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A New Name for Stack Overflow (with surprise ending) (stackoverflow.com)
177 points by ssclafani on Mar 9, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

I feel like Spolsky is just doing this whole VC-backed startup thing just to see how crazy and ridiculous it is, so he can credibly make fun of it in his future writing.

Future blog post:

"We didn't even have any idea how to go beyond programming questions. Our our 'technology' if you can call it that was trivial. We had no business model. My personal job board had higher revenue. Still, these crazy guys in suits offered to give us millions of dollars at ridiculous valuations because I'm a blogging celebrity and we did what any sane person would do: we took it! It was fun while it lasted..."

I don't know if his hour-long talk at BoS2010 will get posted eventually, but a major theme was that value was shifting from creating "technology" to creating communities around a shared experience. StackOverflow is more sophisticated than the clone-it-in-a-weekend crowd gives it credit for, but even if it were Baby's First CRUD App, it would be Baby's First CRUD App Which Contributes Hundreds Of Millions In Productivity To Developers. That community and their accumulated knowledge have value even if the technology is a hacked-together Wordpress plugin (and again, it isn't).

It is an open question whether they successfully move beyond developers. If they do, gadzooks, good news for the world. There are similar expert questions with canonical right answers which are a) difficult to find at present and b) extraordinarily consequential for people.

I had two canonical examples in recent weeks on tax and visa questions, for myself and other people. Answering one took a week of research and directly lead to $5,000 in my pocket. It is ungoogleable at present. The one asked by a friend of mine is similarly ungoogleable, the right answer is easy but nonobvious and virtually undocumented, and many of the numerous wrong answers lead to deportation.

I don't know, it makes sense but it kinda reminds me of that sex change company.

experts exchange?

expertSEXchange dot com

edit: wow. Just showing the people who didn't get the reference.

Did you really think there were many of those folks around? The fact that the parent got lots of upvotes, and no follow-up questions, might have been a clue.

Regardless of the actual ratio of people that get it in contrast to those that don't get it, there has to be people that didn't get it and are directly benefited from his 'explanation'. On another point, I immediately knew about what the OP was talking about, but the actual name completely slipped my mind, so I guess I also found the explanation useful. It's right up there with the people that post "clickable links" to a website. It might seem distasteful to some, but hell they are useful in a myriad of situations.

I didn’t know. I very much appreciate people explaining jokes.

Ha ha..kinda similar to the DataStage Exchange forum..


I typed in the url once with an extra 'e' and my company's internet filter blocked it. ;-)

The second variant is correct, indeed, as the sex of experts shifts (changes) from the male domain to more and more female experts.

Judging from the downvotes, it's interesting to see that most people don't seem to know the second meaning of "sex" as a simple synonym to "gender", thus falsely assuming my above comment to be offensive.

IIRC, it was made for the express purposes of providing something better than that which was poorly named and didn't know how to really prevent people from reading it.

Unless I'm just missing a joke here.

I'm still seeing no evidence of success or traction beyond the original Stackoverflow.

I'm kinda curious what their burn rate is. I think there are 20 odd employees now, not all of them engineers. That'll consume $2-3 million a year. One hopes they're simply stockpiling cash while valuations are good.

I'm kinda curious what valuation they got. I haven't seen anything about that anywhere.

As far as I can see it's around $30m.


Next to Facebook at $50bn that seems almost reasonable...

Joking aside it does seem on the high side but in it's favour it is a top 100 site by traffic, it has something resembling a basic revenue model in place, they have a plan for growth which they seem to be executing on reasonably and they are in a space which is under going growth and which clearly has some potential.

Yes right now Stack Overflow eclipses the other sites but having one massively successful site to fall back on and that they've learned things from is actually a pretty major asset.

MathOverflow is very successful and useful. Of course, there are so few mathematicians, even counting all graduate students, that being a huge success in that community doesn't mean it's very a big site.

Is MathOverflow part of Stack Exchange? I ask because Stack Exchange seems to have a different site called "Mathematics Stack Exchange" [1].


MathOverflow is a hosted instance of the SE stack, while the "Mathematics Stack Exchange" is part of the Stack Exchange network (started in their Area 51, "graduated", etc). The former is mainly for academics and professionals in the field, while the latter is more elementary and geared more towards the average user.

I use SO regularly. I am not sure where they plan to make their money. I see ads, but I would be surprised if that covers the costs of the labor (I'd love to be surprised here).

I'm enjoying using it, and I would hate to see it fall over due to overexpansion/lack of cash flow.

