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I'm looking for possible counter-arguments, as I want to convince my colleagues to be active on Stack Overflow.

I see many people who always visit SO for answers (via Google) but never dare to sign up and never show interest in seeing what else SO has to offer.

A few possible reasons for this popped into my mind:

  1. If you strongly believe that errors can't be invented and there are thousand code monkeys who must have faced same error who will put it on SO, why should you bother asking the question?
  2. If you don't want to share your knowledge with others.
  3. You never have questions.
  4. You feel you aren't qualified to ask intelligent questions.

What other reasons / excuses are there, and what counterarguments (if any) exist for them?

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what stack overflow is not similar? – TheFisherMan Jun 9 '12 at 5:22
@PresleyDias: Ya it looks similar but this is communities opinion or user opinion who are registered / active on SO and I am asking from unregistered users point of view. – xyz Jun 9 '12 at 5:25
Are you asking if there's a good reason not to bother making an account? You know you can participate just by suggesting edits, flagging and other activities if you want to help maintain the resource, you don't have to ask and answer questions. Registering ensures you'll get credit for all of the above. – Tim Post Jun 9 '12 at 5:46
@TimPost: (I know bit of sarcasm) I am also in love with SO spending most of the time here only. Wanted to get some points to convince others to be on SO. – xyz Jun 9 '12 at 6:30
@All: I am not saying you shouldnt registered for SO. I want to get some points to convince my colleagues to be active on SO. I think you got me in wrong way :( – xyz Jun 9 '12 at 6:31
See FAQ. – Somnath Muluk Jun 9 '12 at 7:27
Perhaps your co-workers are just too busy to spend time on websites rather than working? – sarnold Jun 10 '12 at 2:01
Spend your time where you see fit. Why do you think that we are obligated to tell you why you should participate here? – Jack Maney Jun 10 '12 at 2:03
@shog9: Thanks for resurrecting my post :D – xyz Jun 10 '12 at 13:51
up vote 6 down vote accepted
  1. You lack the personal knowledge to confidently answer questions.

  2. You lack the experience and practical application to ask your own.

  3. Yet, you are learning by reading the real world questions and their solutions the quality of which are conveniently rated by others.

And I don't see anything wrong with that. This has been my own experience with a few tags I do not actively participate in yet hold some interest for me.

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Thanks for getting my point [and not awarding downvote :)] – xyz Jun 9 '12 at 13:31
@Ajinkya you're welcome. I actually thought it was a decent question myself and voted accordingly. – Mr.Wizard Jun 9 '12 at 13:33
My intentions are good. People got me in a completely different way. – xyz Jun 9 '12 at 13:37

I'm looking for possible counter-arguments, as I want to convince my colleagues to be active on Stack Overflow.

Since this is a discussion question, I feel free to answer as I see fit, within the topic. So here's my answer:


Why does it matter to you so much that your colleagues become active on SO? The site's not exactly hurting for membership. We don't need evangelists out there preaching the "Good News of Stack Overflow" to keep the site going.

Just explain how the site works. If that interests them, great! If it doesn't, oh well. We don't need everybody to be active users of the site. As long as there is coverage of the various topics, we're doing fine.

The last thing SO needs are proselytizers. It's great that you've become a regular SO user. But it's not a good idea to make a nuisance of yourself just to get others to join the site. And if others don't see the benefits of SO usage, then maybe they have a point.

SO is not for everything. And it's not for everyone. SO is not a moral imperative; if someone doesn't feel that it's worth their time, that's their right.

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+1 for It's great that you've become a regular SO user. But it's not a good idea to make a nuisance of yourself just to get others to join the site – xyz Jun 10 '12 at 14:01


  • I find the system confusing.
  • I'm intimidated by the many rules and guidelines, particularly as getting things "wrong" seems to carry penalties.
  • Figuring out how the whole system works, particularly which questions are "OK" and which aren't, is way more work than I'm willing to spend for the occasional question that you can ask elsewhere just as easily.

Put quite simply, some people grok the SO method and system far more easily than others. Some people go bug-eyed at needing to absorb such a complex system; other people "get it" right away and go, "YES! This is exactly what I've been looking for!".

If somebody seems interested but confused, you can (A) give them a basic primer to the site, including the concept of rep and how the strict Q&A format makes helpful answers immediately visible; and (B) assure them that they can learn pretty much everything as they go along. It's also worth making clear that a few mistakes early on are entirely inconsequential (even if it might not feel that way...). If somebody is still interested but worried, you can offer to help by looking over their posts before they go live.

If somebody seems opposed to the whole affair, don't bother evangelizing - it's more likely to annoy than anything else. If a person is already doing fine using other resources, or simply doesn't like the system, there's no reason to urge him to "get used to it." SO is one resource among many, and hardly to everybody's taste.

Rep Advancement

  • It is hard for a newcomer to build up reputation, even to the point of basic usability.
  • People aren't upvoting my posts to the degree that I think they deserve.

Many newcomers, excited at having a "score" want to see it climb right away. Currently, with SO as busy (and full of experts!) as it is, that doesn't really happen from casual use. Help manage their expectations; emphasize that reputation score is an extra bonus and not the main point of the site; if they really want to put effort into gaining some initial reputation (e.g. at least enough for basic functionality), you can help them out by pointing out where they're more likely to do so well (ask great questions in popular subjects; follow topics you have particular expertise in and try to get answers in right away; possibly even start out on a sister-site where rep might be easier, and gain the association bonus).


  • I'm not getting helpful answers to my questions.

There are many reasons a question might not be getting helpful answers. Some are avoidable. Go over his questions; see if they're clear and answerable; check if they're tagged correctly so they're seen by the "right" people. If it's a good-but-obscure question, and you've got the rep for it, you might even play Alturist for a friend, putting a bounty on his question.

Tone and Atmosphere

  • It feels like everybody's so pedantic.
  • Why are people bugging me to accept answers?
  • It feels unfriendly to newcomers.
  • Why are my questions being closed? I hate this site!

Some of this is mentality - some people get along better with constant "constructive criticism", others less so. Some is the natural cruft you get on any site big enough.

If somebody doesn't like the tone of the site, that's perfectly reasonable. You can put the question to him whether other sites are better - and maybe utility outweighs inconvenience! - but the choice is ultimately his.

You can, again, peek over his shoulder to make sure he's using the site in a way which will cause minimal friction... and assure him that you get used to the local mores pretty quickly, and get a feel for what'll work well and what less so (and also who's being a jerk, and who's being helpful). With time, he'll also be able to raise flags and respond better to any less-appropriate hassling that may remain.

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