We had a blast at Stack Overflow Co-Founder and Coding Horror blogger Jeff Atwood's soapbox on May 11. During Jeff's nearly 50-minute talk, not only did he delve deep into the origins of Stack Overflow, but he gave us some great insight into why the status quo is frustrating and why it should be challenged.
Here's how Jeff put it:
It's like having a cold for your entire life then one day you wake up and 'hey, I don't have a cold and I feel really good. I didn't know I could feel this good.' Don't accept the status quo even if you have to rebuild ... reinvent a few wheels, that's OK as long as you can identify the clear problems that you are addressing even if they're small. Because it's the small things (that) really add up.
And that philosophy of challenging the status quo could be seen from the early beginnings of Stack Overflow, where Jeff and his co-founder Joel Spolsky saw where they could improve upon Experts Exchange. For example, they didn't like that some answers were hidden behind a paywall.
As Jeff put it, they wanted to build a Frankenstein monster just out of the good parts of Frankenstein. In other words, take from the good brain jar instead of the bad. Jeff put it another way — to take the 'evil' out of Expert's Exchange. They also sought to identify existing problems in other similar systems and fix them with Stack Overflow.
When Stack Overflow was launched, that didn't end Jeff's quest to challenge the status quo. The Q&A site deploys changes on a daily basis, which is crucial to have for a site that's constantly live.
To me, unless you're changing all the time, you're kinda dead. If you have a product that hasn't changed in a year, two years, it's not really alive in a meaningful sense. People in the community can sense that.
The Status Quo Is Stagnation By Any Other Name
What Jeff is taking about is a crucial element of innovation. Imagine if Steve Jobs was satisfied with the first iteration of the iPod and the design remained stuck. We wouldn't have the sleek iPods of today, the multi-colored variations or even the nifty iPhone we carry in our pockets. Or if Jeff and Joel were satisfied with the status quo and loved the way Experts Exchanged worked, then we wouldn't have the product that we all use and love today.
Being satisfied with the status quo keeps products stagnant, stale. We become comfortable and no longer question anything, excepting what is instead of wondering what could be. Worse, the status quo prevents us from finding opportunities that others may have missed.
To hear more about how Stack Overflow challenged the status quo and other great takeaways, check out our podcast and summary of Jeff Atwood's soapbox:Check out the Podcast & Summary of Jeff Atwood's Soapbox