[...] I have a feeling that, in the majority of cases, people are just going to either ignore any signs pointing to the Academy [...]
And they should. The notion that folks should need to use a site like the one proposed here in order to ask a question on Stack Overflow is a bit silly; many, many people have figured out how to use Stack Overflow just fine without it, and there's no reason to think that many more won't be able to do the same in the future.
By the same token, there are plenty of folks who ask poor questions on Stack Overflow and make no effort to do otherwise even though there are already plenty of resources available to them to learn to do so - there's no reason to expect that they'll do anything but ignore yet another form of assistance.
The intended audience here sits in between those two groups... Folks who want to learn to ask good questions, but are struggling for some reason. There are a number of ways we could promote this site to such people, but the most obvious way is just word of mouth:
- Someone who has been helped by this site might advise friends or co-workers to check it out before posting on SO.
- Someone recommending SO to a hesitant friend might suggest SOA as a way of reducing their hesitation to post publicly.
- In cases where today I might engage someone in comments and attempt to guide them toward better defining the problem they're hoping to solve, I might instead direct them here.
Word of mouth has several advantages over other forms of promotion, but the most critical is that it tends to ramp up naturally over time. Rather than imposing a crushing volume of questions early in the site's life, the goal should be to generate just enough to keep experts engaged, and past experience on other sites has shown us that word-of-mouth network effects perform admirably in this regard.
Of course, the downside is that it's hard to control this sort of promotion. It's entirely possible that it won't supply enough users to get the site off the ground early on, and if we somehow make it past that point will eventually explode and provide too many - but if we're careful about how we define the scope and how we present the goals of the site to others, we can expect a healthy core community to establish (and preserve) itself throughout.