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A mere observation (and please correct me if you feel otherwise) -

Stack Overflow has, by and far, a lot more technical questions than algorithmic questions.

Why is this? Maybe because most programmers' jobs today are to hack together different components, and not necessarily devise clever solutions which are based on algorithmic problems?

I somehow feel that in the past I had more knowledge to share on Stack Overflow, and nowadays many questions are in technical domains which I am not proficient in.

Do you share my thoughts, or am I totally off course?

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If you are interested in algorithms, I invite you to come and vote on this proposal on Area 51. –  delete Jun 29 '10 at 11:41
I also feel similarly. It seemed a lot easier to answer questions on Stack Overflow a year ago. –  jjnguy Jun 29 '10 at 19:15
Algorithms are hard. Let's go shopping. –  Nicholas Knight Jun 29 '10 at 23:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted
  • As you say, frameworks hide much of the internal algorithms. The average programmer doesn't care about sorting algorithms, they just call myArray.Sort()

  • Those involved in algorithm research are probably more drawn to Math Overflow.

Don't try and compare your own personal knowledge that of a community of millions. The community will always know things you don't. That's why the generalist badge has been awarded to so few users.

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In general, the folks over at MathOverflow do not care about algorithms, and will close such questions if they are asked, unless they pertain to some cutting-edge area of research. –  Robert Harvey Jun 29 '10 at 15:27
@Robert, that's why I said "Those involved in algorithm research..." :-) –  Simon P Stevens Jun 29 '10 at 15:38
I wouldn't use the generalist badge as an argument as it only rewards broad knowledge within the top tags... –  Georg Fritzsche Jun 30 '10 at 0:30

The reason is simple. There is a ridiculously huge number of different technologies, while most people only have deal mainly with simple algorithms in their jobs. A university comp sci education has a large focus on algorithms - enough for most people to get by. So your average computer programmer will probably have a lot more unanswered questions about specific technologies than about algorithms.

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It seems to me that algorithmic questions would have a greater tendency to lead to long answers/discussions and also argumentative debates, which are discouraged on SO.

Also, there are probably many programmers who have (or at least think they have) a good grasp on the algorithm they're using, but maybe not on the exact way to get the language they're using to work.

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I do not agree with your proposition that algorithmic questions tend to be argumentative. Pose an algorithmic problem, and receive various solutions. Why should it be argumentative? –  Yuval A Jun 29 '10 at 14:47
@Yuval A: Admittedly speculation on my part, but I suspect some algorithm questions would lead to debate over whether an algorithm was the best choice for a problem. That might be the point of some q's, but distracting in others. –  GreenMatt Jun 29 '10 at 14:50
That kind of debate can occur on questions that don't even have to deal with algorithms; it is a problem that is not exclusive to algorithm based questions. –  Grace Note Jun 29 '10 at 14:57

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