Today marks the first birthday for TeX.SX: the site began as a private beta year ago today. It’s therefore a good time to take both a look back over the site’s existence to date, and a look forward to the future. As I’m an experienced blogger, and have been on the site from day one, the contributors thought I’d be best-placed to do this!
I signed up to support the idea of a ‘TeX and friends’ Q&A site when the idea came up on Area 51. At that stage, I think I was not alone in wondering how it might work, but though it was worth taking an interest. So on day one, I signed on and starting answering a few questions. It took a little while to get the hang of the style of the site, and I think it was not only me who found that! However, private beta did not last very long: soon, the doors were open to all.
As you’d expect, the public beta was very little different to the private beta: there was still a lot to learn, and a lot of basic questions to get established. This was also the chance to get some idea of how the community side of the site would work. Part of that was picking pro tem. moderators, with Stefan Kottwitz, Andrew Stacey and me being picked, I suppose based on a commitment to the site. This was again something of a learning experience: what would be needed of the moderators? Luckily, TeX.SX seems to have turned out to be a very calm community from the start, and there has (to date) not been too much work to do as a moderator.
A fully-fledged site
Clearly the public beta went well: most questions got answers, there was a good flow of questions and most of us got the hang of the voting system! So the site graduated with no issues to a full StackExchange network member. Many very knowledgeable TeX people have joined the site over the last year, making it a great place to ask questions, and also to check if your one has already been asked!
Part of the move to release status was the moderator elections. Andrew Stacey decided that it was time to return to being a normal member of the community, and so Martin Scharrer joined Stefan Kottwitz and I as a moderator. The election was run in a very laid-back spirit: I said at the time it was a ‘reverse election’, with each candidate hoping they were not elected!
The site today (and tomorrow?)
Of course, the Q&A style of the site is not ideal for everything, and so the allied chat area and now this blog are available to go beyond the boundaries of the Q&A format. That covers a lot of ideas, but of course there is still a place for open-ended discussion, for example the comp.text.tex Usenet group.
Of course, there are still areas to work on. We’ve done well on getting questions answered, and will soon start a regular ‘blitz’ on those that are not. Getting everyone to vote on questions is important, as it helps to show which ones are well-written. Beyond that, maintaining a ‘community’ beyond a small core group is something that I think all of the StackExchange sites are trying to address. Meta participation is, for example, something that it would be nice to see taken up more widely.
The site today is successful, powerful and active: I think we can be proud of our successes.