23

OK, it feels like this is tapering off a little, so I'm going to do the same thing as last week ... I'll still check in here and read, but I'm probably not going to post much more here. The next question from me is here!


Last week, I asked a couple of questions and was thrilled with the response that I got - if you haven't left an answer there yet, please feel free to go back and check them out. I'm still reading (though not responding to) the answers there. I also promised at the time that I'd be back to ask more questions as follow-ups. So here I am.

My next question (and again, I'll be checking frequently over the next 24-48 hours, and as much as possible after that, but with diminishing frequency) is a bit less weighty, but more so that I can get to know you. (This is in response to a couple of suggestions that came in that we bifurcate and ask a lighter weight question as well):

  • What was the question that brought you to SO or the network originally? Did you post it or were you searching for an answer? If you were searching, did you find the answer?

  • If you didn't come in as a result of a question, I'd be very curious about how you found us and what brought you here as well.

I can't wait to see the responses to this, and look forward to a lively discussion - just as there was last week.

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40 Answers 40

25

In 2014 I was playing The Simpsons Tapped Out (TSTO), a city builder game themed on The Simpsons TV show, on my iPad. It was February and there was a Valentine's Day themed event going on. I had questions, apparently. I hadn't stumbled across their EA forum yet, instead, finding questions on Arqade - I don't know what specifically drew me to the site but I can confirm that, in typical fashion for me, my first action on the site wasn't to ask, but to answer a question.

Throughout the rest of February, I asked four questions (about another iOS game, Tiny Death Star) and wrote six answers (including an answer I still really love but don't know if it's actually correct)... and then apparently forgot Stack Exchange existed for a while.

I eventually got pulled back in by several sites including Movies & TV, Seasoned Advice, and English Language Learners. At one point I started poking around the network, looking for more interesting sites and I remember discovering that there was a programming site and running to my (now) husband (who is a programmer) excitedly telling him about this "Stack Overflow" site that was a Q&A site for programmers. He looked at me like I was an idiot for not knowing that SO was ubiquitous in the programming world.

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15

It's been a very long time, so my memory is a bit fuzzy. But it wasn't a single question that brought me to SO, I simply ended up often enough here searching for programming topics that I started to notice the place and became interested.

One thing I still remember that I found really interesting was the fact that everybody could edit anything. Simply being able to fix that annoying typo in the question instead of just staring at it was a nice change. I also thought there was no way this would work without abuse, but that turned out to be surprisingly different in practice.

At that time I didn't really actively participate in forums or other community-based sites, the SE network was really the first one that convinced me to actually post stuff myself and not just read it. And I think this was to a large extent because it had a bit of a different vision that I found very convincing. The content was what drew me to the site to read it, but I started to participate because I found the high signal-to-noise Q&A system to be a very interesting experiment.

Another factor I liked was that the content was CC-licensed. SE is a for-profit company, but the content still belongs to everyone. That seemed like a nice compromise to me that ensures that the sites stay up but the community still doesn't give up all rights to the content they create.

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  • 9
    In addition to my own answer here, "I didn't really actively participate in forums or other community-based sites, the SE network was really the first one that convinced me to actually post stuff myself and not just read it" perfectly describes me as well. I've lurked elsewhere for years: reddit, Twitter, regrettably Quora. This was the only site that made me feel like contributing was worth it. Jul 22 at 21:21
14

I arrived here after someone over on the jQuery forums (where I was a moderator) posted a link to an SO question as a reference. I particularly liked the Q/A structure compared to the forum thread structure so I decided to begin answering/moderating on SO which quickly lead to me no longer participating on the forum.

5
  • Cool - so more of a general find for you, not related to a specific question?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 22 at 19:31
  • Correct, just sort of discovered it while helping others. I've never been much of an asker
    – Kevin B
    Jul 22 at 19:32
  • 6
    I think that's interesting, because we sort of assume that people find us as a result of questions, I suspect. Either asking or searching and finding the answer to one in particular. Yours is an important origin story to consider.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 22 at 19:35
  • 7
    So where did the compulsion to post 🚽 emoji in the tavern come from? Was it a coincidence it was right after a link to this question? Jul 22 at 20:32
  • Let’s just say, I posted it before the link to this post was visible to me
    – Kevin B
    Jul 22 at 20:39
13

I wasn't brought to Stack Overflow by a question. Long ago when I was younger and still in high school, I had a couple of close friends and we just casually shared personal projects with each other and asked each other questions. One day, one of my friends brought up Stack Overflow in a conversation and asked if I'd ever heard of it. I hadn't, so he told me to check it out. I browsed around a little but never signed up or did anything (granted it was 2009 and still early for the site).

Something less than a year passed between that first mention and him asking me about it again. He had spent some time on the site and earned some reputation, and suggested I create an account and see if I could answer some questions myself. And so I did.

