Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oracle Community on Stackoverflow?

Stackoverflow quietly moved into public beta last week, and I'm stunned by how active it is already.

I'm looking at pages of really funky technical questions here that I haven't a clue how to answer ... and they all have at least one answer in response already.

There are even 106 questions in the "oracle" category.

If you haven't checked it out yet, Stack Overflow is simply a "programming Q & A site". As they say in the FAQ:
What's so special about this? Well, nothing, really. It’s a programming Q&A website. The only unusual thing we do is synthesize aspects of Wikis, Blogs, Forums, and Digg/Reddit in a way that is somewhat original. Or at least we think so.

I have big hopes for this site. The best developer communities I ever participated in were on the old network news/nntp, until it started getting overtaken by the web in the late nineties. Ever since then I've never really found an "optimal" community. It's either everyone (aka google), very specialist mailing lists, or web forums that tend to be too fragmented or low volume to be really useful.

I think this site has great promise to be a well-known meeting place for the world-wide developer community to collect and share knowledge. And I hope we see a huge "Oracle Community" presence (Open Metalink+Forums+Wiki 2.0).

There are two things that have really interested me about this site:

Firstly, it was started by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood (Coding Horror). Nuff said.

Second has been the community engagement during the development process. They've had a podcast which I've been listening to for the past 21 weeks. It's a great fly-on-the-wall kind of experience, having the chance to listen to the developers discuss the site while they are still building it. I hope we hear more development done this way.

Do you have a question or maybe some answers? I really recommend everyone should take the plunge and test it out.

Any site that spawned a parody site even before it was launched can't be all bad!

5 comments:

Tim said...

But some of questions beggar belief.
What is the dual table?
What table/view do you query against to select all the table names in a schema in Oracle?

Come on, any developer worth his or her salt should be able to find that stuff in the doc or even faster on google!
'Question Bots at work maybe to fill the forums up?

Paul said...

yes Tim, it's the unfortunate dilemma for any forum (and probably counts for about 50% of the discussion on the SO podcast). How to make sure the good stuff rises above the rest.

The dual table question is a good example of where literally typing "What is the dual table?" into google immediately gives you a page of great resources addressing the topic properly.

I think its fair to say "oracle" is not a core skill for most of the users on SO right now, but even newbies can google! I wonder if the reputation system is doing a disservice by encouraging redundant questions like this?

Anyway, hope to see really useful Q&A in future, but it will ultimately depend on who joins in and who doesn't.

Sidhu said...

The problem with such websites is that things are so clumsy. I do Oracle and want to see those questions. Now here its all milk+beer+wine+etc... Another point is that unlike forum where an updated thread comes on the top, here i am not sure how things are.

They have something almost similar in my office. But even if i participate, i am unable to track what threads i was following. So i better stick to OTN forums :)

Paul said...

Hi Sidhu. I'd say give it a try!

Bear in mind that stackoverflow is specifically meant to be a Q&A resource, and definitely not a discussion forum.

With SO, "following" is slightly different than in a forum. Firstly notifications are all RSS, not email (which I find refreshing).

There are also no forums to follow - but instead you can follow specific tags (all Oracle for example), new questions, unanswered feeds etc.

On your personal page, you can easily see the questions you've asked, the responses you have provided, questions you have flagged as favorite and so on.

But in terms of sheer ability to quickly get good answers to questions you may have, I have been extremely impressed so far (and the community of users is still just getting off the ground)

And the reputation controls certainly seem to be doing a great job of keeping the beer+milk+wine out of the site (much more successfully than Oracle Mix's abortive attempt to garner feedback from the general public during Openworld season - what a load of dross got submitted as a result!)

Sidhu said...

I agree. Q/A website obviously would be different from a discussion forum.

But may be i am used to post on forums, i find them more comfortable to use :)