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This topic has been discussed before but I do not believe it to be exhaustive. During the first chat beta, Jeff Atwood and I were discussing potential areas where SF could be marketed to professionals and he suggested a later meta topic.

I believe word of mouth to be very important and I have been evangelizing it within my network. However, StackExchange has a marketing budget and the key question is how to engage our market?

Jeff also detailed key areas where they are currently looking to focus:

  • Sponsor the right kind of conferences to reach key influncers.
  • Reach the right kind of publications and bloggers.
  • Sponsor fun things attractive to our community.
  • Enable opportunities for community evangelists to speak in expert groups.

At the time, I provided areas within the Columbus, OH metropolitan IT community that may not be obvious to an outsider. What are your ideas? How can we get the best of the best in IT as active participants on Server Fault?

  • I see most of those ideas as workable in North America but are they really viable on a global scale? A quick look at page 1 users' bios for example reveals we really are quite a mixed bunch. – John Gardeniers Aug 12 '10 at 11:57
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    I don't know how we can repeat this, but I was just reading the newly released 4th edition of the UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook and serverfault.com is listed as a web-based system admin resource in table 1.5. – Zoredache Aug 16 '10 at 21:05
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When it comes to "Reach(ing) the right kind of publications and bloggers," one thing that strikes me about the lists of interesting IT blogs is that there's a huge variety. Everyone seems to have their own unique list, with some MS blogs being the only common ones.

I'm not sure exactly how to do it, but if the ServerFault blog was somehow made a must-read, it might get more people to come here. Kyle's articles are good, maybe the content could be built up with some guest posts.

In terms of presentation, I think you'd need a more conventional blog layout with titles of older posts at the side, plus some changes to the links at the top. (e.g. "What is SF? should go to an actual explanation, not just link to the site, "Archive" shouldn't go to blog.stackexchange and pull up all the server category posts)

  • +1 As far as guest posters go I have always figured this is something I would want to do in the abstract... So I will start to think about it more concretely. For the layout those are all good points which I am going to add to my ever growing to-do :-) – Kyle Brandt Aug 13 '10 at 13:47
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    Well? Well? It's been almost 12 hours since you commented... :) – Ward Aug 14 '10 at 1:36
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Sponsoring the right kind of conferences is a good step forward. Some allow sponsors of the right size sponsorship a few breakout-sessions on the conference board, which could be very good for simple exposure. Get one of our top users who is a deep expert in some field up there and talking about stuff in a ServerFault shirt or something and it will increase visibility.

Retail evangelism also helps with this. At whatever *-Users-Group you belong to, point out the good stuff you've gotten here. It might incent people to drop by.

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What about being able to link to your SF rep and badges from other sites?

I think it would be cool to display that on my blog and I suspect other people would like that on their facebook page, etc.

Does it directly market SF, not really. But it would be a good way for SF to build its brand.

  • Can't say that would appeal to me - but I'm upvoting anyway because I can see why it might appeal to others... and if it isn't too expensive to implement might be worthwhile - especially as it presumably only needs to be done once to work for all the SO/SF/SU sites – Rob Moir Aug 16 '10 at 22:23
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    Already exists. See: serverfault.com/users/flair – Warner Aug 16 '10 at 23:01
  • @Warner Thanks, I looked around in the FAQ on SF and SO. – Clint Aug 17 '10 at 16:08
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I think the only way to do this properly is to keep moving towards growing the site's pool of good questions and good answers. You can tell someone "Come to Server Fault if you have an obscure network problem" or "Come to Stack Overflow if you have a terrible bug you need help with" but that only works if the answers appear when they ask questions.

I'm probably wording that poorly - what I'm trying to say is you can't artificially grow sites like this and expect them to last... and growing them organically simply takes time.

Didn't I read a blog post from someone, somewhere about amazon.com vs. ben & jerries? I don't think community sites can grow past a certain point using the quick push model, though it can be useful in reaching that point.

  • I believe that there's value in insuring that certain key players in the industry are aware of its existence. Nevertheless, you do have a legitimate point. – Warner Aug 16 '10 at 1:26
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People have mentioned blogs, but the sysadmin crowd seems considerably more fractured that developers or other generic tech topics. So I don't see how you get a lot of coverage without getting write ups on a lot of blogs.

As for technical conferences, my guess is that a very, very small minority of admins associate with LOPSA or SAGE, and other conferences are primarily vendor focused.

