hi all, a short post to proudly announce that after ~1.5 yr of participation on TCS stackexchange, I just managed to get in the 1st page of all time top rep users. yay! there are 36 page 1 users out of about ~12.1K current participants. Im including a screenshot because unfortunately this accomplishment is a moving target, as current users continue to participate, gain points, and new users join all the time.
the 36 page1 users have special significance because last summer Stackexchange spontaneously announced a free t-shirt to these users. they hinted that such swag-awards would be a regularly occurring future occurrence but alas it hasnt materialized! ouch! they also closed down their online store last year so one cannot even buy the tshirt if one wanted to. the stackexchange community manager/ geek extraordinaire anna lear just told me now that “esp with academic sites we stay out of site promotion and leave it to the communities”. ouch!
I could write much more on this experience of persevering to earn rep on the site and plan to at some point, but for now let me just say it was far from easy, and that this is a very elite crowd of participants who protect the integrity of the site strongly, sometimes harshly [further disclosure there is quite a bit of smoking history of the saga in the meta section!]. from what I can tell its mostly TCS phd students, or at least those who participate the most, not so much senior/career researchers [who dont have much time for online activities, social-networking related stuff especially, but do engage in electronic publishing heavily].
on good days I felt like I learned a lot and others were helpful, on bad days it felt like the moderators & high rep users were disengaged and/or unnecessarily/endlessly critical/sniping [mostly one in particular], and that the whole thing amounted to a sort of sophisticated online hazing by ivory-tower academics…. Ive been tempted ever since I joined to write a scathing criticism, but unfortunately I also advertise/promote my blog there, get many hits from the site, and [imho] the elite users are quite likely to be offended and push back in their [future] votes on my participation.
the site is amazing in some ways, there is nothing like it on the entire internet, and online communities that have a high caliber of participants and dialogue are extremely rare. years ago I promoted the idea of online voting as a way of identifying/separating quality on sites, even spending months on building a web-based prototype and marketing it, and for me, the karma has arrived, and the double-edged sword saying applies acutely, “be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”
the stackexchange formula gives strikingly huge leverage to the crowd/”community”, and esp high-rep users to police the site and at-times-mercilessly hammer it into whatever form they unilaterally deem as having the most quality. but unfortunately quality while having some objective components is an inherently subjective judgement. its captured in the word “discrimination” with all its positive and negative connotations.
stackexchange is a really impressive company, the history of the web is scattered with the flaming wreckage and bodies of internet startups, and stackexchange is somehow managing to stay afloat, grow/expand, and even prosper. there are sites very, very similar like Yahoo Answers that are nearly useless and seem to be just on the verge of being shut down. I hope stackexchange gets acquired by a major company [hey google!], because I do wonder if they can sustain themselves independently, even multibilliondollar colossus like Facebook is having serious trouble sustaining its IPO price [its still below the IPO isnt it?].
big personal detail/disclosure, I went to the stackexchange open house last summer as they opened a new office in denver. it was a young vibrant crowd, but I also felt a sort of dawinian undercurrent of competition somehow. thats always been there with internet businesses, but after the 2008 crash, I think our entire economy has gotten even more extreme. a “red queen race” to borrow from matt ridley’s book. [actually just like the rep point system!] got into an amusing conversation with some young geeks about the terrible nightmare scenario of waking up one morning to see ones hard-earned stackexchange rep points wiped away in a hacking incident or lost from a software defect.
in other news, I went to see the Internship movie about google yesterday with one of my old geek friends I met in high school at about age 16. he’s an interesting character, he managed to work at microsoft for 5 years in the 1990s, I may write about him in the future here. am debating whether to post a review of the movie. at this point am thinking if I get a single comment saying “yes go for it” that might be enough =) …
fyi this site is doing great as far as hits after 6mo, but the comments [one of the original rationales for starting this site] are harder to come by. really enjoy/appreciate all comments, plz dont feel like you have to be an expert computer scientist to say anything here.