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I am thinking of proposing to setup a stack exchange clone at our company intranet. The idea is to have a place where anybody can ask a question about anything work related, especially about our IT systems, in-house software, internal processes and whatnot.

However, I am concerned that the system might be misunderstood, and that some people will feel uneasy about reputation scores. For example some employees who build up a high reputation may feel entitled to bonuses, while some managers may use the low reputation of employees as an excuse to cut their bonuses. Or worse...

Perhaps I can simply hide reputation scores. Then I can't really think of downsides. Can you? Could you argue that the net benefits of having such system will be a great advantage for the company as a whole? Or if not why not?


My questions is NOT about which SE clone to use. It is also NOT about if a forum/wiki/ticketing system is better than an SE clone. The question is the expected impact of adding an SE clone to whatever other systems we may already have. Will such tool be positive or negative or strongly positive for the company? (Overall, as the sum of all things considered)

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The size (and types of problems which would be posted) of your company makes a huge difference on the feasibility of this idea. If you have 6 employees, probably not so helpful. If you have 50000 that all would encounter similar ideas? Perhaps quite helpful. – enderland Mar 3 '13 at 22:01
If you want strictly a Q&A solution, then having a SE clone would do the job, and OSQA is a pretty good ready made solution. But I would suggest you take a look at discourse too. – elssar Mar 5 '13 at 12:54
Yes, an SE clone is really what I'm thinking of, NOT a forum. The idea is to get answers, not to discuss. Actually we are evaluating OSQA right now. Before releasing it widely, I would like to know what to expect, and if I can make a point with positive expectations. Hence the question ;-) – janos Mar 5 '13 at 14:11
The is no easy to answer this question as we know nothing about the company, its culture, its employees, etc. Anything would be conjecture. – Dave Newton Mar 6 '13 at 10:47
@DaveNewton I guess you're partly right. Yes, even if it's your own company which you know through and through, that doesn't mean you'll know the answer. I am mainly looking for the conventional wisdom of people with many years of experience working with IT systems, hopefully including SE clones. And in that sense your answer below is valuable to me, even though I'm dead set on doing this and you are against. – janos Mar 6 '13 at 12:18

Rep doesn't really mean anything, aside from familiarity and time spent on the system. You can have lots of poor quality answers offset with a few good or simply politically correct answers. 1 good answer makes up for 5 bad answers. Heck, sympathy votes for someone with -6 answers, bumping it up to -3 will even give it a positive net rep. Certainly people shouldn't be giving bonuses based on reputation!

A downside is that the SE system actively discourages discussion. Instead it 'bumps' up good answers to the top, filtering out the details and controversies involved in such answers.

Another downside is that the SE system rewards questions that have one correct answer and not the ones which may have multiple equally correct answer or multiple conflicting answers.

Ticketing systems are more suitable for technical issues, and they make certain that someone gets to the question. But they make discussion impossible and allow people to get away with giving bad answers.

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Both of your downsides can be easily overcome. Udacity uses OSQA, an open source Python clone of SO, and over there discussion is allowed, and since you can filter posts by date/time, activity or votes, you can have posts sorted by any order. Anyways, the OP wants a Q&A solution, so it would be ideal for the top answers to be at the top. And you can accept multiple answers in a question, plus the comments allow for upto 10000 characters, so discussion on comments is a lot easier. – elssar Mar 5 '13 at 12:50
At least that is how it is on Udacity, though since it is open source, it could be made to work like that even if it's not the default. – elssar Mar 5 '13 at 12:51

I think that a regular forum style will be fine.

I think that on the internet, this current format of question and answer is very useful considering the amount of non-useful posts that could happen, and it will bury down any useful contents.

This current format is working fine here due to very constrictive set of rules, that make most open ended question un-allowed, like asking for opinion, or comparing two different softwares.

However, in a closed environment, there can't be more than 10 unuseful posts, and you could really benefit from the 'discussion' format, where multiple users could continue talking within the same topic.

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Reputation clearly isn't important.

IMO what you need is a system for populating a wiki, not an SE clone.

An issue tracker, assignment mechanism, and a good wiki are all that is necessary, and would serve you better: exports, sharing, commenting, collaboration, RSS activity feeds, ... I'm a huge fan of Confluence and Atlassian's suite of tools, but there are a zillion others.

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Thank you, but you are not answering the question. I am not asking whether there is a better solution or not. I am asking about the expected impact of having an SE clone (in addition to whatever we may already have): positive or negative or strongly positive. – janos Mar 6 '13 at 8:52
@janos I think it's clear I'm saying there's no advantage/your company will not benefit (the title of your question). You're obviously set on doing this, regardless of its utility. – Dave Newton Mar 6 '13 at 10:46
thanks for your insight! Yup, the question is not to help me decide. It is to help me estimate the success in advance. If success is unlikely (as you say), then maybe I should not go too boldly about promoting it in advance. Your answer helps, thanks! – janos Mar 6 '13 at 12:09
Reputation isn't important based on what? With "March Madness" going on in the US, you think everyone spends all the time on their brackets for the money? – JeffO Mar 25 '13 at 20:00
@JeffO Huh?! No idea how that's related to a company's internal SE. – Dave Newton Mar 25 '13 at 20:54

We use a SO clone inside our consulting company (60+ consultants) and it has helped remove the noise on the mailing list (main reason why we implemented it) and improved the quality of the answers.

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I don't know if question and answer is any better than a wiki site. Everyone just wants the easiest way to find information. A good system that is organized, indexed and searchable is great, but someone has to enter the information and care about it to maintain the quality and keep it up to date.

Evaluation Abuse Whether you have a point system or someone runs an audit report on who enters how much how often, the information can be used to evaluate employees. You always have to worry about any compensation system getting 'gamed' in ways that don't give the desired outcomes.

You'll have to decide what will motivate your people to do what it takes to make informaion available. Maybe they like the points. Or some like to see their name in print. Others may feel a need to reciprocate to everyone else who pitches in.

If you have other ideas, try them, but don't get too far ahead of the problems of a ranking system until you've tried it. No law says you can't get rid of or adjust things that don't work.

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