Stack Overflow: a hate/love story
But I want to share something else
The number of people posting on StackOverflow has greatly increased over the last years. It is in fact so crowded that it is not rare to have 4 or 5 answers posted just in the time needed to read a question. It has even become really hard to be the first to answer a question now, and I love that!
Users got used to the rating system, and most of the questions I see now end up with a validated answer. Those answer (and the corresponding questions) will usually later be upvoted over time as people with the same issue find the solution to their problem. This is the very system of Stack Overflow, trust users with giving answers and sharing knowledge. And it works like hell.
Another thing is that lately, I have seen more and more people completing others answers instead of posting theirs; or editing the question to remove context dependent information so that it can later be useful to more people. The desire for points is overcome by the desire of giving a precise and complete answer, and this is a sign that the platform answers a deep need.
SO is now such an important service that it definitely plays the role of a huge SEO platform for good answers.
Those last months, it became more and more rare that I query Google for an issue without having a really close match on SO, upvoted by so much people that the question is in the top 5 results from Google !
And this is the very reason I also hate Stack Overflow
SO is so efficient that it slowly became my first source of information. If you use DuckDuckGo like me (and you should) you know that it comes first in the results; even before the official documentation of the project.
It is now very rare for me to have to read the API or the manual of a framework any more, simply because I know I'll directly find the answer somewhere on SO.
This has very tricky effects:
- I don't even have to remember the answers I find (even if I should), because I know I can search for it again whenever I need it and find the answer ready to be ingested.
- I lost the habit to search for solutions to problems by myself, and spend sometimes even more time searching for a match on SO than trying to solve my problem by myself.
- My tendancy to search for answers this way came slowly as SO became more and more successful, and I recently realized how dependent I am. I'd even say that if I had to choose between Google and SO today, I'd go for SO!
You might say I am a bad programmer. Perhaps. Or I just choose to follow the easy way and take the low hanging fruit. This is why I'll stop using it for a month. I want to keep my ability to think. I don't want to be a code monkey.
I'll keep posting answers on the platform, but from today I'll always got for the documentation first. Stack Overflow, I love you. . . but I want a divorce.