In a few weeks time we’ll move StackTrace out of beta and release it to the public at large. It’s an important milestone and the team is looking forward to its reception. I wanted to offer a bit of background on the product and why I’m excited for its potential.
When I started as a professional developer in 1997 I was definitely not great. I worked for a small multimedia shop as part of a two-man software team. I was responsible for a suite of educational CD-roms authored in Macromedia Director. This was before the dot com bubble, before extensive online communities and well before the likes of Stack Overflow. Learning and growing your capabilities was much more constrained than today. I had a hive-mind of one office mate and a monthly local user group to bounce ideas off of. Googling for solutions wasn’t even a consideration.
One day, however, I happened across a reference to the Direct-L listserv. (For those that don’t know, listservs are email-based mailing lists allowing for threaded conversation between groups of people. Like prehistoric discussion boards.) Upon subscribing, my mailbox was regularly populated with questions and answers from folks all over the world working through their day-to-day Director problems. Initially I rarely participated, but by reading the questions from newcomers and the responses from experts I found myself rapidly improving my own skills. While many questions were not immediately pertinent to my own daily challenges they provided thought-provoking fodder and made me consider alternatives otherwise outside of my grasp. There was so much knowledge to be gained from the interactions of others in the community.
Over time, the web became a much larger community and with it abundant access to high-quality information. In 2008, Stack Overflow launched and forever changed the face of software development. However, at its core, Stack Overflow is the same as my cherished Direct-L mailing list. It is learners and experts sharing questions and answers. And in those conversations is a world of knowledge waiting to be consumed. I offer that there is as much value in the questions you haven’t thought to ask yet as there are in the questions you immediately have.