It is paramount that we build a site that appeals to the domain experts.
This is where SE went wrong in latter years. If you have a site full with experts who can provide high-quality, correct answers, all other users will go there automatically. If we can make the site more welcoming to new users than SE, that’s very good, but not the core purpose - it is just one of many peripheral functions to address during design.
What motivates domain experts is different from person to person. Some want points and status, some just like teaching and helping, some like to build a repository of quality content. SE managed fairly well to sate all of these, so there’s not a need to change much.
Personally I never cared much about rep, but rather about technical correctness, to have a place to go when you needed someone to call out errors by teachers and programming books. SO got to this point, where it was sometimes more trustworthy than programming books written by experts. Even more trustworthy than commercial compilers. Because on SO, you get everything peer-reviewed by a large number of other experts: you never get away with technical inaccuracy. I could write a self-answered Q&A post that dismisses what’s taught at Harvard or in many programming books, then get 50 experts all over the world agreeing with me. It’s a whole new level of technical quality and it is free to use!
To take Olin as an example (for those who don’t know him, he’s basically the Jon Skeet of electronics),
I once asked a detailed fairly advanced technical question on EE, the kind that not just any Electrical Engineer can answer, but something that requires expertise in a particular kind of industrial control systems. If not for EE, then I would first have to find a consultant with relevant knowledge (would take many hours), call them and explain the situation, probably pay them for one day’s work of analysing the problem - to hire such expertise for one day would cost around 800€ in Europe, then pray that they manage to came up with useful advise. So probably at best a week of waiting, plus paying a consultant fee.
Instead I get a high quality answer for free within 30 minutes. This is a f-in amazing service! I couldn’t care less if he’s motivated by internet points or chocolate cookies, just give them to him! Reading that post in retrospect, some month later we came to the conclusion that the design was too complex and ended up re-designing this product pretty much just as was advised.
It truly baffles me that SE never understood the sheer market/mankind value of gathering all experts in one place like this, then have them give advise for free. To not take this in account when designing a new site would be a fatal mistake - we’d be just as incompetent as SE management.
Teaching newbies the basics on the other hand, is not very valuable in comparison. You don’t need a technical expert to teach beginners, just someone with intermediate knowledge and the will to teach, as done in schools and various mediocre but free Internet tutorials. Newbies should feel welcome and expect a civil tone, but they are nowhere as important as SE tried to make us believe in latter years. Sure, they are important in terms of Internet traffic, but if sheer Internet traffic is the design goal, it would be wiser to make a site about cute cat pictures instead of technical Q&A.