Sep 16, 2016 Venla Väkeväinen
Joel Spolsky is Co-Founder of three successful companies, Fog Creek Software, Stack Overflow, and Trello, and his personal website, Joel on Software, has been popular with developers around the world since its start in 2000.
Spolsky’s passion for programming sparked already at an early age. “I’ve been a programmer since I was a little kid. I love programming and always have. As I got older I started to pay more attention to the higher-order problems in software development: how to build terrific teams, make developers happy and productive, and design software that really makes the world better,” Spolsky says.
Fog Creeks Software, a software company specializing in project management tools, was founded in 2000 when Co-Founders Spolsky and Michael Pryor had trouble finding a place to work where programmers had decent working conditions and an opportunity to do great work.
“I was something of a reluctant entrepreneur. I only started Fog Creek after realizing that I would never find a company – especially in New York City in the year 2000 – that would treat developers with some modicum of respect. Most companies treated developers as rank-and-file typists instead of the creative geniuses I know they really are. I started Fog Creek with the aim of providing developers with a great place to work; and I carried that ethos through to Stack Overflow. Ironically a couple of years after starting Fog Creek, Google opened a big office in New York City and brought the idea of building a kind of utopia for developers from Silicon Valley to the city. And today, almost every startup tries to emulate, at least superficially, the plush working conditions and respect for developers that Google pioneered,” says Spolsky.
The plan clearly worked. Since then, Spolsky has been focusing on building great software products such as Trello, Stack Overflow, FogBugz, and HyperDev.
In 2008, Stack Overflow was founded with the idea to provide a Q&A site for programmers. “The idea behind Stack Overflow was combining some of the newer ideas of the internet – wikis, reputation systems, voting, user-generated content, tags, and more – to create an incredibly high-quality resource for developers. All of the mechanics we built into Stack Overflow were designed to increase the quality of answers and reduce the noise you usually see in online discussion forums, which is why when developers see an answer on Stack Overflow they’re happy because they know it’s going to be concise, clean, and correct,” explains Spolsky.
The team continued developing the platform with the aim to help developers solve the problem of finding the right place to work – with an employer that gives them the respect they deserved.
“So, we launched Jobs on Stack Overflow and began our mission to educate employers about developers. What they want, how to engage with them and how to hire them. Today, we’re continuing to shake up the world of technical recruitment through our careers platform.”
During the summer the company delivered their biggest expansion to Stack Overflow since it first launched: Documentation. Stack Overflow Documentation is community-curated, example-focused developer documentation.
“I believe that ultimately all developer documentation will be crowdsourced and that we can create much, much higher quality documentation than a single tech writer working for a vendor can create on their own,” explains Spolsky.
To date, Stack Overflow has grown to be one of the largest online communities for programmers with more than 40 million users every month. And the work continues. “Well, we still have a long way to go with Stack Overflow, Trello, and Fog Creek to make them profitable, stable, permanent fixtures in the world. So let’s start with that!” concludes Spolsky.
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