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Stack Overflow has always had a bit of a Microsoft bend, owing to the fact that the seed audiences came from Coding Horror and Joel on Software. Still, it's always been a place where you could fully participate no matter what language or platform you program in or on.

The Generalist badge, however, rewards participation in the most popular tags, and of the top 40 tags, 11 are Microsoft technologies:

  • C#
  • .NET
  • SQL-Server
  • WPF
  • Windows
  • VB.NET
  • Visual-Studio
  • Winforms
  • Visual-Studio-2008

This means that someone that doesn't develop using Microsoft technology has a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the Generalist badge. A quick perusal through the list of those awarded the badge reveals that the majority are active in at least one of the above tags.

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Just to confirm, your issue is that a product suite that collectively covers probably...I don't know...75% of the developers out there (if you write Java for Windows or Mono for anything, you're covered, for example) is represented by 25% of the tags in the top 40? Where is the issue here? Is there something wrong with the 29 other tags? – Adam Robinson May 23 '10 at 19:24
Seems to me like you've answered your own question. The MS tech takes ~28% of the generalist, and non-ms takes the remaining ~72%. It doesn't take much to see that there is no bias in those statistics. – Kyle Rozendo May 23 '10 at 20:28

With a few exceptions, all of those tags refer to different products. Why does it matter if they're owned by the same company?

This complaint doesn't make sense to me. It's 25% of the top 40 tags for a company that owns probably 50% of the total market share and maybe 80% on the trilogy. And even among those:

  • Anybody familiar with any SQL product can probably answer sql-server questions.
  • Anybody familiar with any MVC product can probably answer questions.
  • Anybody familiar with any Windows development environment (including, for example, Delphi) can probably answer windows questions.

I don't see this as a problem. If the badge is biased toward Microsoft products then it's because Microsoft has a very diverse product selection and owns a huge portion of the market share. Isn't Stack Overflow's democratic nature its primary MO?

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Fine. Can we call it the Microsoft Programmer badge then, since that's apparently what it is? – ire_and_curses May 23 '10 at 17:03
@ire: Did you even read my answer? Microsoft is a company. They own many products. It makes no sense to look at the company, you have to look at product representation. Even if you do look at the company, your assertion is completely absurd for only a quarter of the tags. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 17:25
Anybody familiar with any MVC product can probably answer questions That's a bulls**t, pardon my French. Me knowing Spring doesn't mean I can find mistake in your configuration. Although, it's true that there're other tags with high-correlation in top 40. – Nikita Rybak Aug 16 '10 at 22:54
If the badge is biased toward Microsoft products then it's because Microsoft has a very diverse product selection Still, you get 4 more tags (.net, VS, VS-2008, windows) automatically just by working with C#. That's by far the biggest cluster of freebies among top 40. (Not sure how others of these 11 correlate) It's not exactly 'Microsoft Programmer' badge, but it's still heavily biased that way. – Nikita Rybak Aug 16 '10 at 23:12
@Nikita: I never said that knowing Ruby on Rails will help you answer every ASP.NET-MVC question, but it will help you answer some of them (for example, there are several high-level MVC design questions). W/r/t your next comment, those freebies come because Microsoft actually provides tooling for its products; Apple does too, and that's why you've got [objective-c], [iphone-sdk], [cocoa], [cocoa-touch], and [xcode] all on the first page of tags. So we've got Microsoft and Apple developers covered; is any other ecosystem anywhere near as big or well-established? – Aarobot Aug 16 '10 at 23:44
@Aarobot - Unix. Databases. – DVK Nov 27 '12 at 2:18

This is an interesting misdirection. It follows the argument,

  • Generalist Badge rewards answers in the top 40 tags
  • Top 40 tags are heavily Microsoft
  • Therefore Generalist badge is biased towards Microsoft.

The first statement is definitively true.

The second statement happens to be true. There is nothing in the site (code) or the rules that ensure that this is the case. It is simply true that most of the users are using Microsoft stack technology.

This is what makes the generalist badge so great. It is "easy" to get because (by definition) is it targeted at the largest demographic. The people who can aim for that badge should be active in the most popular tags, those tags being labeled as "popular" because they have the largest number of active users and questions.

The generalist badge is only concerned with whatever tags happen to be the top 40. It doesn't have the capability to care about the company or technology those are associated with.

