Facebook will soon discontinue its current developer forums and Stack Overflow will become the new official space for developers to ask and answer technical questions about the Platform. As of September 1st, forum.developers.facebook.net will become “read-only”, and Facebook will encourage developers to post new questions to facebook.stackoverflow.com.
Through the partnership with Stack Overflow, Facebook’s new Q&A space will have a reputation score system to identify trusted contributors and top questions will appear on corresponding Facebook developer documentation pages. However, existing and active threads on Facebook’s old forums will not be migrated to Stack Overflow, so the shift could interrupt some important discussions.
Stack Overflow was launched in 2008 and has since grown to 766,000 users. The site is created and maintained by programmers, and is part of a network of Q&A sites called Stack Exchange that has raised $18 million in funding. By hosting its forums there, Facebook will gain an additional built-in community that can help developers with their issues.
Facebook says that the move is necessary because “our existing forums, which worked effectively at the beginning of Platform, have begun to show their age.” They lack many features found on Stack Overflow, including a reputation system, tagging protocol, and thread sorting by votes, recent activity, and other parameters.
On the new Facebook Stack Overflow site, developers will be able to earn a high reputation score as well as badges and access to functionality privileges by intelligently asking, answering, and editing technical questions about how Facebook’s Platform works. The scores and badges will help other developers determine who’s advice they can rely on. On the old Facebook forums, it can be difficult to tell if someone’s answer is reliable.
By syndicating top Facebook Stack Overflow questions in the documentation, developers will be able to quickly access answers to common or especially difficult questions they may have. This flow is much simpler than trying to find the corresponding thread to a piece of documentation in the old forums. Facebook is also encouraging developers to join the Facebook Developers Group to find answers to questions or discuss higher-level issues.
It may take some time for Facebook Stack Overflow to grow as robust as the old forums, though. Facebook tells us “existing threads will not be migrated. Developers have until Sept.1 to finish up active discussions.” The “read-only” status of the old forums will prevent developers from linking the old forum threads to the corresponding discussion on Stack Overflow. Developers in the middle of a dialog in the old forums may be frustrated by the interruption.
Eventually, the shift to Stack Overflow will produce a better developer Q&A experience than the old forums. However, the relatively short lead time to finish active threads and the lack of a migration or pre-population plan for the new site could temporarily undermine Operation Developer Love.