In my opinion, Stack Overflow and the related websites have been very successful, especially considering the contents are mostly written voluntarily.

Has there been scientific research analyzing the main reasons people contribute here? It will be more interesting if the statistics are weighted by rep or answer upvotes, because I think the active and high-quality answerers are more interesting to know.

  • 3
    I would guess that 75% would say "for the rep", and the remaining 25% would lie and say something other than "for the rep" :p
    – user229044
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:42
  • @meagar purely for the street cred. Tough neighborhood.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:48
  • 1
    To get chicks. Since I signed up on SO, I frequently get E-Mails: Hi i saw your profile on Stack Overflow. I am young woman and nice. I would like start conversation with you...
    – Pekka
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 15:51
  • related - scientific research on Gender, Representativeness and Reputation in Stack Overflow
    – gnat
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 6:55

1 Answer 1


Yes and no. The reasons people contribute to Stack Overflow and its sister sites are the same reasons that drive all human behavior. There's more research out there on altruism, the desire to show off, intermittent reward, &c. than you can read in a lifetime. To the best of my knowledge, though, there hasn't been any formal research about any of those things specifically in the context of SO/SE.

If you're okay with less formal results, check out these MSO questions about why/how people participate:

There have also been several questions on MSO about SO/SE appearing in academic contexts, either as the topic of research or as a source in research. As far as I know, which is admittedly not that far, none of that research addresses your specific question, but some of it may touch on the issue, and/or lead you towards papers that do address your question.

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