That phrase was quoted from SO podcast #60 and based on previous Jeff Atwood's comments, he prefers developers to spend more time answering questions on SO than talking about SO.

I didn't particularly appreciate these kinds of comments because:

  • The time developers spend on SO is their own time. No one is paying them. All contributions are free and are done based on developers' generosity.
  • No one should feel like they should be doing something rather than another on SO.
  • A lot of developers could be earning real money working on real projects rather than spending time on SO.
  • Some people prefer to be philosophers than trying to answer technical questions which are beyond their experience.

I understand the motivation from Jeff might be to get more traffic which brings more ads and subsequently more money. Meta posts don't contribute in this area.

I might want to use the meta site more than answering questions. My goal is for SO to improve itself so I can benefit from it better so I can do my job faster and more efficiently so I can earn more and so I can market myself better. Everyone benefits. I actually do not mind paying for this. I was paying Experts Exchange to get answers as I have projects to finish.

I use most of my SO time asking questions and I hardly answer questions. I mean I do not spend time searching for questions to answer. I am really busy and I use SO so that I can finish my work faster. I am not into badges, points, reward systems and stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with them. It's just not my forte. Does this make me a bad SO user? Am I like those customers banks don't make money off and they would rather not have them? My questions could bring more traffic. Even Joel says he likes newbie programmer questions. The long tail brings more traffic.

My goal from using the meta site is to get requested functionality implemented. Then SO could be more productive for me and others. Site owners should be glad and grateful users want to talk about how to improve from their sites. SO is for the users by the users and gets better from users' input.

That's how meta stuff is part of building a solution.


4 Answers 4


I don't think you need to worry too much about your involvement. You may use SO primarily to ask questions, but others primarily answer questions, edit posts, fix grammatical errors, and police spammers.

There are many different types of users on SO, and no single type should feel pressured to conform to the behavior of any other type.

Keep asking questions, we'll keep answering, others will fix our grammar, and yet others will keep the noise to a minimum while we all enjoy SO.


Erm, this entire site is dedicated to nothing but discussing StackOverflow, and suggesting ways to improve it..


I wouldn't sweat it too much - it seems like an offhand comment. You are free to do whatever you wish.

  • 1
    Jeff's pretty good at those coming back to bite him in the rear.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Jul 2, 2009 at 18:56
  • 5
    @TheTXI: Maybe -- and this is strictly conjecture -- Jeff enjoys being bitten in the rear. Commented Jul 2, 2009 at 18:58
  • 2
    it beats being bitten in the front, anyways. Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 11:56

After listening to the podcast and reading this thread again, I must say that I feel as though Jeff doesn't have a good appreciation for the role of philosophy in general. Maybe it was just an off-hand comment that wasn't really thought-through, or maybe it wasn't meant in the seemingly-unequivocal manner in which it was communicated.

In all honesty, I have no idea what programming would be without the impact of philosophy. We practice philosophy when we design data-structures, asking ourselves questions like "What IS a user."

I don't really want to spend too much time on this response, because I don't think Jeff really meant what it sounded like he meant. Just to summarize, if you're not the type that "thinks about problems," you're probably not a very good developer.

  • this is more akin to thinking about thinking about problems, aka, Frameworkitis. codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000450.html Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 11:57
  • Jeff, I got the feeling you were referring more to paralysis via analysis. Where thought extends beyond it necessary limit. That distinction wasn't made clear in the podcast though.
    – Sampson
    Commented Jul 7, 2009 at 12:22

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