Do hacks and hackers need a Q&A community?

Almost two years ago, a couple of people interested in computer programming in journalism brainstormed an idea for a website where software developers working in journalism and media could go to get solutions to their programming problems from their peers.

The site — at help.hackshackers.comhas been running since launched in April 2010, attracting more than 200 registered users, 145 questions and more than 500,000 page views.

The question now for Hacks/Hackers members is: Should the site continue to exist?

The StackExchange hosted platform, originally offered by the team that created the popular StackOverflow community for software developers, is no longer being supported. So, our “help” site went dark on July 13.  We have begun discussions about the possibility of partnering with Investigative Reporters and Editors to relaunch the site, perhaps with a revised mission.

UPDATE, July 15: We have exported all the data from the StackExchange site, and there are other platform options such as Shapado and OSQA. So we can move the existing content to a new platform and keep it going.

To be honest, while the discussions on the site have been quite good and the content quite valuable to some users, the usage of the site hasn’t been as great as Aron Pilhofer and I expected when we pitched the idea at the annual Future of News and Civic Media Conference at MIT.

Perhaps this is because “programmer-journalists” already have all the resources they need to get answers to their questions. For instance, the NICAR-L email list, StackOverflow and support groups specific to particular technologies (e.g., Ruby on Rails, Django, etc.).

One possibility for a relaunched “help” site would be one aimed at students (in journalism or computer science) seeking to learn more about software development or, more specifically, software development in the news, journalism and media space. Such a site would dovetail nicely with Hacks/Hackers’ educational mission.

But Hacks/Hackers members may have other good ideas worth considering as well.

In order to justify continuing the site, I think we need at least three things:

  1. A mission statement: who is the site for, and what kinds of questions are fair game?
  2. One or more tech-savvy volunteers willing to assess alternative platforms, set up the new site and, ideally, migrate our existing data to it.
  3. A few volunteer moderators willing to invest time to build the community.

I have set up a *very short* SurveyMonkey survey asking about all three of these. If you are interested in sustaining our “help” site, please take a few minutes to answer these questions — *especially* if you are willing to work on setting up the new site or serving as a volunteer moderator.

Thoughts and ideas are also welcome in the comments below. We are particularly interested in your answer to this question:

Considering these possible user bases for a Q&A site, what group do you think would be most likely to need and use the site.

  • Experienced developers in journalism & media
  • Journalists learning about programming
  • Programmers learning about journalism
  • Students learning about programming
  • Students learning about journalism
  • Other (please specify)
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