Joel recently announced "Careers 2.0 by Stack Overflow", which sounds like it could make money:


Thank you cletus; I needed a link to match this one. http://www.codeproject.com/Lounge.aspx?msg=2724411#xx2724411...

The burn rate is very low.

The valuation is private.

This response confuses me.

The linked comment is dismissive and, in hindsight, ludicrous, saying that SO won't be around in a year (in 2008).

The only reasonable conclusion to reach from this is that your response is a not-so-subtle derision of my statement, basically claiming it is just as ludicrous. Or am I reading this wrong?

If not, this confuses me for several reasons:

1. It's very un-HN to be so snarky, even petty. You might be confusing HN for proggit?

2. I love SO, the (original) site. Not once have I ever questioned its viability or value;

3. I have however raised questions about the ability of SE sites to gain traction in their respective verticals, a position thus far backed up by your own numbers [1].

4. I actually wish you guys well. I'm a big fan. The snarky response to a dispassionate position/question makes me wonder if I've hit a nerve?

There are two kinds of comments you'll see on the Internet: uninformed hate/trolling like you linked to. You seem to be suggesting my comment falls into that. I disagree but hey, that's your prerogative. Whatever the case, there's no point in responding to those kinds of comments.

The second kind are neutral/positive, arguably informed and generally reasonable. My position is my comment falls into this category. When you respond to those with snarky comments, it actually does you a great disservice, portraying you as petty and small-minded (neither of which, for the record, I believe to be true).

Weird morning.

[1]: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/wp-content/uploads/FebMonthlyU...

I know who you are because of StackOverflow, and I came to respect your opinion through your answers while I participated there. I have to agree with you. You asked a very tame question and got a very unexpected response, all the more strange because you've been a big contributor to the flagship.

My interpretation is that he is going to use your comment, like the one he linked to, as motivation to prove you wrong. Maybe your comment will be printed out and put onto the wall of the SE office.

Considering he's a fairly active user on stackoverflow it seems like kind of a silly thing to do.

Are there multiple meanings of "burn rate" at play here?

I can't imagine how paying 20 people fulltime salaries is anything approaching "low" - as in under $1 or 2 million. Of course "low" is a relative term, so it all depends on what the number is you are comparing it against...

I can't imagine how paying 20 people fulltime salaries is anything approaching "low"

Expense != Burn Rate

A burn rate is just negative cash flow. It's just the negative value found on the end of your income statement.

You're only considering salary. They're also bringing in money from their careers offering and their ads. Also, Amazon links get auto-converted into an affiliate link. On a site that gets as many pageviews as they do, these would be not insubstantial revenues, which reduces their burn rate.

If the burn rate is low, why so many rounds of funding? What do you plan to do with the funding to make the company profitable?

I hang out on the Electronics & Robotics board and even in the few months I've been there, growth is noticeable.

> ...long since stopped being about programmers ...whenever we told The New York Times that we were “Stack Overflow,” they would go to stackoverflow.com and have a heart attack. At least this way people wondering about the company understand that we’re about more than just programmer questions.

What? That's not good enough? Look at the graph. That's what it's about.

That's a good point. I'd guess that their direction is the driving force here, as their current position doesn't reflect where they want to go or be (that I don't know).

Yeah, I'm just reacting. It's a good resource, and I worry that it'll be ignored or diluted. It's the first time I've felt the management considers "just programming" a trivial thing.

Good for them for growing. I hope they remember their base.

I wish more companies would write simple and clear blog post announcements like this one. The transparency is also refreshing given that corpspeak in company communications is making a comeback (see AOL and Yahoo).

You don't need books and consultants on social media marketing, you just need a bit of personality and to treat your audience and community as real people.

(this blog does fail at something I always note here - not having a paragraph bio on the article pages that a lot of people land on, but they have nailed everything else)

I agree, it reminded me of the Woot! acquisition letter (which appears to no longer be up), but is largely excerpted here: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100630/15230910030.shtml

It does sort of make you wonder what the reasoning is behind the stilted and formal marketing speak that is everywhere. How can that possibly be effective? Is it all just CYA and writing in such a way that nobody could possibly take offense to it?

tldr: Don't panic, stackoverflow.com is not changing, it's just the name of the company they are changing to "Stack Exchange Inc."

I really wish that had been made clear from the title. I mean, I don't really see a site of their (stackoverflow.com) size up and changing their name overnight (though I could see patio11 making grabbing a second domain like AnswersToProgrammingQuestions.com), but the title had me a bit worried. It was only made worse by blog.stackoverflow.com taking it's own sweet time responding to my request.

I've long been confused about the naming of SO/SE. I mean, there was stackoverflow.com (the site), stackoverflow inc. (the company), and stackexchange. For a while I thought that the VC money was only for stackoverflow.com because of this. Hopefully the company name change will help me keep things clear in my head.

