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I look at Stack Overflow as two things.

  1. A way to learn
  2. A way to give back as I have received

The people in my office range across skill levels all the way from the top to the bottom but I am one of two people who participate on this site. I venture to guess that this is similar at other offices too, the brightest people still are not participating and I would like be able to learn from them too.

So. How would you motivate your colleagues to join Stack Overflow to get them to participate in this process?


(merged a virtually identical question):

As the age old idiom goes "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

I've had difficulty encouraging peers to use the trilogy to the help with their work. Unfortunately, this avoidance behavior extends to all technical forum websites. I end up answering a lot of questions personally or posting a question for them. What methods have you used to encourage peers to use forum sites? Is it just a personality thing?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Oct 14 '09 at 18:42

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

10  
Stop answering them directly. Seriously. –  LeakyCode Sep 18 '09 at 17:08
33  
When someone asks you a question, tell them you are closing the conversation as "Belongs on stackoverflow.com". –  gnostradamus Sep 18 '09 at 17:11
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9 Answers

If you have to motivate them, I don't think they should be here.

I think it's more valuable to tell them about it, what benefits they can receive, and let them make their own decision to use it or not. I got here from a Google search on a subject, found the site extremely intriguing, and signed up. That said, I have a natural propensity toward helping others.

If your co-workers/friends/colleagues don't have this desire, you can't force them to have it. However, they still might come here and obtain great information, which is also a great use of SO.

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1  
well spoken, sir –  bananakata Oct 14 '09 at 18:44
    
+1 couldn't say it better myself. –  Kevin Oct 14 '09 at 18:45
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It has nothing to do with elitism, and it's a shame that you interpreted it that way, as that is not at all what I meant. The point is, not all people will want to GIVE to SO, because it's a personality thing. Like I said, all you can do is lead a man to SO, but you cannot teach him to teach. –  snicker Oct 14 '09 at 18:48
    
+1, timing is everything, eventually they may join when they get the calling and feel the need to help others :) –  fedmich Sep 27 '12 at 2:39
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This format of help is not suited for everyone. A lot of my friends don't like the Trilogy since they don't like getting the answer straight without learning more about the issue at hand. So this is no Holy Grail or anything.

Other's just have another favorite forum they like to use.

One friend of mine is a sysadmin for a pretty large system and I've pointed him towards ServerFault and he has used it for a few questions. But it's only after he has tried all other methods.

My suggestion, just let it come naturally.

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2  
How do they get the answers indirectly? –  Ladybug Killer Sep 18 '09 at 17:17
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@John: Osmosis. –  gnostradamus Sep 18 '09 at 17:18
    
Reading documentation mostly. Then local peers. After that it's a possibility they can use SOFU or some other forum. –  Ólafur Waage Sep 18 '09 at 17:19
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@John through the medium of mime –  Rich Seller Sep 18 '09 at 17:29
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Har Har. I realize now the error I made. Yes make fun of the icelander :P –  Ólafur Waage Sep 18 '09 at 17:46
    
@Ólafur Waage: I'd argue that reading documentation is getting answers directly :) –  perbert Sep 18 '09 at 17:47
    
+1 for laughing like a Viking ;) –  Ladybug Killer Sep 18 '09 at 17:53
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I should get separate Viking rep. –  Ólafur Waage Sep 18 '09 at 17:57
7  
Vikings don't get Rep, they take it! –  gnostradamus Sep 18 '09 at 18:04
1  
Plundering rep is essential because the active process of plundering raises the metabolism and keeps the Icelandic Vikings from freezing to death if they stray too far from their volcanoes. –  TheTXI Oct 14 '09 at 19:51
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Some people have trouble formulating a clear, informative, useful question. I fear the SO community may be becoming less and less tolerant of poor quality questions, which makes actually posting a question rather a frightening prospect.

Of course, it's also hard to know how a given individual will do unless they try.

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Tell them you have a higher rep than they could ever have and follow this with a number of nana's!

Make it a competitive thing.

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2  
ahem; nana nana nana... (waits for Jon to counter ;-p) –  Marc Gravell Oct 14 '09 at 20:16
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I love SO for the fact that I can take a break from my work and use that break time effectively to learn more, gain more knowledge, or help someone else. It can be very beneficial, but be careful, it can be addictive. ;) That won't always grab an unmotivated workers attention though.

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Send them links to answers to their specific problems.

Everybody wants their problem solved.

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You could get the stackoverflow.com stickers and put them up in your cube - maybe more co-workers will get curious, visit, and start participating.

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when they ask you a question, tell them that they should ask it on stackoverflow.com

period. then don't help them - you are much too busy, or you just don't know.

[if you really think it's that important!]

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How about putting a link to your email signature, showing your reputation count in there, badge count etc.

They would notice it each time they read your email and perhaps one day they might join and help SO community.

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