Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers. It is a privately held website, the flagship site of the Stack Exchange Network, created in 2008 by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky. It features questions and answers on a wide range of topics in computer programming. It was created to be a more open alternative to earlier question and answer sites such as Experts-Exchange. The name for the website was chosen by voting in April 2008 by readers of Coding Horror, Atwood’s popular programming blog.
The website serves as a platform for users to ask and answer questions, and, through membership and active participation, to vote questions and answers up or down and edit questions and answers in a fashion similar to a wiki or Digg. Users of Stack Overflow can earn reputation points and “badges”; for example, a person is awarded 10 reputation points for receiving an “up” vote on an answer given to a question and 5 points for the “up” vote of a question, and can receive badges for their valued contributions, which represents a kind of gamification of the traditional Q&A site. Users unlock new privileges with an increase in reputation like the ability to vote, comment, and even edit other people’s posts. All user-generated content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute-ShareAlike license.
Closing questions is a main differentiation from Yahoo! Answers and a way to prevent low quality questions. The mechanism was overhauled in 2013; questions edited after being put “on hold” now appear in a review queue. Jeff Atwood stated in 2010 that duplicate questions are not seen as a problem but rather they constitute an advantage if such additional questions drive extra traffic to the site by multiplying relevant keyword hits in search engines.
Stack Overflow also has a Jobs section to assist developers in finding their next opportunity. For employers, Stack Overflow provides tools to brand their business, advertise their openings on the site, and source candidates from Stack Overflow’s database of developers who are open to being contacted.
A 2013 study has found that 75% of users only ask one question, 65% only answer one question, and only 8% of users answer more than 5 questions. As of 2011, 92% of the questions were answered, in a median time of 11 minutes. Since 2013, the Stack Exchange network software automatically deletes closed questions that meet certain criteria, including having no answers in a certain amount of time.
As of August 2012, 443,000 of the 1.3M registered users had answered at least one question, and of those, approximately 6,000 (0.46% of the total user count) had earned a reputation score greater than 5000. Reputation can be gained fastest by answering questions related to tags with lower expertise density, doing so promptly (in particular being the first one to answer a question), being active during off-peak hours, and contributing to diverse areas.
Stack Overflow is written in C# using the ASP.NET MVC (Model-View-Controller) framework, and Microsoft SQL Server for the database and the Dapper object-relational mapper used for data access. Unregistered users have access to most of the site’s functionality, while users who sign in can gain access to more functionality, such as asking or answering a question, establishing a profile and being able to earn reputation to allow functionality like re-tagging questions or voting to close a question.
Stack Overflow has received general praise for its architecture of handling questions and answers as they are regulated by the community. Its success has often been attributed to self-regulation.
Stack Overflow has been criticized for the proliferation of poor programming and development practices, specifically by encouraging developers to prioritize basic functionality at the expense of other features like security. A study from the University of Maryland found that Android developers that used only Stack Overflow as their programming resource tended to write more insecure code than those who used only the official Android developer documentation from Google.
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