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Domain Names (stackoverflow.com)
71 points by JasonPunyon on July 13, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

Funny, I would have picked the "Baking for Dummies" book. Perhaps it's because I am a novice at cooking and don't necessarily want the best book on baking at the moment, just an introductory one; and I can be pretty sure the Dummies book will be decent since it is part of a well-known series.

Likewise with these StackExchange sites; some of them I had no idea they were stackexchange sites until I actually visited them. It took quite a while to click on their links after seeing them around the net in some cases. Had it been superuser.stackexchange.com I would have immediately known it would probably be a high-caliber Q&A site.

I guess I'm an outlier on both points?

I think the general premise that ‘series are bad’ is flawed. When I am looking for programming books, I look for O'Reilly (maybe that doesn't count as a series, in the sense that one can refer to “O'Reilly volume 47” or whatever, but neither can one do that with a “for Dummies” book); when I am looking for math books, I look for Springer Lecture Notes, London Math Notes, or any of a number of other series. (In fact, I was just marvelling the other day at the universality of the Springer brand—even in domains about which I don't know anything, when I see that logo, I immediately think that I'm seeing a book that's worth reading.)

Brands are aimed at demographics, which is why Unilever has the Dove brand and the Lynx brand for basically the same product for example. People identify with a brand, have a perception and make purchasing decisions based on it.

What Joel's point is, I believe, is that generic umbrella series/brands are bad for user/customer perception (such as his "For Dummies" example). And as the entire Stack Exchange ecosystem is going to cover a massive range of topics it makes more sense to separate them as the good perception of a Stack Exchange cooking site isn't going to help the perception of a Stack Exchange mechanics site.

I can kinda see Joel's point, but it runs counter to the whole notion of branding. Cooking may seem to have little to do with mechanics, but a QA website about cooking vs. a QA website about mechanics has, well, the QA website part in common.

That's not to say I'd put up with crap on a mechanic's QA site even if the cooking QA site was good, but previous experience with Google search absolutely helped sell the Gmail switch.

> What Joel's point is, I believe, is that generic umbrella series/brands are bad for user/customer perception (such as his "For Dummies" example).

I'm not saying that there is no such thing as a bad umbrella brand, just that there is such a thing as a good umbrella brand (at least for me). Springer (which also covers a massive range of topics!), and possibly also O'Reilly, are examples of umbrella brands that I perceive as good. In fact, I can think of far more good umbrella brands than bad ones for books; as a bibliophile, I rely on my knowledge that I can trust certain publishers for quality, format, content, &c. to help me make my buying decisions quickly.

I can't think of many examples of good or bad brands for websites—except CPAN and its derivatives, which are (again, to me) a very good umbrella brand indeed. (I can think of CTAN and JSAN right off the top of my head; I'm sure that there are others.)

It works both ways I guess, I generally avoid the for Dummies series I think mainly because I've gone through a few a long time ago and didn't find them to useful. So yes, the brand can carry over, but also in a negative as well as a positive way.

Although with stack exchange it doesn't matter to much, because the sites all have the same look. So that works the same way the domain name would.

This title is editorializing a little bit: it refers to a throwaway comment in a longer, more interesting article.

It is editorialized, but I would not have followed a link titled "Domain Names" as it does not convey the quality of the article.

I think it's reasonable to use one of the more interesting points of the article when the original title is so vague.

So basically linkbait works, and it's just lucky that this time it pointed to something worthwhile?

I was trying to support reasonable use of editorial. I was not supporting "linkbait" editorial. There is a big difference.

The poster referenced a piece of the article. He/she did no use gratuitous link bait like "* * * TOP 5 DOMAIN CHOOSING TIPS [vid] * * * ". It's unfair to treat them like they did just because they changed the title.

Uh, yes. If this wasn't the case then 'marketing' wouldn't be a skill.

Completely agree. And about the actual article... isn't debating the merits of the domain names publicly going to attract domain sitters to buy those names as they are discussed? Especially given the emphasis on .coms, they are cheap to own and sit on.

It mentioned contacting someone, so not exactly in the open. I guess they could register everything that seems decent and then discuss the choices in the open.

Say, hypothetically, you discover a long, well-written, insightful and generally intellectual-curiosity-gratifying essay on the craft of programming, titled "10 Ways to Grow Your Penis". Would it be reasonable to editorialize?

At least it wasn't called "Book publishers are too gutless to call old people dumb." THAT would've been over the top :)

If you're wondering about the reference to being "Influenced by Ries and Trout", it's a reference to the book Positioning: The Battle for your Mind, which I've recommended on HN before and will continue to do so - http://www.amazon.com/Positioning-Battle-Your-Al-Ries/dp/007...

It talks about the importance of standing out in your marketplace, because consumers want simple purchasing decisions so will only, at best, compare the top few.

I wonder how this relates to Reddit. Both sites (SO and Reddit) have unique, community driven and created sections.

Would a site like Reddit benefit from turning some of these sections into top-level domains? I know that they are having financial issues right now, and could this be a possible step to move away from their problems into something that would be profitable?

I think the communities are fundamentally different. On Reddit, you think of yourself as a Redditor. You may only go to certain subreddits, but it's all supposed to be a part of something large. For SO, one of the main points was to give quality search engine results. You search for some problem you have and SO shows up instead of experts-exchange! ServerFault and other spinoffs are supposed to stand on their own in a way that I think Reddits are not.

