Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us

Stack Overflow

Quite a bit of buzz on the internets is around a nifty new Q&A site called Stack Overflow. Since you can read all about what it bills itself as and how other people perceive it in other places, I’ll just give you a ‘first impressions’ review of the site.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for quite some time, since I’ve been a member of the site for about a month or so, since back when it was in beta. But I figured there was no point since you, the reader, wouldn’t be able to see it for yourself. Then again, since pretty much all of my site’s traffic right now is from people on Stack Overflow clicking on my web site link in my user profile, maybe that isn’t a valid argument.

So like most of the reviews I’ve seen online, I do like Stack Overflow. It’s free and painless enough to post a question, although this is because I was lucky enough to have an account with a provider that supports OpenID (in this case, WordPress). Others have complained about having problems with Yahoo’s OpenID, so I guess I got lucky on that one. There’s been enough people on it so far that I get a pretty fast answer to every question I’ve had so far, and most of the answers have been dead on.

The site is definitely addictive, as I’ve spent quite a bit of time answering questions in an attempt to raise my reputation (similar to karma) score as much as possible. But since the site has gone public, there’s really too many people to make a huge impact. This was originally a big downer, since I’m still not far enough on my reputation score to have the best moderator-like powers on the site, but I think it’s really for the best. Now I just use the site for what it’s meant for: asking and answering programming questions. Now I just drop a question down and while I’m waiting for an answer, I go off and answer other people’s questions. My reputation grows pretty slowly now (answering questions tends to get much more rep than asking them), but I think this is the preferred usage of the site.

Chances are exceedingly likely that if you’re reading this, you know all about Stack Overflow. But if you’re a programmer with their head in the sand, check it out. If you still need convincing, check out a question I posted and the amazing answer I got back.