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Published on April 29th, 2010 | by Daniel Jolley

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Big trouble in gasexchange town

gasexchange.com runs atop a unique and specialised question and answer system originally developed to run the immensely popular programmer’s site stackoverflow.com. Back in 2009 the team that developed stackoverflow provided access to this technology 1 to run other question and answer communities. One of these early Q&A sites was gasexchange.com. 2

Originally the company that controls the stackexchange system planned to license use of their application for a fee, allowing communities like gasexchange to run atop their software. 3 Unfortunately that all changed two weeks ago and the future of gasexchange is now in peril.

One of the advantages of the stackexchange system is that it runs entirely on stackexchange servers, spread between data centres and backed up by considerable expertise. This managed infrastructure has allowed us more time to focus on building an anaesthesia community and sharing high quality information rather than spending time on the minutiae of IT infrastructure. Unfortunately this also means that we have very limited control over the software running gasexchange, and in fact have no access to the proprietary and closely-held engine that runs our own and all other stackexchange sites.

This disadvantage had before now only been theoretical. Yesterday stackexchange announced 4 major changes to their business model, making the continuation of gasexchange.com very uncertain. Stackexchange 2.0 will not be a purchasable product, rather access will be free but contingent on building a community of sufficient size to meet stackexchange’s new rules. 5 Of greater concern is that while the question and answer content will be owned by the community, the site itself and the community therein will be subject to even greater control by stackexchange. 6

This is deeply concerning. Brad and I recognise that it is the stackexchange team’s prerogative to change their business model, especially if the pay-for-use plan was not achieving their goals.

“Overall, it’s a familiar internet story: a startup creates something, people start using it, but then the business plan shifts, and users are left feeling abandoned. Small startups have to adapt to survive, but they don’t want to piss off too many people along the way.” – Ned Batchedler 7

 

For now it is business as usual for gasexchange. All stackexchange 1.0 sites have been given from 3 to 12 months to achieve a significant degree of community involvement before the lights go out. Given the very niche and specialised nature of gasexchange it is very likely that we will not make the cut. Even if we were to survive we would now be very hesitant in giving up further control to a third party.

Our concerns for these changes have been expressed to the stackexchange team 8, although are unlikely to make the situation different for gasexchange.

We’ll keep you posted as we explore alternatives for gasexchange, but things are likely to be a bit rcoky around here for a while…

 [ Image “Houston, we have a problem” Fabio Rossi ].
 

Notes:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stack_Exchange_Network#StackExchange_1.0
  2. Brad and I started gasexchange in late 2009 as one of the first and earliest new stackexchange sites when the software was still in a limited beta.
  3. Stack Exchange v1.0 was licensed by the stackoverflow.com LLC to Fog Creek Software. Stack Exchange v2.0 is developed by Stack Exchange Inc with venture capital funding, and no longer has a legal connection to Fog Creek although co-foundr Joel Spolsky is CEO of Stack Exchange Inc. [ http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/53250/what-role-does-fog-creek-software-have-in-the-ownership-of-the-stack-exchange-ne ]
  4. http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/04/changes-to-stack-exchange/
  5. The rules for starting a SE2.0 site are evolving, but basically start with receiving a formal commitment from active supporters, signing a petition and creating a foundational body of questions and answers – not too dissimilar to what we have already achieved, but on a larger and more rigid scale.
  6. Many other SE1.0 site founders share our concern, even if a tad dramatic: “I don’t really see what the motivation is for someone to put all the hard work in to create a community, only to have Joel, Jeff and their VCs control and monetize it. Especially now that they have made it clear that they can and will shut sites down if they want to.” – Andy Brice; and Stack Exchange 2.0: epic fail?.
  7. http://nedbatchelder.com/blog/201004/stack_exchange_20.html
  8. Original now removed, archived here: http://web.archive.org/web/20100620140938/http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5552/how-will-the-se-2-0-site-creation-process-serve-niche-specialised-communities

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About the Author

is an Australian consultant anaesthetist/anesthesiologist, with interests in anaesthesia education, obstetric and paediatric anaesthesia, and the practice of anaesthesia in remote and under-resourced environments. Daniel trained in Sydney, Darwin and Melbourne, and has worked in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Fiji and Mongolia. He is one of the founders of gasexchange.com along with Brad O'Connor.


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Notes:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stack_Exchange_Network#StackExchange_1.0
  2. Brad and I started gasexchange in late 2009 as one of the first and earliest new stackexchange sites when the software was still in a limited beta.
  3. Stack Exchange v1.0 was licensed by the stackoverflow.com LLC to Fog Creek Software. Stack Exchange v2.0 is developed by Stack Exchange Inc with venture capital funding, and no longer has a legal connection to Fog Creek although co-foundr Joel Spolsky is CEO of Stack Exchange Inc. [ http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/53250/what-role-does-fog-creek-software-have-in-the-ownership-of-the-stack-exchange-ne ]
  4. http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/04/changes-to-stack-exchange/
  5. The rules for starting a SE2.0 site are evolving, but basically start with receiving a formal commitment from active supporters, signing a petition and creating a foundational body of questions and answers – not too dissimilar to what we have already achieved, but on a larger and more rigid scale.
  6. Many other SE1.0 site founders share our concern, even if a tad dramatic: “I don’t really see what the motivation is for someone to put all the hard work in to create a community, only to have Joel, Jeff and their VCs control and monetize it. Especially now that they have made it clear that they can and will shut sites down if they want to.” – Andy Brice; and Stack Exchange 2.0: epic fail?.
  7. http://nedbatchelder.com/blog/201004/stack_exchange_20.html
  8. Original now removed, archived here: http://web.archive.org/web/20100620140938/http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5552/how-will-the-se-2-0-site-creation-process-serve-niche-specialised-communities
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