Let's say this first: The Super User blog  is a great idea, and we've had enormous success with it. We've had a lot of diverse contributions, inspired by our Question of the Week posts on Meta , and several regular writers. Even more so, Stack Exchange has launched a number of community blogs recently, all presented on Blog Overflow .
One of the biggest problems we're currently facing though is that it's really hard to get people to write something – or: to even get a number of people to write. Many of the frequent writers are busy now, occupied with school or other duties. This is why we need to get others to contribute, such as newcomers on the site, or other long-time users who didn't have a chance to blog yet or don't even know that the blog exists (or how to contribute).
The current process of recruiting somebody for writing for the blog consists of the following steps:
Motivate them. This involves leaving comments on their posts, asking them in chat or in private. In general, this is very time-consuming, because you have to actively seek for contribution.
Ask them to submit a draft. There are several ways to do this. Normally, you would send a draft per mail to one of the editors responsible for your topic. This draft would be reviewed and then published by the editors themselves.
Writing another post. This is where it becomes even harder to maintain engagement. It involves creating a user account for the writer on our Wordpress engine. The process of writing drafts in Wordpress is tedious, especially when you're used to another writing environment. Also, you have to remember another pair of credentials.
All of those steps are – in some way – entry barriers. It's frustrating and time-consuming to have to exchange drafts per mail, wait until user accounts are created, fumble around with permission groups, find out that Wordpress kills your formatting, and do the whole communication over Meta or our chat room .
We already have a great engine running the whole Stack Exchange network. Here's why it's so powerful:
It manages network-wide user accounts. You don't have to sign in more than once. Why should I even need a separate user account for blogging? Enabling a network-wide login would lower the barrier for starting to write.
It gives you editing powers. Anybody should be able to edit anything, in order to improve its quality. Not everybody is born a writer, and many users think they can't whip out a full blog post on their own. Let's help them. Let others make their posts even better!
It has a great review system. The possibility to up- and downvote content helps us filter the good from the bad, and – in very few cases – eliminate the ugly. Why should blog posts be reviewed only by one person? Let the community do this!
In fact, on every "About" page, you can see what Stack Exchange wants to be:
Where's the "blog" part of our posts now? Our users generate so much great content that never finds an outlet. It would be so much easier to take an existing post and make it a proper blog entry with the least amount of effort necessary – and the current way of doing things is exactly the opposite. Most users don't even know that the blog exists or how they could participate in it.
Users contributing to the blog
could should be rewarded with badges or reputation for having a blog entry published. The same goes for attracting views to our blog. This increases motivation and long-time interest – and, let's face it: There are a lot of people who post good content because they like to see that number growing.
In the end, the blog should be a way for us to show our most canonical answers, our greatest content, and the way it currently is, we are having problems making the transition from "just an answer" to "great blog post".
We should reuse the Stack Exchange engine for powering our blog. We already have the voting, the editing and the user accounts figured out.
If you take the "default" Stack Engine and change the standard view, you get a very basic blog interface! We don't need any tabs, we don't need the big buttons. Just the posts. There's no notion of questions/answers anymore – and that's the main point: A blog post is entirely different from a question/answer pair. It should be written differently, and topics could be much broader or more open-ended than what the parent site allows.
We could even have a "backend", similar to Meta, in which users can submit their drafts, get them reviewed, and finally published.
What do you think about this?
Where are the culprits?
What would have to be done?
Is this a long-term goal that's even feasible?
We're definitely looking at this and I, at least, feel it is strongly on-mission.
However, it would be a major feature and will take (seriously, no really) 6-8 months to put together.
And of course there are other things we're working on, but just know that we think this is a great idea that solves a real problem, and meets a real need on the network right now today.
So, patience, but rest assured, we like this request and think it makes a lot of sense.
OK, I've a lot of ideas here, so bear with me. These are just thoughts, not a list of demands. Please leave your comments!
I was one of the first users to join the Super User Blog, and have been pretty involved with developing its readership and bringing in new writers and editors. As such, these are the things I think the blog currently struggles with, or could be added to a better blogging platform:
As slhck mentions in the proposal, it's extremely hard to get people onto the blog because the process is not at all fluid with the rest of the site. I regularly invite people to write blog posts, and they're usually interested, but here are the problems I typically see:
As mentioned in a few of the posts here, we could extend the usefulness of our blogging beyond what we're doing now. These are some of my ideas, largely centered around the fact that a blog is not constricted to a rigid question/answer pairing. It also is a more controlled outlet, meaning we can ensure that the quality is good, making it a good avenue for "outsiders" or "lurkers" who may not follow every question to get a taste of the best content from the site. This can also help draw new people into the site itself, increasing membership.
I love slhck's suggestion of using a meta-like related site to manage the back end of blogging. The control system for a blog is a bit different from the main site though - you can't just go by rep, since somebody good at answering questions might not be a great blogger. There's also issues of timing and other such logistics to deal with.
Blog permissions should not be directly linked to site rep, but there should be a community process. There would be three levels of users:
nhinkle ●for an editor,
nhinkle ♦for a moderator. Editors would be appointed by moderators, based on observance of helpful bloggers who are responsible.