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The second statement has always been true for Stack Overflow. Even though the Ruby, Python, and Objective-C communities today are much larger than the Microsoft communities were back when Stack Overflow was launched, they've always been comparatively smaller. My main concern is that as long as the Microsoft communities remain dominant, members of the other communities will be at a disadvantage for the Generalist badge. – Kyle Cronin May 23 '10 at 18:12
@Kyle: How does having 29 other tags available for Generalist leave people at a disadvantage? Strictly speaking, it seems like it's easier to get the badge completely without MS than it does completely with MS. – Adam Robinson May 23 '10 at 19:48
@Kyle: But Ruby, python, and Objective-C are represented in the top 40. As language tags, they're represented equally with and c#. The "over-representation" comes from the framework tags; Ruby has ruby-on-rails, python has django, Objective-C has iphone and iphone-sdk, and Microsoft has .net.,,, winforms and wpf. I'm sure that if there were mature ruby- or python-based frameworks that did the same thing as Winforms or WPF, they'd be up there too. The only tags that seem a little out of place in there are windows and visual-studio*. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 23:10

Linux PHP Web Programmer here and I got it. Yes it's biased but what alternative setup do you suggest?

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ahem – Kyle Cronin May 23 '10 at 16:51
So i've answered a few C# ones, not like i've gotten many points for it, check my profile – Ólafur Waage May 23 '10 at 16:53
Oh and the big contenders there are not questions centered on C# itself. One is a question from me being ignorant and the other two are general programming stuff. – Ólafur Waage May 23 '10 at 16:57
Some 'alternative setups': Suggested implementation for generalist badge – ire_and_curses May 23 '10 at 17:23
I actually like cletus's suggestion. – Ólafur Waage May 23 '10 at 17:25
It's funny that somebody with 28 out of 823 answers on c# gets downvoted as apparently being a bad counterexample. Many of those answers are not even that specific to C# or Microsoft technologies, and many of the rest are relatively short, straightforward answers. Honestly folks, he's not a .NET developer, he's just answered a couple of C# questions, same way I've answered a couple of PHP and Java questions. This, to me, is a perfect example of an actual "generalist", somebody who has his own interests but knows something about all of the most common areas. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 17:33
@Aarobot I'm not saying anything other than without his contributions to questions tagged c#, windows,, and .net, Ólafur would not have a Generalist badge. Run this query with his user id, 22459. – Kyle Cronin May 23 '10 at 18:08
@Kyle: I actually see 22 tags with 15 upvotes or more, and 14 for java, and 12 for ruby-on-rails. So even if he didn't have any of those tags you listed, he could still have picked up a Generalist badge pretty easily with maybe 10 minutes of additional effort. – Aarobot May 23 '10 at 18:33

Make the pie higher!

My main questions have been for ruby and git, but I couldn't care less that 11 of the top tags are MS related. If you want this iniquity fixed, recruit more programmers who use open source products to Stack Overflow.

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If you code Mono on Linux, you can participate from a position of strength in c#, .net,,, and

I guess it's slippery to say that this means it's not MS technology, but it's all free software, all without clicking through a single Microsoft EULA...

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It's Microsoft development stack. Has nothing to do with politics. BTW, I have the badge already and I agree it's too heavily MS based – DVK Nov 27 '12 at 2:21

This would be less of an issue if not for the fact that we permit, and in fact encourage, C# to be used as a tag even when the question has nothing to do with C#!

It is more often used as an indication of the programming language being used than as an indication of what the question is about.

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If this were fixed today, how would it significantly change the distribution? Maybe .net would be higher and c# would be lower but I'm certain that they'd both still be in the top 40. – Aarobot May 24 '10 at 14:00
I'm not sure how this would change the numbers. I only know that what we see today is the result of mixing two concepts: "what platform am I using" and "what is this question about". I think we need to fix that mixture if we're going to use tags to mean, "what is this question about". – John Saunders May 24 '10 at 19:23
Oftentimes answers would require a POC implementation, and I for one would not be able to read an answer posted in LISP. So rather than enumerate all the languages I don't want, for simplicity sake, I mention the language I want the answer to be in. – devinb May 25 '10 at 13:16

I was a little surprised to see it awarded. When I read "Active in many different tags", I always figured that you needed to earn at least nn upvotes on yy % of all tags that have at least xx questions attached to them.

This made sense, and explain why nobody had been awarded the badge, since (obviously) the # of qualifying tags is going to be a rapid moving target for the first couple of years.

However, I'm quite sure that people can earn the badge by being active in the other (nearly 75%) of the tags that are not related to Microsoft products.

Unfortunately, I don't think someone that deliberately avoids installing proprietary software on their computer is going to earn that badge.

But, well, as the saying goes ... you can't please everyone :) SO is a reflection of the industry as a whole, as it is (or was) at any given point in time. I think its therefore natural for SO to reflect that a lot of people currently use MS products and other proprietary software. You can't blame the mirror, after all ;)

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