Closing Stack Overflow Documentation
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 04 August 2017

Barely a year after the launch of the Stack Overflow Documentation website, the decision has been taken to close it with almost immediate effect. It turns out that this ambitious project was simply financially nonviable.

Even if you are a Stack Overflow user you may never have visited it's beta Documentation feature. If you go there today you'll discover it's about to close:



The post you are referred to is titled Sunsetting Documentation and comes from Community Manager, Jon Ericson who, after thanking those who contributed, goes on to explain why the decision was taken to pull the plug on this project, which never made it out of beta.

Referring back to why the Stack Overflow Documentation (SOD) was initiated - to use the expertise of the Stack Overflow community including its users to overcome the widely perceived problem of poor documentation - Ericson writes:

We still think Stack Overflow Documentation is a good idea. Kevin Montrose‚Äôs initial research has mostly been proven correct. Not only did our own survey show that developers rely on official documentation to learn, GitHub's Open Source Survey showed "incomplete or confusing documentation" to be the top pain point. Unfortunately, we can't afford to work on the problem at the moment. While we have an exceptional team of engineers, there just aren't enough of them to support all the projects Stack Overflow is working on.

Essentially the reason for closing it comes down to the fact that it can't pay for itself:

In order to hire more people, we need to make more money. That might mean helping more developers find a great job or selling more ads or signing up more businesses to use Enterprise. In the future, it might mean selling Channels to new teams. The business pitch for Documentation was that it'd bring in new users who might be in the market for a job. If the feature were particularly successful, it would create new opportunities to sell advertisements.

Ericson's post, which of course has the status of a question, ends by asking for feedback on the mechanics of sunsetting:

especially making the content available to contributors and repairing broken links.

and also invites comments to contribute to the "retrospective" that will continue the debate about SOD.

And there have been lots of comments. While some are disappointed that it is closing, and rather put out by the fact is comes as a business decision, on the whole the consensus seems to be that it has been the right decision to make.

For example, Kobi, who has a very high Stack Overflow reputation posted:

Ouch. This must have been difficult, but this is a courageous decision. My point for the retrospective: In the eagerness to encourage participation you've offered easy reputation, which tempted many users into editing and expanding popular 'examples' - this led to some terrible results. Reputation should be more difficult to get. 

Others are pleased to see it go as these two comments exemplify:

Personally I never liked the idea of documentation because it is impossible to write a real good one: Can a Qt documentation written here compete with that of Nokia? Never.

Can't say, that I am too sad to see it go. I'm more sad to see it being created in the first place.  All of the developers I know, always use official documentation and why not? I for myself hadn't come with any relevant argument to why would one need yet another place for already existing documentation. Most of products I use are at GitHub and docs are as well. One can always make PR there to change doc., if it is not correct.

One commenter also makes the point that Stack Overflow, as a commercial venture, really shouldn't compete with official documentation:

I respect Stack Overflow a lot for this. Documentation was a well-meaning idea that always seemed slightly off to me because the goal of becoming a Stack Overflow-like presence for documentation would be in competition with, instead of a good complement to, a technology's official resources. In a world where companies, especially VC funded ones, are eager to move ahead with their own grand plans without considering whether they do any good or align with what their users want, this decision is a refreshing reminder that focus, listening and humility are good things.




More Information

Stack Overflow Documentation

Sunsetting Documentation

Related Articles

Stack Overflow Documentation For All 

Stack Overflow Channels In Beta



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Last Updated ( Friday, 04 August 2017 )