On Civilized Discourse...
When you have the opportunity to partner with Jeff Atwood (aka Coding Horror) on a new company, it's hard to say "no". And when you learn his new company is reinventing forum software, a product that hasn't seen change in a couple decades, it becomes a pretty easy "yes".
I was recently looking around online and found my very first forum post (Usenet post from 1993) on the topic of Prodigy pricing changes. You can see that post here. What you quickly realize from reading this brief exchange (besides for my age) is that online forums as we know them have been relatively unchanged for the past couple decades. It's one of the last areas of the web that hasn't been touched by modern software or product thinking. Blogs have changed substantially with Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr. Connecting with friends has been rethought with Facebook and news and information flow has been forever altered with Twitter. But forums, an area of the internet that still produces massive amounts of content and valuable knowledge, haven't been touched. In Jeff's recent post on his new company, he throws out just a few examples of the robustness (and sometimes quirkiness) of online forums today:
- A 12 year old girl who finds a forum community of rabid enthusiasts willing to help her rebuild a Fiero from scratch? Check.
- The most obsessive breakdown of Lego collectible minifig kits you'll find anywhere on the Internet? Check.
- Some of the most practical information on stunt kiting in the world? Check.
- The only place I could find with scarily powerful squirt gun instructions and advice? Check.
- The underlying research for a New Yorker article outing a potential serial marathon cheater? Check.
There are few better people on earth to take on this huge challenge than Jeff Atwood. Jeff has spent a majority of his life thinking about text exchange on the web. When we first starting talking, it was clear that the "exchange of paragraphs" as he calls it was something deeply important to him. And that it was very different from his last company, Stack Exchange, a Q&A platform that allows domain experts to share answers with one another (without the free-form dialog that occurs in forums). He's also built an incredible following on his blog, Coding Horror, where he explores everything from technology to the judicial system (if you haven't read his post on being on a jury called "Somebody is to Blame for This" - please do it now.)
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