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If your boss sees that you spend a lot of time on StackOverflow to solve other's problems, how can you explain it?

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migrated from Mar 19 '10 at 21:06

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

up vote 23 down vote accepted

My code is compiling.

Are you stealing those LCDs?' 'Yeah, but I'm doing it while my code compiles.

If seriously, tell him that:

  • Attempting to answer a question or to teach something to somebody is the best way to get a deeper understanding of the problem for yourself

  • By regularly and intentionally getting involved in a vast variety of programming problems you expand your knowledge horizons and stay up-to-date, which makes you a better professional than that COBOL dinosaur at the desk in the corner, from which your boss only benefits.

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I cannot increase your reputation because I don't have too much points, but your answer is really funny. Thank you! – Maurizio Reginelli Mar 19 '10 at 21:18
:-( Too bad we develop in interpreted languages... – Pavel Shved Mar 19 '10 at 21:27
@Maurizio, if you have 200 points on SO (which it seems you do), you can associate your accounts to get a 100-point bonus. – mmyers Mar 19 '10 at 21:37
@mmyers, how can I do that? – Maurizio Reginelli Mar 19 '10 at 21:41
@Pavel then the excuse is "it's running the test suite" -- ahh, you have that, don't you? Otherwise SO is a great way to learn about that. – hurikhan77 Mar 19 '10 at 21:42

Send him the link to OnStartups.

He'll be spending days there answering business-related questions of other people.

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+1 Hahahahahahaha! Instead of getting back to work, infecting the boss as well. Great idea. :) – Pëkka Mar 19 '10 at 21:26
Another nice answer!!! I didn't know that site. – Maurizio Reginelli Mar 19 '10 at 21:26

If you spend a lot of time solving other people's problems, maybe you can't explain why. You are paid to solve certain problems of interest to your employer, not any arbitrary software problem that may be happening at some point of the planet.

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+1 participating in SO is a great thing, but doing so on someone else's time? I don't know. If I had employees, I would allow some participation, but with very strict limitations - knowing how easy it is to spend a lot of time here.... – Pëkka Mar 19 '10 at 21:18
@Pekka: I agree. That's what I do actually (as an employee). Small lapses of disconnect-and-answer-something are ok and do good to your brain, but dedicating "a lot" of time to these things would be just slacking off. – Daniel Daranas Mar 19 '10 at 21:19

I tell him it's an investment in a community/service that's provided me with dozens of good answers to hard problems.

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Maybe explaining it is the wrong thing to do. What is it you get paid to do again?

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I'd explain and show to him a question I posted about that particular problem no one else could solve in the project for the last two weeks and how fast it was solved by using

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My boss says that it's cool that I'm on Stackoverflow, sharing my knowledge and learning from others. That makes me a better programmer, which benefits the team.

Of course, I should stop my working hours tracker when I enter SO. But my boss nevertheless says it's cool... And I start suspecting that...

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"Stackoverflow is a programming questions and answers site. I use it to expose myself to new technologies, to hone my skills, and to find answers to pressing questions and roadblocks."

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Maybe if it's a problem then your boss should be putting pressure on you.

Or if it's not a problem but your boss thinks it is and your boss wouldn't understand then maybe you should find a new boss (aka new job).

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