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13

Back in 2008, I was a relatively green developer doing cutting-edge CRUD apps using ASP.NET web forms. I had been an avid fan of the blogs of both Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky basically since they started writing. So when the two started podcasting together, I started listening. In the middle of some long podcast on May 21, 2008, I heard one of them mention that their new project (that they had just announced the name of on the podcast, something called Stack Overflow) was open for applicants to participate in the open beta, and to email Jeff, if we were interested. I did so.

On Friday, August 1, I got this email:

Image of my email from Jeff, giving link to beta announcement blog post, link to the beta size, and the password to get in
A few minutes later I had already logged in, getting UserId 51 on Stack Overflow (and later UserId 41 for my network account and for MSE). I was quite active in the early days (over 100 answers written in the first month of the beta).

I also got involved with Mi Yodeya as a very active user (for at least a few years) after getting an email invite from Isaac Moses while it was in the process of being migrated onto the network.

I used to open up Stack Overflow multiple times a day to cruise for juicy questions to ask, during the initial gold rush phase. And was a big follower of the developments of the company as it grew. When I was reaching a place with my previous job where I was ready for something new (and when I finally worked up the guts for it), I applied for a job, and somehow got in. That was nearly 8 years ago.

1
  • Something I don't understand is how you got only 30k rep on SO? With so much activity, expected you to have much more. Anyway, thanks for sharing! Jul 24 at 7:04
11

I was a tutor at college who had been roped into privately tutoring someone who was a semi-frequent no-show. After that, the fact that I still showed up in spite of their non-attendance led me to get a job at my college's Accessibility Center for my reliability and dependability, which was a worthwhile experience.

But cutting and scanning books and printing Braille pages isn't what I went to college for (as cool as that was, and as valuable as it would turn out to be later on), and I was concerned that I wasn't getting my itch of helping others scratched, so I joined after the first semester in my senior year in college.

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  • 3
    You casually toss off “as valuable as it would turn out to be”… no doubt it is and not just for those directly impacted, but it sounds like there’s more to that story….
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 6:03
  • 4
    I work for a university as a lead developer. Knowing a thing or two about accessibility has helped out in spades on major student-facing projects. But I'm less on those projects and more on backend/plumbing projects.
    – Makoto
    Jul 23 at 15:11
10

I was a passive reader of the Joel blog and Coding Horror.

From there it was a small step when I needed to refresh my skills back in 2010. And in return I shared some of my knowledge by answering a few questions.

10

At some point in 2012 I started learning Python as a hobby, on my own. I assume the first time I stumbled upon Stack Overflow was through some search engine, but can't recall exactly what I might be looking for — I remember one of the first things I tried to do in Python was a hangman game, so I prolly got stuck on something related to that. Once I registered, I apparently asked 3 questions in the first ~24h — I still get the occasional rep from two of those, and one of them had a new answer posted last month! I remember being able to have a fully functional hangman game at some point, so SO definitely helped me get unstuck.

At some point later in the year I realized there were more sites in the network. I registered on Super User, Japanese Language (which I was self-learning at the time), SciFi & Fantasy, Geographic Information Systems (ahem... I had some homework I needed help with...), Philosophy, and Area 51.

What really got me to stick around was definitely Area 51, where a new proposal for an Anime & Manga site had been proposed and was in the commitment phase. I committed to it, followed through on that commitment once the site launched, and was appointed as one of the site's original 3 pro-tem moderators (thanks, Adam!). And all that happened in less than a year since I'd created an account!

8

I was working on a programming project and I encountered an error. When searching for my error on Google, a Stack Overflow question was the top result and it helped solve my problem.

Later that evening, I decided to explore Stack Overflow more and I got familiar with the Q&A model and how Stack Overflow works.

After exploring for a few days, I accidentally clicked on the site-drop-down and discovered that there were other sites in the network. I started participating on Ask Different and I enjoyed it. I then discovered Travel and fell in love with the site.

8

I'll quote a part of my answer here:

I joined Stack Overflow because I noticed it saved me and my colleagues countless hours of work, more than any of the other programming sites. I wanted to give something back and be part of that awesome community producing high quality solutions.

I don't know what my first visit to Stack Overflow was, and I doubt many people will know that. Browser history tends to get erased after a while. But I signed up here and stayed because helping people is addictive (and quite often, fun!)