What I really thing Server Fault needs is some ownership of the tags either by experienced individuals (like MS MVPs) or by vendors themselves. Obviously you aren't going to get Microsoft to move the Technet forums here, but it would nice to see something like msexchange.org integrate into the exchange tags here. The same could go for other communities (open source, vendor-specific or independent/third-party) "owning" tags.

The problem is, I don't think this fits in to the Stack Exchange model very well. I would think the community would want some sort of branding and link-backs on their tag pages possibly with some ownership in related chat rooms (i.e. not Redgate). Additionally, you really need someone from the SE team to reach out to these community owners and convince them that Server Fault is better than their current (forum) solution. Then, if you get that far it probably just make sense for that community to kick off its own SE site instead of utilizing Server Fault.

Some examples of companies or groups that could come in and own tags and provide a built-in community are -

Eset - http://www.wilderssecurity.com/forumdisplay.php?f=15

IISFAQ - http://www.iisfaq.com/Default.aspx?tabid=2679

TechGenix - See msexchange.org, isaserver.org, windowssecurity.com, etc.

Juniper J-NET - http://forums.juniper.net/ or http://www.juniperforum.com/

Nagios - http://support.nagios.com/forum/ or http://forums.meulie.net/viewforum.php?f=60

Cisco VOIP - http://puck.nether.net/mailman/listinfo/cisco-voip

  • You might be surprised on the professional organizations, Doug. Many senior level guys I run into have had or do have some association with some type of professional organization. I'm not sure I agree with the tag ownership concept. – Warner Aug 17 '10 at 13:26
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Since it is the end of the summer... do what the State and County fairs do... have a virtual event dedicated to a particular vendor or tool. Say "SQL Server Week" or "IBM Blade Server Day". Have vendors seed the system with questions.

Also, stop diluting the usefulness of the site. Its sort of absurd that there is a Stack Exchange site dedicated to Ubuntu.

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    Not sure why it's absurd there is an SE site for Ubuntu. That gives users struggling with Ubuntu a designated place to go -- as opposed to spamming their questions here or SU. – jscott Aug 11 '10 at 23:39
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    It sure seems to me that a large majority of Ubuntu use is not for servers. They may be diluting superuser, but I don't think they are doing much harm to serverfault. – Zoredache Aug 12 '10 at 0:52
  • "Vendor forums" are usually better utilised in open source projects, but still have the problems of registration and being better suited for discussion than Q&A. I'd hope that Ubuntu Stack Exchange define themselves as "desktop / netbook only" and migrate server questions back to us. – Andrew Aug 12 '10 at 1:14
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    Ahh I wish it were summer in the southern hemisphere... – Mark Henderson Aug 12 '10 at 2:21
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Getting some MS MVPs on here would give a bigger pool of experts for the MS questions. I have the impression that there aren't a lot of MVPs, but the one time I tried to find out, the question was moved to meta.stackoverflow where there was no way it would get answered. I've told a few MVPs I know about SF, but they didn't seem very interested. My idea with asking how many SF'ers are MVPs was to find out if there's anything about SF that makes it less interesting/relevant for them to participate.

  • What would you define as a Microsoft MVP? Why weren't they interested? – Warner Aug 14 '10 at 4:27
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    I'm a former (1998 to 2008) MVP. I think the program is quite tightly focussed on support in tightly defined areas. If answering questions here doesn't count towards one's MVP status and answwering similar questions on the Microsoft forums does, then MVPs will naturally gravitate to the MS forums. – Rob Moir Aug 15 '10 at 14:21
  • Warner, a Microsoft MVP is someone who has received a yearly award from Microsoft for contributions to the (microsoft based) "community". Usually answering questions in their forums in much the same way people do here. – Rob Moir Aug 15 '10 at 14:22
  • Interesting. Perhaps that's an area where targeted advertising could prove to be particularly valuable. – Warner Aug 16 '10 at 13:25
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Seen the bent of some the answers -- what do you mean by "Professional"?

I do this for a living, have done so for 15 years now, and have been reasonably successful. However, I have no certs and no professional concentration (I'm a can-do-what-you-need-done type of guy).

Am I a "Professional"?

[/ha-ha-only-serious]

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    I think mostly we mean "broaden the audience of our peers", not literally professionals – Jeff Atwood Aug 13 '10 at 10:57
  • I've seen no mention anywhere on SF to say that certifications are a requirement. – John Gardeniers Aug 15 '10 at 22:12

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