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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Interview with Steve Kass

Interview with Steve Kass post image

Today on Software Project Management an interview I’ve made with Steven Kass. Steven runs AskAboutProjects site which is probably the best PM forum around. The interview runs mainly around AskAboutProjects and Steven reveals some of his future plans.

Steven, you’re one of persons standing behind AskAboutProjects which I described recently here. Why did you do it? I mean there are already loads of different forums for project managers.

Ironically I was not a big fan of forum… until September 2009. While doing some research to find a web application that could help my team to better manage of our different projects, I stumbled upon the site stackoverflow.com.

I was first intrigued. After a few days looking at the site, I had a double conclusion:

  • This was the best type of forum I had ever seen.
  • I could not really use it because it is made for software programming questions.

A few weeks later I discovered that the StackOverflow team was proposing their underlying web app as a service under the name of StackExchange. I consulted with a friend who shares my interest in project management, and we quickly decided to try and launch a “StackOverflow for project management”. That was in October 2009.

How AskAboutProjects is better than any other forum out there?

To put it very simply, I think the single most important feature is that users can vote and that up-voted posts “float” to the top, for any question asked. The effect is that you quickly see the best content: what the community of users liked the most will be shown at the top.

With LinkedIn discussion, you’ll have to read every single post to be sure you don’t miss a great idea. With email discussion, you’ll have to read every single email.

Other great features of AskAboutProjects are a clear formatting (you quickly see the question, the different answers sorted by votes, and comments are shown in small font and directly next to the post that is commented) and the reputation system which incite helpful participation and dramatically reduces spam.

We did not invent the application and the features. The application was developed by the StackOverflow folks. They took what they believed were the best features out there (voting from Digg, possibility for anyone to post a question or an answer as in Wikipedia), possibility to edit and update posts etc, and put them together in this new application. The result was stackoverflow.com, a Q&A site for software programmers which took off in 2008 and is now already in the top 600 most visited websites in the world according to Alexa.

What you personally like in AskAboutProjects most?

I like the overall result: a clearly formatted result of what the community of users think are the most helpful ideas. This is real crowdsourcing, real web 2.0. Simple to use. Everyone can read anything that is posted. No registration is required.

Your favorite question so far?

There are many great questions.

I like “real working life” questions like the one about pushing responsibility of delay. This is I think a typical situation in working environment; and I am convinced savvy input from others can help less experienced project team members of managers.

I like questions that trigger interesting discussions, like one about convincing clients to agile or features project management software should have.

I like discussion about project management being compared to common sense, as I think it is a fundamental but not trivial one.

By the way, I invite users to vote up questions that they find interesting. I believe it’s important to incite users to ask questions. Questions very often kick off great discussions and I often get surprises of the outcome.

Let’s talk about future for a moment. What are your plans? Where do you want to drive AskAboutProjects?

Great question. The vision is to have a place where project managers or project team members can discuss and exchange ideas or knowledge, experience, and get good, fast and free feedback. A place to help us do our job, improve our skills, just like StackOverflow became a great tool for the community of programmers.

Our #1 objective for now is to grow the number of users. The users of the site so far are posting amazing content. Great questions and answers. We love the interaction between users. And it is clear for us that the site will become even more of a success as the community grows. This is our top priority.

What about marketing? I mean every forum lives or dies because of users (or lack of them). How do you want to drive more people in?

We started an ad campaign on stackoverflow.com. Pages tagged “project-management” show our banners. The campaign is very successful and we see new users coming every day.

Regarding the potential lack of users: as of today we are confident that the community of users will grow for several reasons:

  • We are continuously marketing the site and contacting bloggers and potential users.
  • As the site grows its appeal becomes increasingly clear.
  • The StackOverflow forum model is spreading and we are convinced that more and more people will get familiar with it and adopt it which will benefit the site.

This being said, we welcome the help from users in spreading the word about the site.

We would like to take the opportunity to ask for ideas on which bloggers or journalists we could approach to pitch the site. You can post your ideas in comments under the post or send them to us at steven@askaboutprojects.com.

Any plans to monetize the site?

Regarding plans to monetize the site, we are planning on having some reduced advertizing on the site. The advertizing will be kept to the minimum and will help us cover the costs of running the site and marketing it. We will have only “static” ads.

Thanks for the interview, Steven.

in: project management, software business

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