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Featured on Jan 05, 2011

Joel Spolsky

"The best answer we could come up with was, let’s make the damn thing free, and get some VC somewhere to pay for it."


Joel Spolsky is an expert on software development, the founder of Fog Creek Software, and the co-creator of His website Joel on Software is popular with software developers around the world and has been translated into over thirty languages. He has written four books about software development, including Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent (Apress 2007).

  • Title: CEO & Co-founder of Stack Overflow
  • Location: Upper West Side
  • Contact: @spolsky

If you could clone yourself and start another company, what kind of company would it be?  Are there any industries or areas that you’ve always wanted to get into?

High-end retail espresso. There isn't a single espresso shop on the Upper West Side that knows how to steam milk for lattes properly. I think at Starbucks they just put their face in the milk and blow bubbles. I would open a cafe called the No Laptop Cafe. Hipsters pretending to write novels while they mull for six hours over one cup of brewed coffee would be banned. Instead, we would have real newspapers and folk singers.

What do you do in your spare time?  Do you ever just completely unplug from the Internet or does that make you nervous?

I'm pretty good at turning off the internet, actually! We have a siberian husky who seems to need about 4 hours of walking a day to keep him from tearing up the apartment.

How long have you lived in NY?  Do you think there is a set of requirements that makes you a “real New Yorker” or is that a bunch of mishegas?

I have lived in New York for about 17 years, longer than I've lived anywhere else, but every time I get involved in some kind of real estate transaction I realize that I am definitely not a real New Yorker. 

We think this would be a good question for Michael’s TechInterview site, and we would like your thoughts on it.  How many unique areas of human knowledge have the right size of passionate users to make it as a Stack Exchange site?

Probably anything for which there is a scholarly journal--between 20,000 and 40,000. You need a minimum number of participants studying the same thing (400-500) which is about the same number as it takes to sustain a journal.

Fog Creek has always been about getting great programmers to come to NY (and not just to work for banks), who else is helping to attract technical talent to small companies in the city?

Thank God for Google. Oh, wait, you said "Small Companies." Well, ok, still Google. They're doing a great job of getting thousands of great programmers to settle here, and a pretty good job of driving those programmers crazy so that they leave and join more nimble startups.

Technical Lead, CEO