I'm a CS/programming teacher encouraging student to go on site like SO (though they are not English native, so it may be too hard to them) and also teaching them how to ask good question. I would like to have an idea (not a precise figure of course) on what is the ratio Student / Seasoned programmer on Stack Overflow.

Of course there is no way to tell who is who, but using various profile statistic there should be some indications. More importantly, I'd like to have an idea if this ratio is increasing or decreasing.

Does anyone have an idea on how to do that?

To make my question clearer: I'm both asking for technical advice and for formula ideas to get a meaningful figure.

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    You could have a look at the yearly surveys: blog.stackoverflow.com/2014/02/… in the excel sheet column H holds Occupation with student being in he domain for that answer. Not sure if they asked that question last year though... – rene Mar 10 '14 at 9:56
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    You can query the user data that is available on data.stackexchange.com - it includes age (if entered) and the about me blurb. Might be enough to get some notion of current ratios. – Oded Mar 10 '14 at 10:00
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    You want to be careful with this question whether you mean raw numbers of users (in which case it's overwhelmingly non experts) or by hours on site (in which case it's more even). We have a lot of people who ask 1 or 2 questions and are never seen again but we also have committed users who're here a lot – Richard Tingle Mar 10 '14 at 10:33
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    Stupid question time: why, in the context of your teaching, would you like to know this ratio? – Bart Mar 10 '14 at 10:37
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    Mostly to have base for discussions with colleagues asking whether it is a good idea to point student to SO. – hivert Mar 10 '14 at 10:40
  • Okay, fair enough. I was just curious. This post might be of interest by the way. – Bart Mar 10 '14 at 12:08
  • It is a common teaching question: "can an Internet site do my job for me?" No. That you still have a job is primary evidence for that. SO in particular does not teach, everybody is expected to have done their homework. – Uphill Luge Mar 10 '14 at 13:00
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    @UphillLuge my goal is of course not to delegate my course to SO, but teach student about collaborative work and also how to properly ask a question or report a bug on a forum. – hivert Mar 10 '14 at 13:03
  • See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/115922/… – Shog9 Mar 10 '14 at 16:04
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    recommended reading: Open letter to students with homework problems – gnat Mar 10 '14 at 16:17
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    Aren't we all students here... – Arian Faurtosh Mar 11 '14 at 0:28

Allow me to state without equivocation that suggesting people just learning to program use Stack Overflow for help does them a disservice. They don't yet have the point-of-view to ask good questions---they often don't even see what is wrong with the questions they try to ask and some come to meta and lash out at the users of the site for insisting on quality.

Once they can kinda hack their way through the "easy" problems in an intro book (almost any intro book) it's another matter, because by then they are programmers (albeit, very green and wet-behind-the-ears programmers). Their brains have started to twist in that characteristic way. But until they are programmers they are likely not going to do well on Stack Overflow.

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Is it a good idea to point students to Stack Overflow?

A qualified "maybe."

I can't tell you what the exact ratio of student to seasoned user is because, quite honestly, we don't know that. Students don't generally self-identify. However, I can give you some general observations.

The ratio of neophytes to experts is quite high, and has been increasing over time. The general level of expertise for most new questions nowadays is fairly low. For a time, the site was being overrun with terrible questions, so there are now software mechanisms in place that block at least 25% of newly-asked questions for quality reasons, and account blocks for the worst offenders.

My goal is of course not to delegate my course to SO, but teach student about collaborative work and also how to properly ask a question or report a bug on a forum.

The Help Center article How do I ask a good question goes into some detail about how folks can ask questions productively on Stack Overflow. At the bottom of that article, it links to Eric Raymond's article How to Ask Questions the Smart Way. That's a tough love article, but it describes in detail every possible thing that can go wrong on any Internet support site, including Stack Overflow.

If your students can read those two articles and heed their advice, they'll do fine on Stack Overflow.

Further Reading
How to Debug Small Programs
Open Letter to Students with Homework Problems

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    Eric Lippert's How to Debug Small Programs is also good reading, and will (hopefully) cut down on the low-quality low-expertise questions. – Oblivious Sage Mar 10 '14 at 16:00
  • @ObliviousSage: What a great article. It's nice to see someone like Eric Lippert taking such an active interest in Stack Exchange's computing sites. – user102937 Mar 10 '14 at 16:24

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