Following on from the wildly successful Stack Overflow programming questions and answers website, Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky have launched Server Fault, a questions and answers site following the same format but now for “system administrators and IT professionals” (currently in Private Beta, click here for sign-up instructions).
I’ve been using Stack Overflow for about 5 months and I absolutely love it. It has become the definitive, and I dare say de facto standard, questions and answers one-stop-shop for programmers. You can post a question for just about any programming topic and receive an answer within minutes, sometimes even seconds. This removes an old hassle with posting questions on Web 1.0-style forums where you had to wait impractically long lengths of time to receive answers.
These sites don’t just follow any standard Q&A format either. Just take a look at the diagram on the about page of either site and you’ll see that they’re a deliciously freakish Wiki/Blog/Forum blend.
One of the things I love about boths sites is their innovative karma and badge system, where users are rewarded by the community for making valuable contributions. This gives users a reputation score which appears next to their name wherever it appears on the site. This can be used as an assessment of someone’s overall standing in the community. Badges are awarded for special achievements like providing an especially highly-rated answer or for being recognised as an expert in a particular technology.
Of course possibly the most important feature of boths sites is that you don’t need to be logged in to ask or answer questions. This removes yet another annoying hurdle for the casual help-seeker.
I encourage everyone in IT, be it programming or otherwise, to sign up to at least one of these – you won’t look back.