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With respect to Stack Overflow, I think they were an instant success largely because they are infinitely less douchey than their competitors, who put up barriers and paywalls to see answers.

Less douchey doesn't = win. Compare Evite to any of its competitors (notably, the YC company AnyVite) in terms of traffic. Or check out eBay's competitors.

It certainly helped, I'm sure. But it's a tiny slice of the pie when compared to their initial burst of free leadgen due to fame/audience. It would have had a serious cold-start problem if they'd launched it anonymously.

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