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I just realized: By exploring stackoverflow.com and reading other questions (and answers of course) I learned a lot new things. I obtained more in-depth knowledge on certain topics, identified better explanation than what I would have given and investigated new fields of interest.

Do you experience the same? Is this a desired intent of stackoverflow.com? Would you like to improve this experience or rather see this go away?

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migration rejected from stackoverflow.com Feb 14 at 0:53

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closed as too broad by Servy, Martijn Pieters, Flyk, James, doppelgreener Feb 14 at 0:53

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
quite true..strongly agree with that –  zlippr Jul 25 '12 at 9:20
    
Strongly agree with you too. In fact this community was born to make the people using it, evolve in the process :) –  user251936 Feb 13 at 22:00

6 Answers 6

It surely helps to learn a lot. You can easily answer questions and then find out somebody has a better way of doing the same thing. Or just read some questions related to the field[s] you are interested in and most of the time you'll find something interesting and new in the answers.

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An RSS feed of a specific tag can be quite useful for learning about a specific technology

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The intended desire of SO (if I have listened correctly to Jeff and Joel's podcasts) is to build a reference for programming questions, where information will be accurate and remain accurate (which fits the wikipedia dimension advocated by their faq page).

However:

  • how accurate they are, there is not enough incentive (in term of badge and/or points) to re-visit old questions with now inaccurate answers
  • there can be no consolidation of those informations (scattered amongst many many questions, and amongst many answers representing different point of views, which is great) for a given technology field. That is by design and I do not criticize it.

So yes, it is a neat tool to pick some useful tips, but:

  • it needs to evolve in order to update those informations (a 'question status change' can be one possible way to trigger those updates)
  • the reader must not always take the highest up-voted or accepted answer for granted as the only "good" information: often other answers below as just as interesting or challenging ;)

That said, SO rocks, off course :)

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2  
upvoted. But also wanted to comment. This is a very thoughtful answer. –  Vivek Kodira Oct 17 '08 at 13:45

Yes, reading information often produces learning. Sorry that I'm not more shocked - maybe I'm just tired.

It's been a long week of learning ;-)

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Excuse me for appearing dismissive :-) but it does sound like you have not been in an online programmer community before, or at least not any good one.

Yes, having focussed and productive programming-related discussion with other good programmers tends to produce immense growth for at least a couple of years. I know that spending some 4–5 years on Perl Monks made me an immeasurably better programmer than I was before. It doesn’t necessarily deepen your understanding of any one topic too greatly, but it brings you into contact with a broad range of issues in programming and related to programming, and with a variety of views about them, so it tends to round you out and train what Paul Graham would call your taste as a programmer.

That growth kind of tends to peter out after some time because participating in communities is most helpful in acquiring broadly applicable knowledge – once your broad-knowledge basis is well established, your interests tend to diversify and go into less explored niche areas. After that, you have to pick specific study materials and drill down into topics purposefully and deeply to continue growing.

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I have experienced the same thing, you can learn a lot from SO.

When I stated with Stack Overflow about 3 years ago, I knew what topics I was interested in and I kept reading lots of questions and answers, while trying to answer them as well. Over time my focus has shifted around between:

  • mostly reading answers (to gain knowledge and find answers to problems that I didn't have),
  • mostly reading questions (to learn about what people are having trouble with in the frameworks that I know and use)
  • mostly answering questions (to share knowledge but also my understanding about the frameworks and best practices)

I don't think any of these are phases that you get over, and the split between the three has probably always been around 50% - 25% - 25%. I feel that for anyone who want to keep learning, doing all three of these to some extent is important.

What I did was to subscribe (with email) to the tags that I enjoy the most and take the time to read almost all the new questions that come in (they are not high frequency tags, there is probably slight less than 10 questions in a day). I would recommend that you try it out and see how you like it. After a while you start noticing patterns in the questions that are asked and you find common misunderstandings (in the questions) and different peoples solutions (in the answers) to the same problem (yes, duplicates happen quite a lot).

While I believe this is a good thing, I don't think it is the desired intent and I don't think that Stack Overflow should try and adapt to this (either for or agains) in any way. However, I think it fun and good to see external systems trying to take this information, the good questions and answers that developers should read and share them. For example, this twitter account (which I assume is a bot).

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