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The question I set out to answer was: Which tags on Stack Overflow are more popular during business days, which during weekends? This post is not really a question, just something I'd like to share with the Stack Overflow community. If these analyses are inappropriate here, please inform me, because I would like to do more of them and will post them unless someone stops me.

Algorithm

From the April 2010 data dump, I've extracted a list of tags that exhibit notable variation between week days. The Python scripts (source here and here) work as follows:

  • Take all questions, and determine the day of the week on which they were first created. Note that all users are assumed to be in Greenwich during the winter; there's no simple way to avoid this.
  • For all tags, count the number of occurrences for each day of the week.
  • Divide these numbers by the total count for the corresponding week day to get relative frequencies per week day.
  • Take only the tags used for more than 5000 questions to filter out statistical noise. This number was determined empirically to give a nice short list of the most salient results.
  • Normalize the frequencies within each tag so their average becomes 1.
  • Rank the tags by the standard deviation of the normalized frequency as a function of the week day.
  • Group them by business days and weekends.

And out pops the result! The number in parentheses is the standard deviation of the normalized frequencies, as described above.

Business days

  • sql-server is most popular on Wednesday (0.513)
  • linq is most popular on Monday (0.299)
  • asp.net is most popular on Thursday (0.294)
  • visual-studio is most popular on Thursday (0.275)
  • xml is most popular on Wednesday (0.268)
  • flex is most popular on Tuesday (0.267)
  • vb.net is most popular on Tuesday (0.266)
  • .net is most popular on Friday (0.262)
  • visual-studio-2008 is most popular on Wednesday (0.259)
  • wpf is most popular on Wednesday (0.256)
  • sql is most popular on Friday (0.256)
  • winforms is most popular on Monday (0.217)
  • c# is most popular on Thursday (0.200)
  • windows is most popular on Friday (0.130)
  • asp.net-mvc is most popular on Monday (0.088)
  • java is most popular on Wednesday (0.067)
  • flash is most popular on Friday (0.064)
  • regex is most popular on Friday (0.058)

Weekend days

  • beginner is most popular on Sunday (0.557)
  • objective-c is most popular on Saturday (0.484)
  • c is most popular on Sunday (0.465)
  • iphone-sdk is most popular on Saturday (0.442)
  • python is most popular on Sunday (0.357)
  • php is most popular on Sunday (0.342)
  • ruby is most popular on Sunday (0.330)
  • iphone is most popular on Saturday (0.321)
  • ruby-on-rails is most popular on Sunday (0.319)
  • django is most popular on Sunday (0.312)
  • c++ is most popular on Sunday (0.286)
  • mysql is most popular on Saturday (0.260)
  • linux is most popular on Sunday (0.223)
  • android is most popular on Saturday (0.221)
  • subjective is most popular on Saturday (0.216)
  • web-development is most popular on Saturday (0.200)
  • best-practices is most popular on Saturday (0.156)
  • css is most popular on Sunday (0.100)
  • ajax is most popular on Saturday (0.077)
  • database is most popular on Saturday (0.077)
  • html is most popular on Sunday (0.070)
  • jquery is most popular on Sunday (0.068)
  • javascript is most popular on Sunday (0.068)

Analysis

I find these results really interesting. Some things are as one would expect:

  • Most of the "business days" segment is taken up by enterprise technologies, mainly .NET.
  • Many (web)scripting languages are primarily used during weekends.
  • beginner is the most weekend-biased tag; time off is when people teach themselves. Employers, take heed!
  • discussions take place mostly outside the boss's hours.

Other results surprised me more:

  • Both C and C++ are apparently weekend languages. Would this be due to the open source movement? Garage game developers?
  • Most of iPhone and Android development also takes place during the weekend.
  • People do not reach for regexes during the weekend, but rather when the work week is nearly over anyway.

Comments and suggestions are welcome!

