We had an unexpected switch last weekend. My boss decided that we were ready to move from the Stack Exchange (SE) to an alternative, OSQA.net, without informing any of the people that work on the site. Needless to say this wasn’t a seamless transition, but it was fairly smooth. The biggest issues were re-syncing logins and a few changes to the way the site works (and a little lost data, not sure if that’s been recovered).
An apology was posted, and one was made to the editors as well. I’ve accepted mine, and I hope you accept it as well.
But why switch?
We’ve been debating this ever since the new Stack Exchange model was released. We, along with many other people running community sites, including Ask SQL Team, were left in limbo and had no idea if our site would be closed down. Despite the continued “promises” from Joel, Jeff, and other running the Stack Exchange framework, there hasn’t been any level of commitment from them, and we had no idea, if our few thousand users would be just dropped from the framework.
There are numerous others that have been running SE sites who feel this is more is more of a monetary move by the new investors in SE than some grand plan for a better community. There hasn’t been a great guideline on what is an active site, what level of traffic you’ll need to move from closed to open beta and then to community, and there’s not even any level of guarantee that they’ll keep your community beyond that. The “promise” of SE being for the community morphed once already, and many of us, myself included, felt we could not trust that this would not morph again to better meet their financial goals of their company. After they have added more advertisements to Stack Overflow and other sites, which is fine, but it starts to morph the whole “we are here for the community” message.
Even though we are a commercial enterprise, we’ve been around a lot longer than Stack Overflow, and I’d like to think we had the trust of the community, and have shown we have their interests at heart. We do listen, and we try to move this site in a direction that makes sense. However we compete with Stack Overflow, and Server Fault, with SQL questions. Having our site, and data on a platform we don’t control might mean that we would be shut down at anytime, or our questions just moved to SO “for the good of the community” (and of course, the good of Stack Overflow Inc.).
So we searched out alternatives and OSQA.net seemed to be one of the best ones. They had good reviews, they’re open source, and more importantly, their team was much more willing to engage with us, talk to us, offer suggestions and feedback, and even do some development. For the time being we are hosted on their platform, with the idea that improvements, bug fixes, etc. made to their framework will make it’s way to ASK SSC.
I apologize again for the sudden move, and I hope that we will eventually merge in more of the Stack Exchange style features into our own forums, as well as easily migrate some questions to/from the ASK site to our regular forums.
I think the Stack Exchange framework was, and is, a fantastic way to facilitate questions and answers on the Internet, merging FAQs and forums in a very powerful way of helping others. I hope it continues to grow, and I’m glad to see some open source style frameworks in existence that will allow people to run their own communities.