Simon Palmer’s blog

October 12, 2008

My stack floweth over

Filed under: facebook, stackoverflow — simonpalmer @ 10:25 pm

Thou preparest a forum before me in the presence of mine nerdy peers: thou anointest my questions with answers; my stack floweth over.

I *really* like Stackoverflow.  I think it is partly the innate nerd in me and partly the socialist programmer.  I regularly contribute to several technical forums and I try and balance what I take from them with what I contribute to them.  A quick back-of-a-fag-packet summary of my posts shows that my answers far outweigh my questions, so I am a good little citizen as well – at least I hope I am.

I’m also quite an avid Facebook follower, but that phenomenon has definitely peaked.  I like the fact that I have a place to put my photos and I know there are certain friends whom I pretty much keep in touch with via that medium.  So it has found its place in the substrate of human interaction and will, I suspect, ever remain there, but the shine is off it.

What Stackoverflow has, which Facebook never will, is the single interest group fraternity.  They have also been very clever in using a self-regulated voting system so you can recommend and decommend (is that a word – if not it should be) people’s answers.  Like many social phenomena it is amazingly good at rewarding good behaviour and it is totally addictive.  Basically the rest of teh community gives you a reputation which is reflected in your profile as a point score.

I currently have 944 Reputation points (rubs fingertips together excitedly).

And the fact that those points have been obtained by other people voting for answers that I have posted makes it totally addictive.  Maybe I am disclosing an unfulfilled side of myself, but I do get a buzz out of providing a good answer and conversely it is cringingly awful when a question gets panned.

And as if the reputation were not enough it is actually informative and useful and watched by some seriously good techincal people.  It has almost replaced google as my go-to source for technical answers.  As the number of questions grows it becomes more and more authoritative.

The authors of the site are being haled as brilliant innovators and I think that they have the balance of playful addiction and useful resource just about right.

I suspect the allure of a large reputation number may wane, but the value of the resource is likely to remain.

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