Tuesday, October 28, 2008
It has been two months since I am on StackOverflow(SO) . I wrote a review when the website went into public beta a month ago. So, I think now it's the time to offer a second look on this website.
First observation, the most popular questions are open-ended and require very little expertize to answer. These are the very questions that SO intends to avoid . For certain reasons, these subjective questions not only remain, but are very hot and popular. I guess this has to do with the reputation/ badge system of the SO where it encourages people to answer questions ( or ask questions) to collect points. Now, the reputation/ badge system is good at gluing the users to the site. But it has the site effects of fostering the subjective questions. Now, those subjective questions are fun to read and fun to answer. But they are not supposed to be in SO because SO is supposed to be a place where programmers can find definite answers to their questions.
SO is a great resource for beginners. SOers, don't be put off by this statement! What I mean here is that if you forget something elementary, like you forget the syntax of lambda expression, or if you are looking to do something in a language you are not familiar with , or if you are looking for some well-known algorithms , or if you can't just get past this simple error, then SO is definitely for you! The large pool of SO users guarantee that your questions will get answered in minutes. SO is very handy in this regard. I know, I know, some complain that SO is all about spoon feeding. But you can choose to get spoon fed instantly or to learn the thing on your own in 3 days time.
However, when comes to the more obscure things such as VSTO or Informix , SO might not be of much help. For example, I asked a few questions on VSTO , and none of the answers I got was satisfactory.
One final thing before I close, the user activity is high on SO, so this calls for personalization and ranking system. SO should, based on my past activity, present me with the questions that I am interested in on the homepage, like what Reddit does. This will improve my user experience, no doubt.