Podcast #67

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In this episode of the Stack Overflow podcast, Joel and Jeff discuss the ethics of Craigslist, the pitfalls of customer-installable software, and caching for anonymous web users.

  • If you'd like a Stack Overflow, Server Fault, or Super User sticker, you can now get three! Just send a SASE to Fog Creek software as documented in this blog post. Please don't start a Ponzi scheme with those international reply coupons, though!
  • There was a excellent, huge Wired article on the pros and cons of Craigslist, titled Why Craigslist is Such a Mess. I am mentioned in the article, as an example of someone who created an tool to do all-city search that got shut down by Craiglist, which is quite militant about controlling the service.
  • Joel feels that what Craig Newmark is doing with Craigslist is a brand of evil, in that it has destroyed the income stream (classified ads) that supported professional journalism. Craigslist was one of the models we studied extensively when building Stack Overflow, even cribbing their flagging mechanism. Joel and I have an extended discussion about the ethics of Craigslist.
  • Joel and I disagree about the future of professional journalism; I think the newspaper business model was fundamentally flawed. It is tempting to blame Craigslist for the downfall of newspapers, but if it wasn't Craigslist, someone else would have done the same thing. For a thoughtful discussion of the topic, check out Clay Shirky's article Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.
  • One side effect of Craigslist being free and incredibly popular (more pageviews than eBay and Amazon combined) is that they are breeding the perfect spammer. We looked at Craigslist as an key example of designing for evil. We suspect that over time Craigslist might have to start charging money for most, if not all categories.
  • Joel's Stack Exchange playground is biztravel.stackexchange.com, but we need better color schemes. I think we need to have a contest to set some reasonable default color schemes for Stack Exchange customers to choose from.
  • One thing Joel has learned from selling Fogbugz: software designed to be installed on a server in-house at a customer's site, under full control of that customer, is almost never worth the hassle. Virtual machines, or the software-as-appliance models, are more sustainable. But most companies won't allow outside vendors to remote into the app to troubleshoot it, either.
  • A tremendously important part of designing a large public website is optimizing for anonymous user access, which will be a large proportion of your traffic. At Stack Overflow, even before our public launch in September, we spent a lot of time ensuring that anonymous usage is aggressively and heavily cached.

Our favorite Stack Overflow trilogy questions this week are:

  • Countdown app for DevDays. Joel needs a cool app to help start DevDays sessions on time! Here's an opportunity to show off your mad coding skills, and have your software prominently featured at every DevDays venue.

We answered the following listener question on this podcast:

  1. David Smalley from DocType: "Shouldn't websites optimize heavily for anonymous usage patterns?" Absolutely!

If you'd like to submit a question to be answered in our next episode, record an audio file (90 seconds or less) and mail it to podcast@stackoverflow.com. You can record a question using nothing but a telephone and a web browser. We also have a dedicated phone number you can call to leave audio questions at 646-826-3879.

The transcript wiki for this episode is available for public editing.

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