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An example of a question posed to Stack Overflow’s millions of developers. (GeekWire Screenshot)

Millions of technical professionals each month use Stack Overflow to answer tricky questions about coding, architecture, and other complicated aspects of computer science. The company behind the site is now rolling out a new service that lets teams sign up for private group sites where they can ask that embarrassing C++ question among friends.

Stack Overflow for Teams is a version of the company’s enterprise product, which companies like Microsoft use internally as collaboration tools for their developers, said Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow. It’s designed for teams of developers working on open-source projects or at smaller companies that want a private place to talk about proprietary code or train new team members sheltered from the glaring light of the public internet.

Joel Spolsky, CEO, Stack Overflow (Stack Overflow Photo)

The public version of Stack Overflow is great for basic questions about programming technology, but when developers have specific questions about internal code — which for-profit software companies tend to avoid sharing in public — they need a different product, Spolsky said. The Enterprise version fills this need, but it’s an expensive product that usually involves a multiyear contract, and Spolsky advises potential clients that it only makes sense if you plan to use it with thousands of internal developers.

“We knew that this would be more popular if we could make it more broadly available,” he said.

The Teams product lets smaller companies with compliance requirements, like midsize regional banks, stay in line with data-handling requirements while still letting individual developers tap into the wisdom of their colleagues in a forum most of them probably use on occasion already. Spolsky thinks it complements instant-communication tools like Slack or Hipchat by leaving a permanent, searchable repository of information that a company’s employees can learn from for years to come.

It also helps address one of the thornier issues that has plagued the Stack Overflow community as the site has grown.

“The world community of developers as expressed through Stack Overflow, can be prickly, sometimes condescending, sometimes rude,” Spolsky said, which some Stack Overflow users might consider diplomatic understatement. The site’s users have a reputation for treating basic or Comp Sci 101 questions with disdain and outright sexism, even though the people posing such questions need the wisdom of their more experienced colleagues more than anyone.

This was born of a desire to set high standards for the questions and answers that the community leaves behind has as a resource, Spolsky said, but like many things on the social internet in 2018, the best intentions haven’t necessarily led to the best outcomes.

While the Teams product will let smaller groups ask questions of their peers in private, where companies can set their own standards, Spolsky said the company is working to address the larger issues as well. “This is something we’re going to start working very heavily on; we agree it’s a problem,” he said.

Stack Overflow plans to charge $10 a month for 10 users, and will run a special on additional until July 1st charging $4.16 a month for each additional user. After July 1st, each additional user will be $5 a month, and there are discounts for locking in annually.

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