Announcing O'Reilly Answers

Clever Hacks. Creative Ideas. Innovative Solutions.

By Allen Noren
November 4, 2009 | Comments: 16

answers-logo-bigger.pngWe're launching the beta of O'Reilly Answers, and I'm inviting you to be part of it. In brief, O'Reilly Answers is a community site for sharing knowledge, asking questions, and providing answers that brings together our customers, authors, editors, conference speakers, and Foo (Friends of O'Reilly).

Why Answers, and why now?
O'Reilly is at the center of an amazing exchange of knowledge sharing and idea generation. We've created the usual means of facilitating communication between customers, O'Reilly folks, and the outside experts we call "alpha geeks" who contribute to O'Reilly books, conferences, and websites. We can connect through reader reviews, errata submissions, book forums, blog comments, Get Satisfaction, our customer service department, and more. But too much of this conversation is siloed, and not enough is public (e.g., discussions on our internal mailing list for editors, or personal responses to customer questions). O'Reilly Answers will be the place where much of that communication happens from this point forward.

Why participate?
The lofty reason: Like O'Reilly, you want to "change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators." That's our mission, and we've been fortunate enough to build a community of passionate, committed people who love to learn and share their knowledge as they work towards a better world for us all.

The "nice, but what's in it for me" reasons: reputation, recognition, and rewards.

  1. Get Recognized: "Find interesting people" is a core activity at O'Reilly, and an important component of our success. We see Answers as an important way to discover and connect with our next authors, online instructors, videographers, and speakers.
  2. Build Your Reputation: You've learned a lot, why not get credit for all that knowledge? As your submissions to Answers are voted up, your personal reputation on the site increases. At launch, your reputation will be based solely on your participation in O'Reilly Answers. Soon, we're expanding across, so the book errata and book reviews you've submitted, books you've registered, and conferences you've attended, will add reputation points. You'll also earn badges to mark accomplishments and milestones.
  3. Earn Rewards: Glory is great, but discounts and deals are nice, too. We want to reward your contributions to the O'Reilly community. Shortly we'll have a point-based system in place that you can redeem for books, training, courses, and conferences. Details soon, but in the meantime, any actions you take now will count towards your total points.

This is just v.1
The best part of any project on the web is watching it take on a life of its own. With that in mind, we're looking forward to *your* suggestions about where O'Reilly Answers should go, what features should be added, and what benefits and rewards we can offer all of you.

I'd like to acknowledge the projects that have proceeded Answers and inspired us, such as SitePoint Forums (we distribute their books), StackOverflow, Yahoo! Answers, Knol, and many others. They're great resources, and we think the O'Reilly community can create a useful site that's, well, a different kind of animal.

One last thing: O'Reilly Answers is in beta and you may encounter bugs. We're still working on many improvements to the site, such as feeds for each tag, but would love to hear your suggestions for features and improvements. Please send any suggestions/questions/bug reports to

You might also be interested in:


Soooo ... basically you guys are just trying to rip off I'm a HUGE O'Reilly fan (I own 20+ books and have taken a course in the online school) but this makes me really disgusted.

Hello Jeremy,

Sorry if you're disgusted. We love what Stackoverflow has achieved, and I cited them as inspiration. In fact, shortly after they launched I had several conversations with the SO folks to see how we could partner with them, but it didn't work out. We have our own needs for such a site, some of which I list above, but primarily it's to expose the amazing knowledge sharing that happens behind the scenes here.

I hope you give Answers a look, and help us point it in directions that contribute to what SO and many other similar sites have contributed.

Regards, --Allen

@Jeremy This may be a different spin on Answers. This is a community of authors and consultants. It will be interesting to see how many other potential authors may surface through answers. I have been a Safari customer for several years and own several print editions. Glad to see a service like this.

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for sharing your concerns. As Allen mentioned, we really admire StackOverflow and the community that is active there. However, we also think that knowledge sharing on the web isn't new - there are many many forums, blogs and community sites that have a place. We're excited to see how the O'Reilly community of authors, editors, conference speakers, Foo, and readers will use this new resource.

If you'd like to discuss this further please send me an email at - I'd like to make sure we fully understand your concern.

Kind regards,
Sarah Kim
O'Reilly Community Manager

What compelling offerings does this bring that StackOverflow doesn't already provide ?

Why should I devout my time on this, rather than over at StackOverflow

@ Jeremy:

Did you actually look at before posting your comment?

We went out of our way to NOT step on the toes of by emphasizing non-programming content. defines itself as "a collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers." We figured that other communities like power users, system administrators, web marketers deserve the same opportunity to share their knowledge.

If you actually compare the kinds of questions and answers in and, it's hard to justify the idea that this is a stackoverflow ripoff.

Compare the list of recent topics from stackoverflow:

Oracle query using ‘like’ on indexed number column, poor performance.
Why enclose blocks of C++ code in curly braces?
How to define a BOOL constant?
How do I speed up a SSIS Transfer Server Objects task that runs really slow?
Guessing the encoding of text represented as byte[] in Java

With the list of recent topics from oreilly answers:

Be Careful What You Say on Facebook & Twitter...
A Lesson on Adding Value from KISS (yes, the Rock Band)
SEO Tips
Best Web Conferencing Software
5 Cool New Things You Can Do with the 2009 iPods and iTunes 9

As Allen says, we were definitely inspired by SO, and we'd be using the SO platform if they'd had it when we started working on Answers. We asked them to license their platform, but at the time, they weren't interested. By the time they launched the platform, we were already too far along.

While there is certainly some programming content in answers, and as a user-generated site, we're always open to programming questions and answers and the community can take this in whatever direction they want, our seeding of the content was deliberately away from programming. We saw a lot of the opportunity was to pursue some of the same dynamics in the power user/tips and tricks space that StackOverflow has got going for programming.

