Here is an edited/clarified version of a mailing list thread many weeks ago, in which Wikimedians were discussing starting a Q&A site, or setting up a hosted solution for same.
I drafted a post about this to reprise here, but am just now finishing it off.
It is a disappointment… that Stack Overflow uses proprietary software
(not least because it is so wonderful) because in all other respects, as
a community, they do a great job. I have had wonderful experiences with
them and would urge anyone to get behind them.
I like their spirit and community too. I would be happy to see a StackExchange site for Wikipedia/MediaWiki questions exist. [that was the context of this email thread.] But it won’t contribute to the global free toolchain for collaborative knowledge, which we are part of. So the templates and environments for discussion that we build by customizing those tools will have only limited long-term value.
} Sure, they do things slightly differently — but that doesn’t mean
} they do things wrong.
From the perspective of Wikimedia’s mission, they are indeed doing things wrong. [.From the perspective of running a small business, they may be doing just fine.]
Effective access to collaborative knowledge is important to a harmonious society. As a result, basic knowledge-sharing tools and toolchains should be free, for any sort of use, customization, and improvement. The universal value of a Q&A system is directly tied to the importance that good free tools should be available to set one up.
We want to support these free toolchains, which is why we release all of our own code. This is also why, when there are good free versions of proprietary tools, we should support them and help them grow. That support is one of the ways we contribute to long-term knowledge development, in everything we do.
Whether we host the result ourselves is a totally separate question. Both OSQA and Question2Answer offer hosted services. But any solution we use must be one that we could choose to host ourselves, if necessary.
} the main advantage is that your putting it under a name and community
} who are already experienced at doing really good QA – so your seed of
} volunteers is going to be that much better! SE have nailed that vibe.
I agree that they have a good shared vibe. Quora have as well. It is a valuable thing, and also one deeply rooted in human nature, like wiki editing.
For precisely the reasons you mention, it is important for us to have a better in-house QA tool. We need a better channel for the people who are in that zone to shine on Wikipedia — beyond simply manning the Reference Desk and similar pages in various languages (which many hundreds of them already do), or removing themselves to other sites where inter-article linking to WM articles is difficult, answers are not directly editable, there is a new framework for logging in, messaging, &c.
We have some stellar community groups to seed such a site with ourselves — and this will offer a place for many more who like Q&A work but not other wiki editing to become involved in a rewarding way.
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