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1  
Would be interesting to see the same for meta, and maybe Super User as well. Though Super User doesn't really have trends of tags, rather many different ones, but can be interesting anyway. For Meta, it would show which days are generating the most bugs, and which the most waffles. –  Gnoupi Apr 10 '10 at 22:13
    
Perhaps this should say weekdays instead of business days? To me business days implies that you took holidays into consideration. –  Pops Sep 22 '10 at 20:05
    
Part of the problem with this is that the work week is different across the world. That is some countries work on Sunday while many do not. You would have to count business days in some fashion instead of Saturday and Sunday. –  demongolem Dec 5 '13 at 23:32

4 Answers 4

Funny stuff. I guess the typical developer schedule looks like:

  • Monday: Procrastination, start doing the easy/interesting work (UI design, playing with LINQ extensions).

  • Tuesday: Bug fix day, after all of Monday's bug reports are in from Friday's deployment.

  • Wednesday: Realize that the boring work needs to get done too (yay, parsing XML and optimizing database queries!)

  • Thursday: Finally getting into the grind, most questions are "support" (strange bugs in Visual Studio);

  • Friday: Combination of deployments (SQL, .NET) and people working on their pet work projects because it's the end of the week (Flash intros, learning regular expressions)

  • Saturday: Hobbyist developers are running the show, working on their mobile games and social bookmarking applications; others finally start to ask their pent-up vague/subjective questions that they would have felt bad about wasting work hours on.

  • Sunday: High school and college students finally start doing their homework.

The only real anomalies are WPF (doesn't really fit into Wednesday mode) and the Ruby and related questions on Sunday (maybe someone who does Ruby can explain that one).

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1  
Kind of depends on what you find interesting - I'd rather eat my own head than do UI design or use LINQ. OTOH, I quite enjoy writing SQL queries and parsers. –  nb69307 Apr 10 '10 at 22:09
4  
@Neil: You're in the top 20 users with a grand total of 13 questions. ;) I think for the average Joe Enterprise Developer, dragging and dropping Winforms controls is a pleasant, relaxing way to look busy while avoiding any real work. –  Aarobot Apr 10 '10 at 22:13
    
But I've always felt like that! –  nb69307 Apr 10 '10 at 22:21
    
I absolutely despise the drag and drop nature of Winforms. You can waste way more time typing it all out by hand :) (note, I really do this because I hate drag and drop. seriously. ) and I completely agree with @Neil I love doing the more "low-level" parts of the application. –  Earlz Apr 10 '10 at 23:44
    
Note that the answer says easy/interesting, which means "easy OR interesting", not "easy AND interesting." –  Aarobot Apr 11 '10 at 0:06

Statistics posts like this are absolutely welcome. These are very interesting results!

Could you make a 7-bucket bar graph for the top few weekday and weekend tags, to see how much variation there is between the days?

It's a bummer that [perl] just missed the cutoff with 4,472 questions. I'd say it's very much a weekday tag; there are hardly any posts at all on the weekends.

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1  
Do perl hackers have weekends? –  Aarobot Apr 11 '10 at 0:10

Interesting. My subjective experience is different - I find it harder to find C++ questions to answer at the weekends. Or maybe it's a question of the quality of the questions.

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I'll bet that the last-minute-homework factor is the reason why your experience is different. C/C++ is still common in schools, and a lot of those C/C++ questions on Sunday may be of the plzsendtehcodez variety. –  Aarobot Apr 10 '10 at 22:08
    
Aren't the C/C++ questions here simply shadowed by the "enterprise technologies" during week-days? –  Georg Fritzsche Apr 10 '10 at 23:09
    
@gf: The list shows, for any given tag, which day of the week it's most popular on. The overall popularity of the tags relative to each other shouldn't make a difference. –  Aarobot Apr 11 '10 at 0:13
    
@Neil Butterworth: Weekends are only about half as busy as business days, in terms of number of questions asked. So that would explain. –  Thomas Apr 11 '10 at 10:27

Could you work out what the same person are using in the week and the weekend? E.g. how many people are doing .net in the week, but iPhone at the weekend?

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