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Why be politically correct, Stack Overflow is the top Q&A site for programmers as of present. And members answer questions just for the love & passion of knowledge without any expectation as such. But do the owners of SO give any monetary incentives to the top contributors, like those who have 100k+ reputation and provide the bulk of the answers, the backbone of the site? And of course, the name and goodwill from more than a million users around the world is a tremendous motivation. But still, what if a competing site crops up in future that offers monetary rewards to the contributors who pass a criteria?

Contributing for passion and interest is fine, but then people have time constraints due to which they may not be able to devote the time they wish to. So it would be great if they get a monetary incentive as well so that many contributors won't think twice about devoting as much time they want to the SO community.

Do such incentives exist? Any in the offing? If not why?

BTW what is the turnover of Stack Exchange?

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Swag. –  Mat May 3 '13 at 9:50
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I'm not sure what you mean by 'politically correct' here. –  AakashM May 3 '13 at 10:05
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They occasionally run competitions (with prizes) to encourage participation. –  George Duckett May 3 '13 at 10:13
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I got "discovered" by my future employer on SO, so I get some monetary benefit out of it in then end. But really, I see it as a great way of actually helping people and pass on knowledge while building a portfolio of some sort at the same time. (and improving my communication skills and many other things!) –  Felix May 3 '13 at 12:52
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So...you're saying I won't get paid for all of this? Why on earth did I spend all this time here then? –  Bart May 3 '13 at 12:54
    
You're making the assumption that Stack Overflow makes a profit. –  Al E. May 3 '13 at 13:20
    
Jon Skeet would be the next Bill Gates if this happened! –  Cole Johnson May 3 '13 at 14:12
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@AlEverett isn't that true? They're a company with employees and stuff, and not a non-profit to my knowledge. –  djechlin May 3 '13 at 14:29
    
@djechlin: Stack Exchange is a business, sure, but I really doubt that they're making any money on Stack Overflow itself. I don't pretend to know the ins-and-outs of their business model, but I think it's stuff like Careers where the actual money comes from. –  Al E. May 3 '13 at 14:41
    
@AlEverett sure but where do job-seekers on careers come from... also see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/79435/… –  djechlin May 3 '13 at 14:42

5 Answers 5

You'd be surprised what motivates people.

Our top contributors stick around because they're getting something out of it. Some of them like the idea that they're helping other people by sharing knowledge as well as helping us continue to grow the site, some others are frequently at odds with us over decisions and changes we make but find themselves in a sort of symbiotic state with us - we provide a great platform that collects awesome contributions, they provide answers that collect accolade from their peers. Everyone wins.

As Gordon notes, top contributors receive gifts from us on occasion, we also reach out to users that cross various reputation levels and offer them their choice of whatever item(s) we have in stock at the time as our way of saying thanks. Some users even go as far as linking to their wish lists in their profiles for those that would like to provide a few coins in a proverbial tip jar - and that's perfectly fine.

What we don't do a very good job of doing is reaching out to those that devote most of their time to janitorial tasks such as honest reviewing, tag cleanups, editing, flagging, tag wiki maintenance, helping others here on meta and other things. These are the users that are clearly here because they believe in the resource itself - the improvements they make along with some badges are the only rewards that they see. Those are the folks that we need to do a better job of identifying and thanking in more tangible ways, in my own humble opinion.

Don't get me wrong, our top contributors are definitely a major part of what keeps people coming back to get answers to their questions. But, if the place reeked due to the janitorial work not getting done - nobody would stay around very long.

I suppose we could probably find more things to do for our top knowledge contributors, but we should be more concerned about cementing the relationship we have with users that are quite happy to work behind the scenes before we did anything else.

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I couldn't possibly agree more. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 21 '13 at 13:52

The All-time Top 100 users get their occasional swag as appreciation. They do not get any monetary incentive. General Micro-Payment schemes have been discussed for Stack Overflow in the past, but got rejected because Jeff and Joel think it would be harmful.

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I don't think I'm an all time 100,000 contributor, but I'll give my viewpoint.

I enjoy helping people that put forth the effort to learn by asking a well formed question. I also enjoy that I can skip questions from people that don't want to learn or people that can't form a question.

I wouldn't want to feel that I have to visit Stack Overflow or Programmers. It's hard enough for me to come up with good answers as fast as some others. It would be worse if we were paid. The expectations from questioners would get too high if they knew we were paid.

I've come to know some really good Java Swing developers because I read their answers over and over again. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if we could come together electronically and develop some really excellent Swing applications.

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Stack Overflow is being very successful without monetary incentives.

  • There is currently no business justification for that expenditure.
  • As noted by others, the decision makers feel it may even be detrimental to the site.

That could change if a truly competitive site not only appears, but is competitive because it's paying its contributors.

(When you find or build that site, post a link to it for us. It will help keep SO competitive as well.)

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+1 for passing Occam's Razor. "Cuz it works without paying users." Duh. –  djechlin May 3 '13 at 14:28

You don't need to pay me money, you already pay me with:

  • Interesting little problems to solve (my favourite)
  • Points (hooray)
  • Priviledges (now I can....)
  • Badges (woop)

Stack Overflow is easily and by far the best multiplayer puzzle-based game in the whole world. Why would you dream of paying me to take part?

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Because greed. Also shiny toys. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 21 '13 at 13:52

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