Lightweight models and cost-effective scalability – Stack Overflow

This week’s blog will be focusing on lightweight models and cost effective scalability. I will be using Stack Overflow as an example because the website follows many of practices expected of a website which has lightweight model and cost effective characteristics. Stack overflow is a website which serves as a platform for users to ask or answer questions and also rate this content. Any user can both ask and answer questions, however, answering a question can result in a gain of reputation points to display. The website is almost entirely run and moderated by the users, they rate the content, flag duplicate questions and report users who engage in either ‘disruptive behaviour’ or show ‘no effort to learn’.

The first practice we are going to look at is viral marketing. Stack Overflow took an interesting approach to marketing, in the sense that it does not actively do any marketing. Despite this Stack Overflow is currently ranked as number 57 on Alexa. There are two reasons for this. The first is ‘word of mouth’ many people find this website useful and share it with their friends. The second is because of Google (or any search engine) and keyword searches. While Stack Overflow marks duplicate questions (and posts a reply to the original or best answer) they do not delete them. These duplicates actually give Stack Overflow extra traffic by multiplying relevant keyword hits in search engines. It’s an interesting method of doing getting to the top of a Google search, but it clearly works.

Stack Overflow is also a great example of a website which scales with demand. The users ask, answer and rate all of the content on the website. The means that as the user base grows, so does the number of moderators and contributors. This also serves as an example of why the user base is more important than the platform. Stack Overflow is a platform where the moderation team and knowledge base grows with the number of users, because the moderation team and knowledge base are the users.

This concept of self-moderation is comparable to the web 2.0 concept of ‘outsourcing wherever it is possible’. The website is outsourcing the function which is most appealing, getting fast and informative responses to programming questions. Because of this Stack Overflow is set to remain the top knowledge base for programmers and developers. With an ever growing user base, and therefore an ever growing moderation team and knowledge base, Stack Overflow is here to stay.


Alexa. (2015). Alexa. Retrieved 3 27, 2015, from Alexa: Atwoord, J. (2010, November 11). Dr. Stragedupe: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Duplication. Retrieved March 27, 2015, from StackExchange Blog: 


2 thoughts on “Lightweight models and cost-effective scalability – Stack Overflow

  1. Hi Edward,

    I use stackoverflow quite often to get a bit of help with certain programming problems however I never post anything, I just find the most similar problem and solution.

    From reading your blog I found it quite interesting that they implemented a “Penalty Box” which is understandable for disruptive behavior however something quite interesting is the “No effort to learn and improve over time”. Do you have any idea how they might rate the no evidence of the user learning over time?

    To the main point though, Stackoverflow has done an excellent job at advertising through its users and google. Thanks to the huge number of questions and answers users post and the variety of different questions they have, any programming question you type in google will most likely have the first result as stackoverflow.


  2. Great Blog! I found the “Penalty Box” to be a very unique and interesting feature. Stackoverflow is indeed a great example of adapting to the increase of user base, their advertising is always well done and questions are always professionally answered. Good job! can’t wait for the next one.


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