stackoverflow.com

Based on what I can gather from the founders, Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky, stackoverflow.com is going to be a programming community, functioning primarily as a question and answer site. The solutions will be sifted organically by the members (through some kind of voting mechanism?), until the correct answers float to the top. The idea is for correct stuff to be more prominent than incorrect (or out of date) stuff.

Why should prominence matter? So that Google and other search engines rank the correct stuff better. Which makes the correct stuff more prominent.

I just listened to their first podcast, and the driving force behind this was how programmers are ditching the paperbacks and hardcovers for the Internet searches and forums. I haven’t thought much of this, since my department is a little, uh, tight around budgets. Training courses and reference books cost money, so I turned to the Internet to help me solve problems.

My problem then became “How should I phrase my search terms so the correct solution will come up on say, the first 5 search result pages?”. Yes I’m patient. I can go 5 pages, 10 if I’m really desperate.

The good point of the Internet is that it remembers everything. The bad point of the Internet is that it remembers everything. Every good article, every bad article. Every correct solution, every wrong solution. And search engines have a hard time telling them apart.

Forum pages come up a lot, so I’ve done some research on programming forums and communities. Here’s a few that I found.

Code Project was the original site I joined. I found their articles useful when I first started. I don’t frequent the site so much now. Now, I Google. *smile*

I will scan through the search results, and open any interesting, potential answer link in a new browser tab, and continue scanning. And I realised something. I hate it when I open up the page, and find only the question, or a discussion on the question without really solving the problem.

I think I gained a new level of hateness when I opened up a page and the discussion and solution was obscured. The site in question (there’s something with an “exchange” in it), used to have Javascript and nifty CSS to blur out the post thread content. Now, the content is replaced by text telling you to sign up before you can view the answer.

I’m searching for an answer, and I’m a little pressed for time, and I don’t know your site. You want me to jump through hoops, think up a login name and password, sign up, before I find that the answer is not what I want? No thanks. The Internet is a big place. There’s got to be someone out there who has the answer. Now, I skip any search result with that site’s address in it.

That said, I found Dream In Code. Somehow, it gives off a “homey” feeling to me. I wrote more about it here. I also realised that the future of better programming lies in the younger generation, and Dream In Code’s high proportion of students fits this perfectly. That’s why I’m there. My handle is “orcasquall”.

Oh, and thanks to Chris (Dream In Code’s founder) for publishing the article I submitted to his forum newsletter! You can read about it here.

Anyway, I’m still unsure how stackoverflow will be like. So go over to the site and listen to the podcast first. Here’s the site again:
http://stackoverflow.com/

  1. Ben

    Google is my best friend when it comes to finding solutions for the problems I code myself into. I also have it when it says you have to join to see the answer. Like you if I am looking for an answer I generally need it right now. If I do use the site I couple of times I end up signing up.
    But I may be an exception to the rule. I am looking forward to checking out stackoverflow.

  2. Vincent Tan

    I think it’s about the individual’s perception of the forum or site. I just happen to have one too many frustrating episodes about answer-obfuscating sites. Glad that you found sites you like enough to sign up.

    And I’m also looking forward to seeing how stackoverflow develops!

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