forget why SE has the closing mechanism in the first place. This is to that the resident users don’t have to keep answering the same thing over and over again. Closing similar questions and pointing them to one canonical question is very useful. I have written questions just for the purpose of them being the canonical question we point others to after closing them. It saves a lot of work. By the way, these canonical questions usually get highly upvoted, so I’m not the only one that appreciates them.

Again, folks, keep the resident users and experts in mind. In general, you seem to be too focused on the users asking questions. You have to make life easy and rewarding for the experts, else the site will devolve rapidly.


I’m not sure what you intended here, but I’m worried how this might be interpreted.

Yes, we don’t care who writes good content. Content stands by itself, regardless of author. However, that is not an invitation to allow any post, regardless of site rules for topicness, technical level, minimum research to be expected before asking, etc.

Each site needs to be able set their own rules in this regard, and then enforce them ruthlessly. It doesn’t matter who posts something, but what is posted matters a lot.

Unfortunately, we often see the what and who blurred, especially when people want less stringent rules. At least on SE Electrical Engineering, we’ve had way way too many rants about how newbies are ill-treated. Bad questions get rough treatment, as they should. Most bad questions are written by newbies. However, that does not mean newbies are ill-treated. There are plenty of newbies that post good questions and get good responses. It’s not about the poster but the post.

So yes, we should welcome good content from anyone, but we also have to deal with bad content in the most expedient manner before it drags down the site and burns out the resident answerers. Let’s make sure that welcome useful content from anyone doesn’t turn into “save the poor newbies” mentality or any other excuse to be less vigilant against low quality.


I agree with the pointing to canonical questions. But I do not agree with the closing of the question (or at least a reasonable sized group on stats.se seems to think so).

A lot of questions on stats.se are applied mathematics questions. Such questions stand on their own, yet they may relate to each other. For instance, there are many questions about finding the maximum likelihood in some way or another. Sometimes several relate to a similar concept, and for this case you could often direct them to some more abstract or more general canonical question. However it is not entirely useless to have those more pragmatic worked out cases.

I do not believe that closing such questions would do justice to reasonable questions that may not be fully answered by the canonical example.

Otherwise, we might suffice with only a couple thousands of general questions like ‘how to fit a curve?’ or ‘how to detect and remove outliers?’. I do not believe that this is a good way. The power of the SE sites is that the questions are very applied and from real world problems rather than these idealised questions types.

Or take math.se as example. Often questions boil down to using a particular technique (which is reoccurring in many questions). But the challenge is to find which technique to use. You can’t refer all those questions like ‘what is the integral of … ?’ to a canonical answer like ‘how to integrate?’.


Bear in mind, folks, that a lot of this sort of thing will be determined not by the software, but by site/community policy - in which case it’s not a question of what we’re trying to build, it’s a question of what community we’re trying to foster.

What we’re trying to build remains, as it always has been, an open, community-focused Q&A platform, and we’ll build the software to support that aim. How we handle different kinds of content from different people will be down to community policy.


Not entirely. The software has to include the mechanisms to carry out that community policy. The ability to close questions is one of those.

Experience has shown that with a large enough user base, there are always a few that give direct answers to homework questions, answer really bad questions, or otherwise can’t resist looking smart even at the expense of the site. Closing questions is necessary to prevent these people from hurting the site in the long run. Those that post bad questions must not get the desired result. Otherwise, there is no cost, and they’ll keep doing the same.


I intended to refer to useful content; that which is off-topic, blatantly duplicate, spam, rude ranting is in my view not useful for QA.

As for the ‘anyone’ part; there had been some discussion about being expert-focused, expert-driven, for experts by experts. While such things can produce valuable output, and I can definitely see potential value in such a proposal in some areas, the software we build and the wider community we surround it with should not cater to that exclusively.

I think this distinction is a useful thing to bear in mind, in the same way that Codidact is the name of the software, not the (or an) eventual community site.

However, while fostering is a good word to describe gathering a community; ‘building’ is good as well. We’re setting in place limits on what the software will achieve, definitely for MVP and in some cases perhaps for the long term, if not for good. Some folks would be delighted with an identical clone of SE’s software, absent SE Inc. Others have a more radical view of how to shake up QA.

This topic has gathered a wide range of views which fall on the spectrum of community policy vs functionality determined by software; and that’s very useful. It behoves us all to know the rough direction of travel on both. If nothing else than purely from the point of view of engagement and contributions-- in the same way it would be unfair to expect someone with absolute no knowledge of C# or similar to write our backend; people want to create the kind of QA site they feel is beneficial.


I’m curious about something.

…what’s actually being built? Are we building software for people to run on, a central site for people to work from like SE, or something else entirely?

The primary goal is to get a better replacement site for SE. Which we plan to run ourselves because we know best what we want.

For that, we are building our own software (because we decided that the available software doesn’t fit our needs). Thus our secondary goal is to write software for the site to run on.

And since that software will be Open Source (so that, should our site go bad any time in the future, others can just take the source and take over). and since Open Source works best if there are more users to it, a tertiary goal is to make the software sufficiently flexible that other people can use it for their own purposes (this also indirectly benefits our site because it increases the likelihood that newcomers to our site will already be familiar with the interface e.g. from some company-internal Q&A site).

And if someone else uses our software to make a site that fulfils our goals, and people go there, my personal opinion would be: Mission accomplished. After all, we don’t want to build the site in order to be the ones who run it, we build it in order to have a site that works well. If others do that work for us,more power to them.


A rival/friendly and better than SE network based on a customized version of that under non-profit, quality content oriented government.

Interestingly enough, this doesn’t say that “the user community” governs. It states the goals of that government, but in no way how it expresses the wishes of the “majority” of users of that service.

For me, that is a key thing: to define a “constitution” upfront that ensures that

  • “the community” is clearly defined
  • the rules and interactions between “the community” and the “service providers” are clearly defined

if you are going to treat a user differently because they ARE a cis white male (OR ANYTHING ELSE), you should not be not welcome here


This is not a discussion we are having here. Everyone is welcome to participate in the Codidact project or on the Q&A site when we get there, as long as they adhere to our Code of Conduct.


My feeling is that tag-wikis are to hard to find on stack exchange and are vastly under-utilized.

But to change that—if we want to have an equivalent—they need to interact with both the user-rating system and the search system on an equal (or at least comparable) footing with normal posts.

The only incentives to work on tag-wikis on stack exchange are intrinsic: say I want the site to host a good summary of neutrino basics. Because the system provides no extrinsic incentives.