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I would like to know simply, if anyone is making money on Stack Overflow, how are they doing it?

I'm not asking if people should be making money on the site or whether or not it's okay—that has been covered already —I'm asking about ways that have made people money.

The most obvious is building a reputation and being offered a job thanks to that reputation. This is common in the open-source world (and in other areas as well), especially if you work on a project of particular commercial interest.

Again, I do not want to debate whether or not it's okay or right or just or whatever to make money on any of these sites. I fully agree making this site "commercial" with paid questions, answerer ads, etc. would turn it into a dump. I also understand the vast majority of people contribute as a service to the community. I think that's wonderful and I appreciate that sort of commitment very much.

An answer of "they don't" is fully acceptable. I'd also be curious if there are any other answers.

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Related (now closed) Programmers question: Will high reputation in Stack Overflow help to get a good job? –  Brad Larson Nov 17 '11 at 14:44
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The question proposed as a dupe (How does Stack Overflow, Meta Stack Overflow, etc. make money?) is about how Stack Exchange, Inc. - The company behind the website - makes money. This seems to be about how people do/would/could/don't make money by participating in the site. –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 17 '11 at 15:06
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Well, I think Jon Skeet could create new accounts, push them to 10k in to time and sell them on Ebay. –  Time Traveling Bobby Nov 17 '11 at 15:14
    
@Asylum: Do you think people would really pay for 10k accounts? –  Paŭlo Ebermann Nov 17 '11 at 15:43
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@PaŭloEbermann: I've heard/seen that World Of Warcraft, Americas Army, other Online-Games and even Slashdot accounts are on sale there...so why not SE? –  Time Traveling Bobby Nov 17 '11 at 15:52
    
How do people make money on Stack Overflow? - and the answer is: You Don't. –  tombull89 Nov 17 '11 at 15:54
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Sigh. When I posted my comment, there was one close vote. Now there are four. In the last hour, at least 7 people have thought that this should not be closed as a dupe of that question, and three thought that it should. One more will close it. We really need a way to counteract a close vote (<-Feature-request with 165 votes, [status-declined] by Jeff with an answer earning 57 downvotes...) –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 17 '11 at 16:03
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@Kevin My apologies. I VTC-ed a bit hastily and upvoted your comment when I realized my mistake. Very similar status-declined feature request to undo close votes, also with a heavily downvoted answer by Jeff –  John Nov 17 '11 at 16:31
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Thank you everyone for your comments. I REALLY didn't want this to be controversial. I am a business student and program to make some of the technical things I do easier. I find Stack Overflow (and Server Fault) very useful and am appreciative of them. At the same, since I am a student of business, I think it's just natural to ask this question of any entity or resource; it's not meant in a pejorative way. I thought this meta site would be an appropriate venue. I respect what the moderators decide but I think closing my question is not constructive for the community. Thanks again. –  user172863 Nov 17 '11 at 17:36
    
@TomD: It's certainly a valid question, in my opinion. As an example, my employer's recruiter takes SO contributions increasingly seriously (though not to the exclusion of many other credentials, of course) ever since he started posting on SO Careers and we've found some very good talent as a result. The "making money" part is very indirect, but I'd be lying if I said it hasn't helped my career in some small way. I think SO has been very successful in downplaying that part, which adds to its value. The altruistic benefit from their altruism, even if that incentive can be reasonably denied. –  David Nov 17 '11 at 18:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 22 down vote accepted

I believe it's more a question of:

"How do people convince their customers that they are experts in their field, thus allowing them to make more money in their current business."

A Stack Exchange site reputation showing the users' activity history can back up a so-called experts' claim nicely.

And that's exactly what I do. As an added bonus, it feels good to help people.

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It's hard to imagine anyone (other than SE corporate) making actual decisions (involving money) based on someone's site reputation. –  Robert Harvey Nov 17 '11 at 16:09
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Robert, I couldn't disagree more. I refer a lot of my clients to my SE profiles which has resulted in a lot of business for my company. –  Jeff Nov 17 '11 at 16:18
    
Thanks for the constructive answer. –  user172863 Nov 17 '11 at 17:29
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@RobertHarvey - Straight-up reputation numbers, probably not. However, I've received a lot of consulting offers based on having a number of highly upvoted answers in specific areas. Reading someone's answers can give you a decent feel for how knowledgable they are in an area, as well as how strong their communication skills are. –  Brad Larson Nov 17 '11 at 18:17
    
And especially just being here means that you are one of the "cool guys" and not a 9-5 programmer. This plays an extremely big role if the person hiring you is also a "cool guy". I've done a lot of interviews for my company and I always ask if the person has an account here or knows of the site; just answering yes (which happens less than 10% of the time) is a plus, while having good answers is an instant hire. –  Andreas Bonini Nov 18 '11 at 2:09
    
PS: I really can't imagine how 90%+ programmers never even heard of stack overflow!! This means that they never googled a programming question.. –  Andreas Bonini Nov 18 '11 at 2:11
    
@Koper, google.. what's that? :) –  Benjol Nov 18 '11 at 7:15
    
@Robert Harvey: re "making actual decisions (involving money) based on (...) reputation" - see: just about any stock market ;) –  Piskvor Nov 18 '11 at 8:55

You participate in site / community building activities. When you do that, you get loot:

Loot

When you build respect and trust with your peers, good things tend to happen. Sometimes, they involve monetary rewards or a means to them, such as a job where your peers once again decide if you are worth your salt or not.

Other times, you just get a really good feeling about what you spent some of your life doing.

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Agree! +1 for use of actual Unicorn money picture. –  Jeff Nov 17 '11 at 16:19
    
Be careful spending that money. It looks counterfeit. :-) –  LarsTech Nov 17 '11 at 16:55
    
lol nice post. if I had more rep on this site i'd vote up your answer. –  user172863 Nov 17 '11 at 17:38

If you are on Stack Overflow to make money, you probably are here for the wrong reasons.

I think most answerers

  • want to give back since they got help before,
  • want to help others, or "make the Internet a better place",
  • want to build reputation (which might later help to make money [I got (some days after this answer) a job by Stackoverflow Careers, showing my reputation and some of my best answers], but doesn't have to), and/or
  • simply enjoy the gaming part.

There might be some people who are paid to give answers on Stack Overflow (or on other SE sites), most probably because these are questions about a product they have to support.

Some examples: I've seen Versant employees on Stack Overflow answering questions on (though I'm not sure if they are doing this in their free time or on the job), and I heard there are some Trello developers on WebApps Stack Exchange answering (and even asking) Trello questions.

But this is a small minority of all answerers, I suppose. (I don't count answers on the meta sites by SE employees, which also fall in this category.)

There are also developers of Open Source programs/libraries/packages answering questions about these (quite some on TeX - LaTeX Stack Exchange), though these in most cases don't get paid.

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I appreciate your insight into the practice of having product support people answer questions on this site. I think it's a great idea for product support to go to the venues customers prefer rather than confining them to an in-house ticket system or similar. Thanks for the answer. –  user172863 Nov 17 '11 at 17:39

Most common: I figured out how to do X, so I could build product Y, and then sell it.

Honestly, the people who make the most money from stack overflow are the ones asking the questions, not the ones answering them.

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99% of Stack Overflow visitors make 99% of the profits! Occupy Stack Ove... wait... that's in perfect balance. Carry on. –  Bill the Lizard Nov 18 '11 at 1:08

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