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Are we programming less because we're finding good answers to questions and don't need to figure things out as much?

Or are we programming less because we're addicted to Stack Overflow and do these cancel each other out? i.e. we are spending the same time programming.

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migrated from Sep 5 '09 at 9:31

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This is a very subjectively worded question: you assume we are programming less, and want to discuss the reasons... What says that all of us (for that is how you word it) do actually program less than before? – Tomas Lycken Sep 5 '09 at 9:29
Why not community wiki? – user131683 Sep 5 '09 at 9:30
I read someone on SF that rosetta-stone indicates the post is not linked to a specific language (I stand to be corrected) I do agree maybe its in the wrong Q&A. I guess it is subjective, but is certianly no negative or agrumentative, it was more of a fun question to see what peoples thoughts were. – Mark Redman Sep 5 '09 at 9:33
i believe, then, that you're looking for "language-agnostic" – warren Sep 5 '09 at 11:50
What do you mean 'we'? – Rosinante May 11 '10 at 14:24
Is the fourth word in the post supposed to be "more"? – Pops May 11 '10 at 14:46

11 Answers 11

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I recently blogged that I was spending more of my spare time writing than coding. That's not just due to Stack Overflow, but it's part of it.

Is that a problem? If so, it's certainly my own fault and no-one else's. Having recently read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, I'm beginning to wonder whether my strength/talent is more in explaining things than in actual coding. That would in some ways be disappointing, but would suggest that I'm using my time reasonably wisely at the moment.

Of course, the danger is that the more time we spend answering, the less time we're spending learning future answers. Maybe if I didn't spend any time on SO, I would know WCF or the Entity Framework by now, for example. There's certainly a danger of continuing to answer after your knowledge has become stale. I think it wouldn't do me any harm to go back to coding a bit more every so often.

Questions like this are good for at least prodding us to consider such matters.

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In subjecting yourself to the discipline of explaining to others, you are more deeply entrenching the concepts in your own mind. Teaching is learning. – donnacha Sep 5 '09 at 19:54
On the other hand, any bad practices I've been picking up are also getting more deeply entrenched. I do agree in general though. – Jon Skeet Sep 5 '09 at 20:43

In some cases yes, I'm programming less. But I'm learning more.

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I have established a personal rule for myself - answer at least one question on StackOverflow every day. If nothing else, it broadens the horizons and encourages one to think in different and new ways. Every now and then I bump into a clever idea that I would have never thought about before.

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You're programming less because you're on Stack Overflow and not getting your work done. When you don't get your work done, you blow deadlines. When you blow these deathlines, chances of losing your job increase. Even to the tipping point of being under or just plain unemployed.

And when you are, you'll have all the time in the world before the poverty line cuts you in half to answer even more questions on SOFU.

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aha, but when we are asking questions, we are speeding things up and getting more work done :-) – Mark Redman Sep 5 '09 at 9:42
It appears you're not that addicted to Stack Overflow. Have a seat over here... – random Sep 5 '09 at 9:46
I was just exagerating a general point when I mention "addicted", didnt really imply that I was specifically. How would you know anyway? I could be reading every post and comment...twice! :-) – Mark Redman Sep 5 '09 at 10:35
Denial is the first stage. – tvanfosson Sep 5 '09 at 13:47
I can stop any time I want :-) – Mark Redman Sep 5 '09 at 15:29
So can I... after that Fanatic badge is in my clutches. – Pops May 11 '10 at 15:54

If anything SO is opening my eyes to more solutions that I never would have thought of and improving the code that I write. What's being sacrificed is my non-programming free time -- see here. I'm getting better though. Started working out again. Went to a high school football game last night -- though I did come back after and answer a question before I went to bed. I had to wait for my daughter to get out of the shower -- that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

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Okay, this is initially going to sound ridiculous, but how do you measure "programming less"? Counting the total number of minutes you're tapping on the keyboard, perhaps you're programming less. But if you're using SO effectively as the wonderful tool that it is, you'll be tapping out higher-quality code. If you're writing fewer lines of good code, are you really writing less than you would be with more lines of poor code?

EDIT: To be clear, I do think that I'm programming more. Even though it takes time to understand what I read on SO, and I may not bang out as many characters/lines of code, what I produce is better. Quality matters.

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We may be programming less, but are we programming better?

Only a beginner thinks the most important part of coding is the actual code - the thought process and planning behind it is vastly more important, and SO is likely to bring forward the best ways to do a task, or the best way to go about a problem.

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With respect, this is largely of a dupe of my answer. – Pops May 11 '10 at 18:12

Why re-invent the wheel when someone has already done that for you?

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I like learning about wheels. – Spencer Ruport Sep 5 '09 at 23:08

I often find myself writing more code.

When someone asks how to read some obscure data format with a regex, I will actually go and write a parser for it. Mainly for my own benefit/enjoyment.

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since you can't catch a photon*, SO is something to do while compiling

[*In the Shadow of the Skeet: You Can't Catch a Photon available in paperback at fine imaginary bookstores worldwide]

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I wasn't really programming less when I was using SO, usually it'd just be time looking at random articles and such or checking my email. But now that I've discovered MSO, my coding has gone down. Meta is such a huge waste of time. lol

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