Screenshot of Stack Overflow as of February 2017
Type of site
|Available in||English, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, and Japanese|
|Owner||Stack Exchange, Inc.|
|Created by||Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood|
|Launched||September 15, 2008|
Stack Overflow is a privately held website, the flagship site of the Stack Exchange Network, created in 2008 by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky. 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.
It features questions and answers on a wide range of topics in computer programming.
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.
The website was created by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky in 2007. On 31 July 2008, Jeff Atwood sent out invitations encouraging his subscribers to take part in the private beta of the new website, limiting its use to those willing to test out the new software. On 15 September 2008 it was announced the public beta version was in session and that the general public was now able to use it to seek assistance on programming related issues. The design of the Stack Overflow logo was decided by a voting process.
On 3 May 2010 it was announced that Stack Overflow had raised $6 million in venture capital from a group of investors led by Union Square Ventures.
Stack Overflow only accepts questions about programming that are tightly focused on a specific problem. Questions of a broader nature–or those inviting answers that are inherently a matter of opinion– are usually rejected by the site's users, and marked as closed. The sister site softwareengineering.stackexchange.com is intended to be a venue for broader queries, e.g. general questions about software development.
In April 2009, Stack Exchange implemented a policy of "timed suspension", in order to curtail users who either show "No effort to learn (the community rules) and improve over time" or engage in "disruptive behavior" and become a nuisance. The suspension is accompanied by temporarily setting the user's reputation score at '1' and a notation on the user's profile page indicating the suspension and remaining duration.
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 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.
Romanian researcher Bogdan Vasilescu criticized Stack Overflow, saying that its policies discouraged women from being actively involved while an editor from Medium said it kept maintaining a negative atmosphere for newcomers. In another report, researchers conducted empirical studies to identify what types of barriers exist for women, as well as men for posting. The study suggested that the site encourages one-upmanship, flame-wars and down-voting which makes it less likely that female users will participate. It criticised the rewards system and found instances of "gender swapping" with females adopting male or gender-neutral personas and some males masquerading as females thinking that they will not be treated as harshly.
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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