I wonder if he's referring to experts-exchange with that dashes comment?

Experts Exchange's dash is important because it disambiguates a potentially (comically) mis-read URL: Experts Exchange vs Expert Sex Change

He's definitely referring to experts-exchange.

I listened a great interview with Jeff Atwood on Herding code today (http://herdingcode.com/?p=263). It's funny how their QnA model seems so obvious in retrospect.

I think Joel misses the point about brands; whilst still getting the decision right :)

Stack Overflow is a brand - in it's visuals and how it works.

The name is where it gets interesting; because often products are "branded" using their name - but not always. And this is one case where there is absolutely no need to brand the sites using the Stack Overflow name - doing so would be like branding it the same way as the supermarket own brand of a top class store. i.e. the store is quality, the goods are quality, but the brand name makes it look cheap :)

Seems like that's simultaneously missing an opportunity to capitalize on their brand and missing an opportunity to strengthen their brand.

"we decided that individually-branded sites felt more authentic and trustworthy."

Doesn't Craigslist fly in the face of this theory?

The most important and valuable aspect of a top level domain is that it can be treated as an individual asset if there is an opportunity to sell it (or if it needs to be split away from the parent organization for some other reason).

To support this, it's ideal if all of its resources (images, stylesheets, scripts, etc.) are also served from within the domain, without being dependent on other domains owned by the parent organization (code can still be shared by using symlinks or multiple virtual hosts pointing to the same resources). This should help simplify any transfer.

Exchange sites are part of a series.

The real question is not about some abstract branding truth: people trust/don't trust series.

They should be asking whether they want to accentuate or deaccentuate the grouping. Do they want good brand equity to flow between them. Do they want to avoid bad brand equity (brand liability?) to flowing? Do they want the sites to feel more independent?

Relying on 'series are bad' as justification is like when clients tell me that blue makes their clients feel like buying.

But StackExchange sites will work only if they inspire a community of domain experts around each site. And the whole Stack Exchange idea is about separate communities, not about community around Stack Exchange brand.

I bet that garden aficionados around the world would enjoy more to be part of the LiliesAndRoses.com community than StackExchange.com/Flowers community.

One the other hand, they are looking for members of one community to seed the next. They are looking for people to understand some of the concepts by recognising it as an exchange site. They are looking for communities to learn from eachother.

I'm not saying it's the wrong choice. I don't know much about it.

Just saying that as an argument 'Americans don't trust series,' doesn't cut it. I also think it isn't true. I absolutely do pic 'Lonely Planet.'

I'm leery of nearly any domain with hyphens in it, as it almost always feels like an Adsense site with either low quality or scraped content.

To me, dashes reek of desperate SEO.

dashes reek of desperate SEO

Dashed domains are to SEO as bogosort is to scalability.

And to me also (as someone who buys domains, does some SEO, etc), but I wonder if it's also true for the general public? Have they come to make that same association or is it just another domain to them?

Years ago, I used to prefer them because I thought they were more readable. Then I realised how much of a pain it is to give your email address out over the phone if you have punctuation in it.

If the quality is excellent and the name isn't tacky (e.g. for Dummes), then I think a series is much more beneficial. There's no way I'd compare '..for Dummies!' books and StackExchange on anywhere near equal footing.

Can someone explain the dashes reek of desperation bit?

If you have to use dashes in your URL, then you must be desperate for that name. A business would only register shirlaws-coaching.com if shirlawscoaching.com were already taken, and the business was desperate for those words.

The OP's opinion seems to be 'if you need dashes to make it work, it ain't gonna work, move on'.

It's also a dig at Experts Exchange (the Q&A site that Stack Overflow started partly to combat) who have a domain with a dash.

afaik, they had expertsexchange.com, but were not happy with option to ready it as "expert sex change"

dashes can be effective tools to eliminate ambiguity, as in these examples:

www.salesexchange.com - "sales exchange" or "sale sex change" www.sales-exchange.com makes the meaning clear.

But I agree with you about spammy domain names like http://www.black-and-white-digital-photography.com.

No, in those cases you should change the name to eliminate ambiguity.

interesting. i use dashes in non-customer facing domains all the time. suppose that doesn't really count. still....

I think it's clever to have the reek of your desperation non customer-facing.

I think their argument about series domains vs standalone names is actually backward. If people like the StackOverflow format you want to easily attract those people to the other sites that use the same engine. You want cross-polination of visitors, and you probably want to get some PageRank momentum of the established base domain name.

domains with dashes tend to be easier to read, imo

Maybe easier to read on screen, but not easier to type or say to someone else. There was a previous comment about reading punctuation over the phone, which I've found true. In addition, there are lots of folks who are generally confused by which punctuation mark is which. My wife recently had a 5 minute conversation with someone who simply didn't know what a dash was (it's in her company's domain). As the SO brand spreads beyond the hacker community memorable word-based URLS without punctuation will be even more important.

My biggest problem with the series vs. individual sites thing is that I already have to remember so many URLs and information about my identity on each site. Where do I log in to see all of my notifications from the various sites? How do I find my friends when I move from one site to another? How do I see that a bunch of my friends are now answering questions on a cool topic on a totally new SE site? A series approach would have provided a much more straight forward approach to answering these questions. I think the unique sites make leveraging the asset of users who participate in many communities harder.

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