Lessons From Stack Overflow

Discussion created by bixb0012 Champion on Nov 1, 2016
Latest reply on Nov 11, 2016 by CCatania-esristaff

I recently read John Slegers' blog post, The decline of Stack Overflow.   My intent in discussing the blog post and linking to it here isn't to bag on Stack Overflow/Exchange (SO/SE), it has been a helpful resource and has answered many of my questions over the years.  That said, the blog post does raise several important concerns about how the SO user experience has changed over the years.


Like any group, community, organization, or anything else that collectively brings people together, it's personality or culture changes over time.  It has happened to SO since its inception in 2008, and it has even happened with GeoNet over the past 2 years.  How the culture changes can either encourage new users, new questions, and new answers or discourage them.  I think being aware of how SO has changed and how some view the SO user experience today can potentially help GeoNet users, moderators, and administrators steer a different course for GeoNet.


The summary...


On the State of the Community:

As of July 2015, Stack Overflow has over 4,000,000 registered users and almost 10,000,000 questions (not counting deleted users and questions). However, a 2013 study has found that 77% of users only ask one question, 65% only answer one question, and only 8% of users answer more than 5 questions. With this article, I’m exploring the likely reasons for that very, very low percentage.

It would be interesting to see updated numbers today.  It would also be interesting to see those numbers for GeoNet.


The overarching ideas/feelings put forward:

Stack Overflow hates new users

New users feel especially unwelcome when joining Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow also hates most other users

It’s not just new users who experience a sense of hostility.

The reign of privileged trolls

There are lots of examples provided to support the ideas/feelings put forward.  That said, there are likely some that would take issue with the statements and provide alternative examples.  I am not hear to judge people's perceptions or SO, but from the comments provided and others I have talked to, John S.'s sentiments are not unique.


I am not worried about the reign of privileged trolls happening on GeoNet.  Then again, some might argue I am one of the privileged, so of course I wouldn't worry about it.  I think the way that moderation and administration is structured with GeoNet, it is more difficult for cliques of privileged users and/or moderators to reign over the site.  That said, I think Stack Overflow has a bit more transparency on parts of its moderation and administration.


For me, the crux is how to keep GeoNet a welcoming place to bring in new users and new ideas.