While posts are in-progress, they are saved in the "drafts" category. Anyone can see them and suggest edits, vote on the post, etc.
Once a post is written, it is submitted to the review queue. To prevent accidental posting (which has happened before with the WordPress system), not even editors or moderators can publish directly - they can approve their own post, but still have to put it in the queue.
In the review queue, users can take a look at a post, suggest edits (which can be approved by the original writer or an editor), etc. Voting continues in review. The primary difference is that posts in the review queue are specifically intended for publication, while those in the draft queue are not ready yet. Users can vote to publish or not publish a post; once it reaches 5 publish votes, it's automatically scheduled for the next open day. Moderators can configure which days are available every week (if, for example, they want to reserve a particular day or want to space out posts). At any time, an editor can manually approve and schedule a post for a particular day.
I don't think there should be voting outside of the meta-like backend, personally, but could be convinced otherwise. Published posts should show up the way slhck indicates, but I suggest adding some other additional features, particularly with regard to sections:
I think that reputation should be tied to the main site, but I do not think that published posts should be voted on for reputation. This would create an unfair rep gain for bloggers - the blog is apt to get more attention than an individual post, and might skew rep unfairly. I do think there should be some reward for participation in the blog though, so I suggest the following:
blogger- submitted a post to the blog and had it published
reporter- submitted and published 10 blog posts
journalist- published at least 10 blog posts, gathering a total of at least 50,000 views
Blog posts need more formatting options than the current markdown syntax on SE sites allows. In particular, the following are crucial:
[alt text][url "caption" R/L]. This closely resembles the current syntax, and posts in the current syntax would work right away. The caption would simply go in the place of the title text in the current system, and R or L would be an additional flag for which side to float the image.
[contents]at the desired location would automatically trigger this.
Part of getting more people on board is making it easy to go from site to blog. As such, I would propose a new "blog" menu (similar in UI behavior to the mod menu or flag menu) on posts, with the following options:
I love this idea, but even with it, it's going to be tough.
There are plenty of people on the SE network who answer questions simply because they want to help people and they get satisfaction out of doing so. They provide answers because they like providing answers. The reputation system is a bonus to them. I suspect these are the people who stay the longest; they don't get disheartened when they see that the next rep milestone is so far away.
The problem with the blogs is that there isn't really any of this. Who are the writers helping? Who is the audience? It's a very different experience from what we are used to getting out of the SE and so could simply be of no interest to many users.
And it doesn't help that community engagement in the blogs is currently quite low. Yes, we sometimes get traffic spikes if a post is tweeted or we successfully float it on reddit or similar, but those people are "outsiders" - what we need is the local community to be involved and interested, otherwise the blog may as well be sit on any other engine/domain/sevice. This, IMO, is the most major issue the blogs face after "finding people to write stuff".
Integrating the blogs in to the main sites somehow might help drive engagement, and if the community are there, adding their support, asking for posts, commenting, voting and so on, then I suspect writers would be encouraged to keep writing. Once others see the writers getting such attention, well they might want to join in too.
Wait, hang on... go back a paragraph...
While I'm rambling, I wonder if I've just accidentally stumbled upon an actual suggestion: An integrated way for any user to suggest a topic for a blog post, which can be voted on, etc to encourage a writer to take it on. Hell, maybe even do something with bounties so users can really push a topic...
This would sort of introduce a very familiar "question" (topic request) and "answer" (a blog post) mechanic to the blogging, which may help encourage writers by giving them a reason to produce a post and letting them do so in a very familiar environment. It could also help drive community engagement, because they get input on what is produced without having to go to all the effort of actually producing it.
Although, I'd say letting people write on topics of their own choosing should still be a feature (or is that then just the same as a "self answered question"?).
I realise this is very much not the point of your suggestion - you even explicitly say so - but maybe this should be considered too. I don't know that it would help, but well it just jumped to mind as I was typing, so thought I'd share.
I'm currently involved with the SU, Gaming and Fitness blog and I can only underpin what an improvement I think this would be to the current situation.
Under the current situation I need to:
As slhck points out, its already hard to get people to write something, its even harder to get them to finish a draft. But above all else, the blogs are supposed to be a community thing, but with the current system its anything but.
I also think Pekka's feature-request  nicely fits into this, because if there's one site that stands to gain from this change it would be Stack Overflow. Joel always complaints about how nobody writes canonical posts, I think this is partially due to answers being limited to the scope of a question. Sure we sometimes get an answer that goes completely overboard and tries to explain it all, but those are the exception. But with blog posts, most people like to show off how much they know about a topic and write a whole essay about it.
As Pekka states it:
Hosting programming-related "howto" writeups
- would be directly related to SO's day-to-day activity
- would be compatible with Stack Overflow's general mission of being a great, free programming reference resource
- Stack Overflow is planning to stick around, so it's as reliable a place to put stuff on as it gets
- Not everybody wants to run a personal blog to host tutorials on
- Contents would be licensed under CC, with the known advantages of that model (well, and disadvantages, but those can be dealt with)
- SO has a high-quality, weather-tested editing interface, quality control system and reputation system
I'm not aware of a tutorial site that is only remotely as non-crappy and integer as the Stack Exchange network.
