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Joel Spolsky, Stack Exchange CEO and Co-Founder, Talks at Factual on How to Have Nice Things

Friday afternoons are a special time at Factual, not just because it’s getting close to the weekend. Each Friday, the company provides a catered lunch in our HQ office in Los Angeles (at our satellite offices, teams go out together for a sponsored lunch). While the entire office eats and socializes (which in and of itself is great), we have someone give a presentation which is webcast live and also recorded and later distributed for the benefit of those who cannot be present. These “Friday Lunch Talks” are given by both Factual employees and guest speakers, on a wide range of topics - individual projects, summer intern final presentations, updates on our weekly employee basketball game, and chats with successful entrepreneurs, developers, and data lovers.

Our latest guest speaker was Joel Spolsky, the esteemed co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange, the largest network of websites for software developers including Stack Overflow. We had the pleasure of hearing Joel talk on important decisions for developing an enduring online community (like Stack Overflow).

Human nature and early rule-setting has a profound impact on how your community will turn out.

After the talk, I spoke with a few fellow employees. William Chang, a Director of Business Development, relayed, “Joel has had a direct positive impact on my life, as I use Trello to manage my daily priorities and use Stack Overflow to learn new programming languages. I really loved how he gave us a deeper understanding on how you create engaging and productive online communities at scale and how understanding human nature and early rule-setting has a profound impact on how your community will turn out.”

Online communities don’t necessarily have the same goal that seems ‘obvious’ to an outsider.

Software Engineer Alan Malloy remarked that, “something I liked about his talk is that he emphasized that online communities don’t necessarily have the same goal that seems ‘obvious’ to an outsider, or even to the company when they started the community. For example, Wikipedia isn’t about accumulating all-and-only true fact, but rather summarizing what other authorities believe to be true; Stack Overflow isn’t really for the one person asking a question, but rather creating an ‘artifact’ that can help hundreds of people who find it through Google in the future. If you want to build such a community yourself, you need to figure out what to optimize for, and how to encourage the right behavior.”

You can watch the complete recording of Joel’s talk below. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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