So just to be clear, the surprise ending is that they raised another round ?

I am not trolling, btw.

Given that he begins that paragraph (where he discusses the new investors) with, "Now the surprise ending..." I'd say you're correct.

There are some interesting sites there. I hope the home improvement one becomes really popular. I can see that as becoming an incredibly useful resource. Especially for people (like me) who are clumsy with handy work.

I was thinking about this naming issue the other day, and I'm glad they made a move.

I convinced myself they'd rename to simply Stack for shortness' sake. I still think they should; stack.com doesn't look too expensive.

I like stack, too, but there's already an awesome company using stack.com. You probably don't know stack magazine because you're not a high school jock, but it's the #1 high-school-jock magazine in America

Page was down, full text follows:

It’s been a while since we’ve done something arbitrary, complicated, and confusing, so today I’m happy to announce that the name of the company has been changed, effective immediately, to Stack Exchange Inc!

There’s a method behind this madness, of course: we want to emphasize the importance of the 45 sites in our network, which has long since stopped being about programmers:

That, plus, whenever we told The New York Times that we were “Stack Overflow,” they would go to stackoverflow.com and have a heart attack. At least this way people wondering about the company understand that we’re about more than just programmer questions. We have Battlestar Galactica too!

Now the surprise ending. When we first raised venture capital way back in the long-ago year of 2010, we actually had quite a few great investors interested in buying our stock. And since then, the buzz hasn’t abated. We were pretty sure that given the current market conditions, we could easily raise a big pile of new Unicorn-bucks without losing control of the company. We made a few phone calls, took a few meetings, I flew to London and Boston, and hey presto, we sold another $12 million worth of the company to some great investors.

The new investors are Index Ventures, based in Geneva and London, and Spark Capital, based up in Boston. Our first investor, Union Square Ventures, will also put in more money so as to keep the same ownership percentage that they had before (this is called a “pro-rata”).

Needless to say, the new investors will want to keep an eye on all that money, so Neil Rimer from Index will be joining the board of directors, and Bijan Sabet from Spark will be an observer on the board (he can come to meetings but he can’t vote). And to keep from tipping the board to the investors, the “common shareholders” (that is, the founders and employees) will be entitled to elect another representative of their own to the board. We picked Anil Dash, who has been blogging for even longer than I have and has been one of our most valuable advisors.

Now, you may be wondering how we plan to spend all that money. First of all, of course, we need new stickers and T-shirts. And a ping pong table…

We’re also improving the employee snack room a little bit:

If you would like to receive your own totally free commemorative 1,000,000 Unicorn Buck Bill and a Stack Exchange sticker, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

  Stack Exchange Inc.
  55 Broadway 26 FL
  New York, NY 10006
If you live outside the United States, include about a dollar worth of whatever kind of weird thing it is that you use over there for money (no goats or Yap coins, please).

The partition of stack exchange into n different sites is sad. Tags should be able to impose order at least in the IT questions. The current situation heightens the artificial boundaries between programmers, users and sys admins.

Use the StackExchange API, hack together a site aggregating questions from all StackExchange sites by tags, ???, make the world a better place.

I agree. I think the recent advent of programmers.stackexchange has just caused stackoverflow to get that much more segmented and broken apart.

So, what is the valuation of stack exchange?

My guess: $80mm

Remember, valuations come in unicorn dollars.

As cool as naming your site after a class of software bug, I think Stack Exchange is more descriptive of the whole initiative, and it rolls off the tongue more easily.

Good move, and keep up the good content (now that Google has woken back up and is indexing them properly!)

Future competitors: Null Pointer, General Failure, Segmentation Fault.

I can't help but feel there'd be something ironic about trying to resolve www.nullpointer.com.

Did you try it?

Null pointer fail on that page, incidentally; the graphic at the top is actually a pointer to null, which isn't the same thing.

I would be laughing, but I just a couple days ago I was googling for information on an actual Stack Overflow error.

There needs to be a name for this phenomenon: a phrase being rendered un-Googleable due to overloading by a more dominant homograph.

I'm sure there is one in German...

And would things be different if they had called it PrivateVoid http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/04/help-name-our-websi...

There used to be a humor site named SegFault (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segfault_(website)) but it apparently died back in 2001.

I'll be waiting for some variation on ;DROP TABLE

You mean, like little Bobby Tables? http://xkcd.com/327/

> we want to emphasize the importance of the 45 sites in our network, which has long since stopped being about programmers:

You may want to add an "only" in there.

No, it's intentional.

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