Don’t Panic! StackExchange is NOT the goal

It has been a busy week since Joel Spolksy and Jeff Atwood announced their StackExchange 2.0 plan and created fear and uncertainty among supporters of their original plan. In a sympathetic reaction, we decided to offer “refuge” to those who were rightly concerned their sites might soon shut down or that they would have to give ownership of their sites to Joel and Jeff. Most of them probably felt blindsided, and we were, too.

We happened to be in the middle of a major reorganization of the core database structure in OSQA, structure the project had inherited from the original CNProg. We knew there would be problems in the new code, but we have come a long way with a “deploy early, deploy often” strategy and a commitment to finding and fixing bugs quickly. We expected to just push the new code live and deal with issues as they came up.

Suddenly the spotlight was on OSQA as if we were in a race to win over disaffected StackExchange users. People began wanting feature comparisons and reviews and opinions that are, frankly, premature and of questionable value. I want to set the record straight: we have no intention of taking potshots at other projects, and we feel the entire online dialogue about StackExchange 2.0 and the alternatives is overheated. To quote Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!”

OSQA is on-track to become a killer solution. Although the original CNProg may have started out as an effort to clone StackOverflow, I can assure you that we have no such limits to our ambition. We’re here to create the most useful, versatile, reliable, adaptable Q&A community engine on the planet. We are still accelerating, and we certainly don’t intend to stop when we achieve feature parity with whatever Joel and Jeff have cooked up. The world of possibilities is so much more interesting than StackExchange, and anyone can see where we’re headed just by looking at our Jira issue tracker.

OSQA will be unique and excellent, and OSQA users will not be disappointed. That’s a promise you can count on.

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Database update unifies questions, answers and comments

Today we deployed a major revision of OSQA which unifies the way questions, answers and comments are represented in the back-end database. Previously these entities were stored in separate, but similar, database tables. Now they are all stored together in a single table with a common structure.

With the new, unified version we can search more quickly and reliably, and we can manage revisions more consistently. It also makes new features possible like “promote an answer into a question” since sometimes people have been known to answer questions with questions! Another useful case will probably “convert an answer into a comment” for posts that really don’t qualify as answers, per se.

Anyone upgrading an existing OSQA site will need to perform some data migration steps. We have included migration scrips for South which will should make this relatively simple, but PLEASE backup your database before starting!

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