I understand there would be concerns regarding maintaining a signal-to-noise ratio and preventing excessive self-promotion or spam, but I think the system already supports features for that. Voting makes sure that awesome content floats to the top, editing keeps things in great shape and flagging helps cleaning up the crap.
This would also be perfectly in line with Jeff's statement about showing off how awesome our community members are , well what's more awesome than showing off your writing skills right here on the site?
Either way, I think this would definitely help make blogs less elitists and more a community effort, as it should be. http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/104473/should-so-host-howto-style-writeups-after-all
Once this is done, I'd like to see a way to nominate well-voted answers for the blog. The author of a selected answer would be asked (with the option to decline) to provide an edited version of the their answer (mainly, a chance to introduce the problem so that the answer makes sense without the question). Once completed, vote totals for the answer/blog post could be linked.
Because the SO blog currently fills the role of the network-wide blog, there would be unique challenges in bringing community blogging to Stack Overflow. Below are some ideas for how to approach this site and the transition from SO's blog being for everyone to being run by the community:
Network-wide posts should appear on the front page along with all other posts under the "all posts" tab. They would all be marked with their own special tag, stack-exchange . This would denote that the post applies to the whole network, and is not a community blog post but an official, SE, Inc. approved post. This tag would be a moderator-only tag (like community-ads  or status-completed  on Meta) so that only approved people could post network-wide announcements. Certain other tags (such as podcast ) should also be moderator-only.
In the tabs for the SO blog, there would be a "stack exchange" tab for network-wide stack exchange posts, a podcast tab for the SE podcast, and then a few other tags for SO site-specific stuff, like tutorials, QOTW, or whatever else the site may want to promote.
A blog post explaining the change in what "blog.stackoverflow" is (since it would now be allowing community posts) would be posted to the current blog before a switch.
Once switched, both network-wide posts and SO-specific posts would appear on the site.
The current RSS address for the SO blog (
http://blog.stackoverflow.com/index.php/feed/) would continue to only point to posts tagged
, so that people currently subscribed would not suddenly start getting posts about question on Stack Overflow. Tag-specific RSS feeds could be used (exactly like how you subscribe to a tag on any SE site) for new subscribers.
.com would contain only posts tagged
, and function essentially as it does now.
Here is a mockup specifically for the Stack Overflow blog. Click for full-size.
Note: I posted this as a separate answer as it deals with implementation for blog.stackoverflow.com exclusively, and does not apply to other sites. This is so that this portion of the proposal can be considered separately from the general suggestions of how the system could work. /questions/tagged/stack-exchange
While this isn't a direct answer, it's mainly a long comment to all the other answers and this question.
First off, the current blogging system is great for the 'beta' testing that we've been doing, but we're still the outcasts of the Stack Exchange Community. We're accepted, but mainly ignored/unknown by the main community. A little 'red bubble' at the top, or a small hyperlink at the bottom of each page isn't going to attract that much attention within the community. We need a little more attention internally to really promote internal growth.
That's where the other suggestions are great for promotion of the blogging section of Stack Exchange. I would love to see their integration into the Stack Exchange sites....
What's being asked by everyone here is going to take some thorough thinking and eventually a redesign (whether big or small) of the Stack Exchange Sites. While I'm just getting into the whole Web App's scene I can imagine that this isn't a simple over night deal. It may be simple in theory, but I believe it's more difficult in actual implementation. The chat system took a few months for it to really work, and even then we still have a few hiccups here and there. (I'm not ragging on the chat system, I love it, but it's still, and always will be a work in progress)
I've personally always hated the Blog/Redit/Forum/Wiki comparison as Stack Exchange is only parts of those, and is in reality it's own thing! Stack Exchange is... Stack Exchange! There's really no other way of defining it.
The Stack Exchange core is for Questions/Answers done right. It's not about the chat, nor the Blogs, it's about a place where anyone can come along and ask relevant questions. The more someone participates there's more of a lure for them to stay. The blogs are meant to augment the overall Stack Exchange experience, and not replace it. We should be referencing good blog articles in our answers, and we should be writing good blog articles for reference to our answers or questions on the Stack Exchange sites.
Again, I would love to see the integration of the suggestions found here, but here's a few questions that IMO, really need to be asked first:
Integrating blogging into the main SE engine could well solve the problem of how to treat Community Wiki posts... in some limited cases.
Q&A threads like the Bicycles Terminology Index  and the Cooking Terms Glossary  work fairly well as CW Q&A threads. However, reference pages like the Dictionary of Regional Vocabulary Differences  on Bicycles would work much, much better as blog entries.
I agree that lowering the barrier to blogging will help somewhat. However, our blog has about a dozen users, perhaps five of which have actually written anything, and even fewer have written more than one post. This needs to also make it easier to write posts.
A feature that allowed a user to take an answer and convert it into a blog entry would be outstanding. Perhaps there could be a revision/voting system that let a few people vote on whether a post is ready. People who blog could get badges that would enable certain features, such as being editors or admins. (I suggest mod approval for that last.) http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/244/terminology-index