When I joined Stack Overflow in early 2020, one of the things that drew me to the role was the tremendous depth and breadth of our technical community. We know that getting specific, expert knowledge about a technical product or service is challenging. We also know that building communities, engaging with developers and supporting them at scale can be a challenge for organizations. Over the past year, our Reach & Relevance team has been heads down working on a new initiative to enhance the experience on Stack Overflow for both our users and organizations (specifically open source organizations and companies that build products and services for technologists).
Creating and managing relevant content while attracting users, both initially and on an ongoing basis, are challenges that we believe Stack Overflow has spent nearly a decade working to solve. By helping organizations address these challenges, we help our Community access the specific in-depth knowledge of the people directly building and supporting these technologies.
We believe that we are uniquely positioned to help technology organizations and their users engage directly while identifying where and how to best engage to deliver value to those users. Today, I’m happy to announce the Beta release of a new product called Collectives™ on Stack Overflow, launching with Google Cloud and Google’s Go Language as our first customers.
Our users leverage questions and answers millions of times a day. This product empowers the organizations connected to these technologies to more directly support the communities that have grown around various topics, bolstering the quality and health of our content in a way that benefits our users as well.
Product Led: What problem are we solving?
We know that engineers at tech organizations have a wealth of knowledge about their technologies and, while some currently participate on Stack Overflow, we identified an opportunity to incentivize, simplify and highlight that participation. An organization’s expertise, when included with the community’s knowledge, can provide a more in-depth and complete understanding of how to better use a language, leverage a service, or troubleshoot a technology so that others with the same issue have a higher level of confidence in the solution provided.
When talking to organizations already represented on Stack Overflow via tags of their technologies, we’ve also learned that there is a strong appetite to contribute their specific knowledge to Stack Overflow. Organizations want to have deeper interactions and provide a better experience to current and potential users of their products and services—something they can't do with any of our existing products.
Through the last year, we have conducted extensive product research with moderators, users and potential customer organizations to identify new ways to add value for each to our existing platform while limiting the change to how things already work on Stack Overflow. We found that users and moderators want to hear from and engage with experts at the organizations who build and support the technologies that they use regularly, and we learned how they want to engage with those experts.
Collectives is a new set of spaces on Stack Overflow where content related to certain technical languages, products, or services can be grouped together. It’s a place for users who regularly interact with this content to collaborate, and for the organizations who help build or maintain this technology to share their expertise. Collectives are defined by a set of specific tags relating to the technologies that an organization builds, supports and has an authority over. It aggregates all content for those interested in these technologies and gives them some special handling of content posted in those tags. This content includes questions and answers as well as new long-form content related to the organization’s products and services. The technology organization doesn’t own the tag, but it has the ability to organize and highlight information it feels is valuable.
Each participating organization will have a Collectives page, which acts as its “home” on Stack Overflow. Questions and answers will continue to belong to the Stack Overflow community, but the Collectives page will aggregate all of the relevant content from the associated tags. Users can join any Collectives page, participate in its leaderboard based on their contributions to its associated content, and find the users that are Admins or Recognized Members of a Collective.
With this launch we are creating a new Collectives-specific user type: Recognized members are either employees of an organization, part of its Developer Recognition Program, or users selected by the organization from within the Stack Overflow community that are knowledgeable about the organization’s technologies. These users will have a badge identifying them when they post/edit a question, provide an answer, or write an Article that is associated with a collective through its tags. They will also have the ability to recommend an existing answer within their Collective, highlighting that, from their perspective, this is a recommended way of solving the problem.
Recognized Members of a collective will also have the ability to contribute a new type of content to our network. They can create longer form content within a collective which we call an Article. We first introduced this feature within our Teams product last year where we have seen strong adoption and usage. Articles give Recognized Members the opportunity to provide deeper knowledge and insights through how-to-guides, knowledge articles, or announcements. Initially Articles can only be posted by Admins and Recognized Members of a Collective, but we’re planning to release a feature that would allow any member of a collective to submit an Article to the collective for review in the near term.
Our launch customers
We knew early on that we wanted to balance our Collectives between open source and commercial technologies to reflect the diverse landscape that our users work within everyday. Our target was to launch with an organization of each to demonstrate our commitment to that balance from the start. I am so pleased to announce that our first two Collectives are Google Cloud and Google’s Go Language.
“The technical community is the heart of our Google Cloud mission and everything we build and create is grounded in helping them quickly build technologies that push the boundaries of their imaginations,” said Amr Awadallah, Vice President of Cloud Developer Relations at Google. “Ensuring that Google Cloud developers have the information they need to build is embedded in everything we do. Google Cloud’s Collective on Stack Overflow will help us make information more accessible and ignite our technical community so we can all innovate faster.”
"Go was born from the idea that modern open source programming languages should make it easier to build simple, reliable, and efficient software," says Steven Francia, Product and Strategy Lead for Go Language at Google." As more developers adopt Go to build their ideas and contribute to its iterations, it feels only fitting to take the same open source approach to technical knowledge sharing with Stack Overflow. Collectives™ will change how we are able to help technologists understand, implement, and scale Go, as well as collaborate with their peers."
We designed Collectives to be a win-win for our clients and our community. Organizations get an opportunity to help improve the health and detail of content being created around their technologies, and users have more opportunity to find relevant and accurate information they can use to solve problems and be recognized for their contributions.