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Discussion on: StackOverflow isn't as useful anymore? I use GitHub more often.

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jasonpunyon profile image
Jason Punyon

Hi Adrian 👋🏻

My name is Jason Punyon and I'm a Principal Developer at Stack Overflow. I've been here for about 10 years. I work on our Data Science Team. I wanted to thank you for your video. I appreciate it when any of our users (even if they're using us less now) take the time to tell us how they feel, especially in a public artifact like this. But...(I'm sure you saw that coming 😁) I'm going to take some issue with a few of the points you bring up, and try and bring some data to bear. I'm not here to argue your personal experience. Your experience is valid. You say Stack Overflow is less useful to you, and I take your word for it.

People with more experience find Stack Overflow less useful

So there are tons of questions that people need the answers to when they're new at something. But that doesn't mean folks who've been around the block don't find us useful.

Stack Overflow Survey 2019 - Years of Experience

On the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey about 40% of respondents said they've been coding professionally for less than 5 years. Which means 60% have more than 5 years experience. The definition of Junior/Intermediate/Senior is complicated and comes with an element of caprice. In a lot of cases it can have nothing to do with how many years you've been doing the job. We definitely skew less tenured (some of that is how the demographics of software developers are changing), but I don't think it follows that we aren't useful to the experienced dev.

New Technologies: React Native

You bring up React Native as an example of a technology that's underrepresented on Stack Overflow. There have been 73,435 questions asked on Stack Overflow tagged react-native. It's the 88th most used tag ever. 31,141 (42.4%) questions have an answer. 26,432 questions (35.9%) of those questions have an answer that was accepted by the asker. 1.2% of them have been closed, and 0.7% have been closed as duplicates. This is a pretty well behaved tag, the answer rate is a little on the low side as you can see from this graph of the top 100 tags.

Percent of Questions Answered, by Tag

But don't let the low rate relative to other tags fool you. Stack Overflow has more accepted answers (26,432) in the react-native tag than there are issues in the react-native repo (19,259). I did not dig into the discord, I'm sure there's questions getting answered there, but a chat log doesn't really lend itself to analysis.

I'll give you gatsby and next.js, those are pretty small tags on Stack Overflow. There's still thousands of usages, but they're an order-and-a-half of magnitude smaller than react-native.

Confidence that developers are there to answer your questions on Github Issues

I went to github to see what the issues looked like on a few of the projects you mentioned. I happened on this issue on react native where a developer does reply, then closes the issue pointing the user to Stack Overflow or Discord. That appears to be how they handle questions on that repo.

Send them to Stack Overflow

Gatsby does appear to have an extremely attentive set of developers in the issues and they answer a lot of questions, and they also point people to Stack Overflow via their communities page (which they link in every well answered question they close).

Old Stuff

This is a really great criticism and it might not surprise you that we've been thinking about it for a long time and haven't come up with a great answer. Answers age, libraries change, versions get bumped...and we don't have a great way of dealing with it.

Negative Community

You bring up negative community and rightfully so. We have had problems for years ensuring our community is safe and effective for everyone who codes. Jay (not our CEO) wrote Stack Overflow Isn't Very Welcoming. It's Time for That to Change in April 2018. In the intervening two years my team worked to assess the scale of the problem and figure out what we could do about it from the algorithmic perspective.

We went and looked at comments ourselves finding that a much too large percentage of them were unfriendly. We then invited the community to do the same and they found the same thing. We enacted our code of conduct in mid 2018 and improved our flagging system. Ultimately we came to the conclusion that Stack Overflow is underflagged. People are too busy looking for their answers or trying to help other people to do a lot of flagging. We turned to machine learning and built The Unfriendly Robot to help identify unwelcoming and unfriendly comments and bring them to the attention to our moderators and that project appears to be having some success. Time will tell.

We're working on it. Jay's post wasn't just talk.

🙏🏻 Thanks again! 🙏🏻 Really appreciate the time you took here.

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adriantwarog profile image
Adrian Twarog Author

Jason thank you kindly for the reply which you took the time to not only address the points I raised but also show examples of it.

It's great to see people behind the site, and sometimes we don't see the other side of the fence with people doing their best.