21 October, 2008

StackOverflow's Dirty Little Secret

Seeing how you probably got here from my link on SO, I won't bore you with the details about what SO is and how awesome it is. For everyone else, however, let me just mention that StackOverflow is a community where developers go to ask and answer questions - that's it, but it's AWESUM!

Here's a list of ideas on how to maximize your StackOverflow experience. In it, you'll find SO's dirty little secret; take a look:


  1. Put your foot in your mouth (often). Every time I answer incorrectly at SO the community let's me know it promptly and pointedly. It's kind of embarrassing to be wrong online, so you really learn from your mistakes. Not only does the shock factor help you remember the correct answer but, as an added benefit, you will no longer carry with you the baggage of incorrect knowledge in your head.

    I strongly recommend goofing up (and correcting your self); for a good sample of how I've goofed up, see this question. I can guarantee you, I'll never get that one wrong again.

  2. Ask subjective questions. Even though by definitions subjective quesitons do not have one correct answer, there's still value in asking these kinds of questions. I'd say about 50% of the SO population is smarter than I am (yes, I realize why about 50% of the population is smarter than me), so there's a lot of value in seeing what other developers think.

    If you care to see one of the subjective questions I've asked, take a lookie here.


  1. Think that people know what they're talking about just because they have a high reputation score. And this is SO's dirty little secret: you can get a high reputation (which allegedly represents expertise) by just gaming the system. I'm not saying that the system is broken - there's a lot of people out there that reserve the high rep; there are also many that don't. The other side of this coin is also true: there's a lot of sharp people with low reputation scores (probably because they have better things to do than try to get a high SO rep score).

    So, again, don't judge people just because of their rep score.

  2. Trust answers just because they have a lot of up-votes. Even though there's a lot of smart people at SO, there's also just a lot of people, and sometimes the herd mentality takes over and answers get up-voted for no other reason than the fact that others have up-voted it.

If you're a developer and you haven't joined StackOverflow yet, I strongly recommed you to head over there and start asking and answering questions.


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