What motivation(s) does Stack Exchange have for social media sharing?

Is it:

  1. To enhance the experience of the person viewing the page?
  2. To increase the number of people visiting Stack Exchange?

If the motivation is number 2, then I could see why it's not possible to turn off social media sharing. We need more people in the community, and more people viewing our advertising, whether you like it or not!

If the motivation is number 1, then the main reason not to make it configurable would be that it means more work for the developers, and one more thing for users to configure.

Background: Hide all those damn social buttons and links!

  • 1
    Every configuration option more means one more database hit on each page load, or similar. Sep 7, 2011 at 0:55
  • 1
    @Paŭlo: It would surprise me if they don't store it in the session.
    – user138231
    Sep 7, 2011 at 2:04
  • 7
    The real question is: Has anyone actually used the social media sharing links ever? A straw poll of several SO users I know says no.
    – Flexo
    Sep 7, 2011 at 16:21
  • @awoodland: Well, personally I haven't ever used the links (and won't ever do it), but it appears that quite a few people would like these buttons on SOFU, too. Sep 7, 2011 at 17:04
  • @awoodland I've used them. shrug
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Sep 7, 2011 at 18:15

4 Answers 4


Here's a third point: Seeing what questions get shared shows us what questions have the furthest reach. This ties in with Anonymous user feedback now in testing. Imagine there's question that lots of people care about – we can take that data and

  • could give incentives for keeping those far-reaching pages up-to-date,
  • could see discrepancies between voting and actual "usefulness" of a question, draw conclusions from that, and improve the voting system,
  • could look at what kind of questions are important to many people, what they have in common, and draw conclusions from that,
  • et cetera.

This somewhat correlates with your point 1, since making it easy for people to share questions they consider useful also makes it more likely that they do.

Your point 2 is probably more important for the smaller sites; Stack Overflow itself certainly doesn't have to complain about a lack of page views.

Regarding configurability: It's well-known that we're very careful about user preferences. We don't want to become Quora.

  • 1
    Actually, as I'm not using any of these social services, the buttons are not really useful for me. I could use a link/button to post it on my tumblr-account, though. Sep 7, 2011 at 16:50
  • 1
    The questions that lots of people care about are how CSS triangles work and pointless JavaScript obscurities - generally things that are of no actual use to any real programmer. Very few of the "ridiculously popular" questions (i.e. the ones that get shared) are actually useful or "matter" to anyone in a non-entertainment sense.
    – Justin
    Sep 7, 2011 at 21:49
  • @Kragen I'm sure you're basing that claim on extensive research and analysis. Unbiased and including elimination of outliers, of course. Maybe you could share your data?
    – balpha StaffMod
    Sep 8, 2011 at 2:58
  • 1
    Sure. Just have a quick scan through that list and pick out the ones that are actually useful as opposed to just interview questions or discussions about why certain language features exist. Notice how the further down that list you go the more useful the questions become.
    – Justin
    Sep 8, 2011 at 8:41
  • 1
    Now take a look through the list of unanswered questions. How many of those questions were shared on Facebook? Have a quick look through these questions - these are all well-written constructive questions based on actual problems people are trying to solve. Far-reaching == Entertaining != Useful.
    – Justin
    Sep 8, 2011 at 8:48
  • +0 but accepting. I don't "like" the answer, but accept it as your rationale. Sep 13, 2011 at 3:56

I imagine that it's 2. It makes at least somewhat sense on the more human and social SE sites which needs some more attention, love and recognition from the world wide web visitors.

But on Stack Overflow with all those asocial programmers? I don't know.

  • 2
    I recently found out that some programmers have feelings too.
    – Jin
    Sep 7, 2011 at 5:03
  • 2
    @Jin, my friend, that's why you're a designer ;)
    – user138231
    Sep 7, 2011 at 5:06

Because SE is a business and users coming to SE equals profits - whether you like it or not.

  • 1
    Traffic is usually a good thing for the community, too. We're not exactly a completely money-centric company you know.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Sep 7, 2011 at 15:53
  • @Grace: I agree; but you have to keep the lights on. Sharing questions and answers via Facebook expands the network beyond simple Google searches. Sep 7, 2011 at 16:01
  • We like all forms of expansion. Social links are one way, but think about the badges like Announcer, which can work with any form of linksharing. Forums, bulletin boards... social media links are more of a convenience than a sole factor.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Sep 7, 2011 at 16:04
  • @Grace: Don't fool yourself; if it was really all about great questions, then the site would be a non-profit. Sep 7, 2011 at 16:13
  • 4
    Actually, every feature on one of these sites (and even their existence) is ultimately for profit. This still does not exclude having other, intermediary goals (like growing the communities, getting feedback, making it comfortable for users), as these finally help giving profit. And it is not useful to answer all "why" questions here with "for profit" - the more interesting question is "what immediate goal do these features have". Sep 7, 2011 at 16:56

I've got to say that I find the whole "Like us on Facebook" fad amusingly pointless. Admittedly it does make a tad more sense on Stack Overflow than it does say for your supermarket or bank (who "likes" their bank!?!), but it still doesn't really make any sense.

  • -1 We don't have like buttons, and certainly don't plan to.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Sep 7, 2011 at 17:33
  • @balpha: What's the difference if it is posted to facebook and then liked? Sep 7, 2011 at 18:09
  • @0A0D Then the "like" probably applies to the post rather than SO/SE as an entity. There's a difference.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Sep 7, 2011 at 18:16
  • @balpha But you do have Facebook buttons, and what does Stack Exchange have to do with either faces, books, or social media in general?
    – Justin
    Sep 7, 2011 at 21:40

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