I've only been a daily fellow traveler to the site since May, but there there seems to already be a de facto O'Reilly community. Nothing has brought INTJ (Myers-Briggs Personality type of introverted thinkers) pros together. The Web2 is having an effect in my industry: healthcare IT. Part of that of course is having a visionary president.

I saw a new positivity when I got laid off and was planning my next effort. So I was thinking about going to the $1000 Lean Mean Startup conference While I was getting ready to invest some startup $$ by going I was amazed to be invited to a 40 min webinar by the author. The chat comments on the side were cool too. But in healthcare IT this is unheard of and in the federal D.C. area unheard of. Bottom line I realized I needed more homework on finding the market before building the project.

This is a new good thing Steve does with his Web2 force: to put out positive open energy rather than the grayness of many R&D shops, such as in healthcare. Why do we need to do an NDA for a simple exchange of ideas? Why should we make doctors buy healthcare billing coding books every year when everyone has to use them and many of us physicians contribute toward the content?

So Steve's community force has been a welcome breeze of fresh area. And he is probably as fun as his brother Frank who I knew well for many years in Virginia. So I am pushing ahead and doing my part to help healthcare--and I have learned so much lately from OReilly sources or networking. And the one line Steve said about 6 months ago gave me great optimism when our country is in the dumps economically: "We done the social networking and now let's turn to STUFF THAT MATTERS.

We in American healthcare need the positive open and generous approach to getting out of our stove-piped systems. And right now "monetization" seems more important than "civilization" among all the groups gathering around the upcoming stimulus. But I have this hope and vision that the creative forces that already changed our human history by innovation, will become a major source of new inventions, but more than that, new team members in healthcare, energy, education, and etc. It's already being done by you guys and I am staying on board. We as physicians need a new way to interact with patients and computers at the same time (I call it "the glass cockpit" following the innovative new aviation tools that keep the pilots from cognitive disruption. I like both and 10gui.

The issue isn't just individual care improvements, but our EHR systems, with proper enfranchisement of physicians and a clearer way of thinking of "data that matters" can fill a huge scientific gap of the small randomized study populations on which a drug is approved, to 5 years later where the sheer force of random reports of deaths and injuries causes a closer look to find the drug has been killing people since its release. This is the area of pharmacovigilence which is the monitoring of the use of drugs or medical devices through large populations. Mainstream doctors with clear involvement in projects and proper incentives can solve this problem. Besides the barrier of a persistent lose of independence and influence by the very professionals who train the hardest, work the most hours, have suffered consistent income drops in many specialties, and also are sued frequently, the EHR systems themselves have poor usability which causes poor data quality.

So I've worked on usability and now am switching to forming a company that helps mainstream doctors simply see patients with a minimum data set that is de-identified and used (along with DNA data) to understand any type of therapy. Once we get our first data rolling through established FDA processes plus business change innovations and other tools, I will certainly give the 10 min drive-by to my Silicon Valley colleagues. And I will push for a web 2 feeling: MDcohort (my embryonic company) will insist on transparency on all monetary issues and keep the practicing physicians in the cockpit, rather than in the economy section waiting to hear what "meaningful use" really means.

Too bad the Mickey Mouse hats are trademarked--it might be a start on this new society! But innovators everywhere and those who help in other ways, let's
do the web 2 and laugh at ourselves (like the Dali Lama does) and do some STUFF THAT MATTERS.

Thanks to all the O'Reilly folks, fellow travelers, and inventors who are making a difference out here in D.C. .

Jim O'Connor

Great looking site - you and your team have put lots of effort into its creation, and it shows.

I especially like the idea of earning points for O'Reilly rewards.

Best of luck in the beta and in building your community!

Hello: I just newly set up an account on O'Reilly answers. I was referred here from a Floss Discussions E-Mail correspondence.

It looks very promising and i sent an E-mail to our Prescott Mac User's Group which I hope will be posted on our Blog.

As far as i know I am still logged out. One thing not obvious is how i log off. Perhaps it will be automatic when i leave.

p.s.: I have never heard of the "stackoverflow" mentioned in previous comments. And I really don't care.

Great looking site - you and your team have put lots of effort into its creation, and it shows.
I especially like the idea of earning points for O'Reilly rewards.If you want more knowledge about internet,C and JAVA you can look at youwen,there are some knowledge about it but chinaese.It's a good learning Chinese place too!
Best of luck in the beta and in building your community!

looks like stackoverflow.

O'Reilly Answers is no more a ripoff of StackOverflow than Google was a ripoff of Yahoo. Or for that matter Japan or the E.U. of the U.S.

Both were doing the same thing at about the same time but one started doing it better.

It happens. If one does it better than the other the folks on the internet in general will decide which they prefer.

I am at a loss trying to find out how to ask questions. Why not make it more prominent?

Given that Perlmonks failed the Perl community I welcome any serious attempt to provide what was missing: salted and hashed user passwords.

I am still livid with the website and have not seen any attempt to secure the site; the fact that there was any argument at all about the value of salted hashed passwords left me speechless and with no desire to use Perlmonks ever again.


I am a teacher who teach software in University, and I want to solve the problem about simulator of quantum mechanics. I develop this proj on line but I make sure that I can do it using with JAVA. How do you think.


I just read this article:

and I have a question about current O'Reilly's offer in PDF format.

I've traditionally bought my books in print since I want to keep control on them (I don't want them to "expire" or "disappear").

But if what the article says is correct and the PDFs I can buy here don't have any DRM, I can see the value in buying them.

So please can someone confirm that if I purchase a PDF format book from here, it will come without DRM/expiration/copy protection scheme?


News Topics

Recommended for You

Got a Question?