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  • 2
    Agreed, helping people is addictive and fun! Also, that diamond looks good on you. New, isn’t it? Congrats.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 1:41
  • "I don't know what my first visit to Stack Overflow was, and I doubt many people will know that. Browser history tends to get erased after a while. But I signed up here and stayed because helping people is addictive (and quite often, fun!)" - Same, except RPG.SE. I barely remember a time before I joined... I suspect I just kept googling D&D rules questions, finding great-quality Q&As on RPG.SE, and eventually joining so I could vote and comment and edit and such. Somehow I got elected a mod... Who knows where I'll end up a few weeks from now?
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jul 30 at 20:21
8

I first used Stack Overflow in university while learning Java in my first year. I definitely got there after googling some error messages involving strings or for loops. I remember being in the lab with all of the other students and we all were discovering the site for the first time. I remember using it for several different error messages on my first day. 😅

I remember spending time sorting the questions by all time score and just reading through every question in order. I distinctly remember learning about branch prediction, sorting socks, and the color of chucknorris. I remember reading through several pages and just being hungry for the years of knowledge that had accumulated. (I think this is when I knew I would really enjoy the site)

I remember creating an account early on in an attempt to upvote something, but I didn't quite have the privileges. I lurked for years as I completed my degree. Five years after creating my account, I finally worked up the courage to ask my first question - it got answered by a Stack Overflow employee! Three years after that, I found myself accepting an offer to work here at Stack while also participating in the 2020 Winter Bash. I ended up grinding the Hat Dash leaderboards, earning the #20 spot on the overall network hat leaderboard, and earning the #6 spot on the Meta Stack Exchange hat leaderboard.

Today, I'm six months into working on the Public Platform team here at Stack Overflow and it's been a dream job. I'm participating in the community-a-thon and reliving that new user experience with a fresh account. I still can't believe the impact I get to make with my work on a site that's been essential in my life.

I think I'll stick around 😁

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    The color of chucknorris is a new one on me! Thanks for all your work!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 5:53
7

I visited Stack Overflow quite a bit while looking for (and finding) answers to very specific coding questions. I don't really participate on SO much because, damn it Phillipe, I'm an electrical engineer, not a developer! :) My coding problems weren't unique enough that they hadn't already been answered, and any question I could answer already had an accepted answer by the time I was halfway through formatting and copy editing my post.

Then somehow I found English Language Learners and the people who had questions about things like the difference between 'methodology' and 'method' (the first question I answered). These sorts of questions are like catnip for an engineer who loves precision and also had a nearly perfect score on the English portion of her SATs (Don't bring up my math score, OK?).

ELL also had questions that made me see things from a different perspective, like Why is wine made 'from' grapes, but tables are made 'of' wood?. As a native English speaker, I never even thought about the difference between "made of" and "made from" and here was an answer with objective reasons supported with citations that explained what I knew intuitively.

I was elected as a moderator in 2016 and have to chuckle when I look back on the questionnaire and my naive optimism about being able to wrangle tags into a useful state. Being part of the mod team on ELL gave me the chance to interact with some truly exceptional and fascinating people from all over the world and it's an experience I will always treasure.

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  • 1
    Did I see a Star Trek reference there? ELL looks like a neat community. My mom taught English. I will point her that direction.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 24 at 1:12
6

I don't remember what question I searched that landed me on SO for the first time, but I know that was the first site I noticed. For a while I would just run across Stack Overflow when Googling my programming questions, and the answers were largely excellent.

While clicking on random links to see where they led, I landed on my first HNQ.

I lurked around HNQ Qs for a while - I remember particularly liking Worldbuilding, Code Golf, and Puzzling questions. More random clicking led to their meta sites, though which I read people discussing policy.

That, in the end, was what drew me to actually joining a site. I wanted to be part of a place where the rules were largely decided by the community, and where the rules were written there if you just looked. (I was also intrigued by the promise of edit rights, since I enjoy fixing other people's stuff.) The consistent layout of information was comforting, and my pandemic boredom meant I was inevitably going to do something online, so might as well choose a big, interesting place that I could master the rules of.

So I posted my first puzzle to Puzzling, and the rest is history.

6

I think I'm one of the few folks who came in through the broader network, rather than stackoverflow.com. I'm a week away from my 7-year anniversary, so I really ought to remember what specifically dragged me in, but my memory is extremely fuzzy. I know I was just interested in physics and astronomy in high school, and Physics Stack Exchange and Astronomy Stack Exchange do show up pretty easily in certain search results, so that was my way in. 7 years later, it's turned into a career.

I want to echo bobble's answer, and mention that the Hot Network Questions list drew me in to the other sites once I'd decided to stay active on Physics and Astronomy. One particular question on Worldbuilding Stack Exchange caught my eye and eventually drew me in. The same's been true for other network sites: from time to time something interesting turns up on the HNQ, and after awhile I make the leap and join the community.

I know that's not a universal experience - there are some folks who actively dislike the HNQ - and there are plenty of ways it has been and still can be improved. But I find that it's an excellent gateway to Stack Exchange sites I never would have visited. Given that, in my experience, a surprising fraction of these sites are held up by the work of hobbyists in a field, rather than experts, that's an important point to appreciate and take advantage of.

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  • 2
    I think there’s a lot of potential to hnq, frankly. Needs some polish, but lots of hope there. Btw, I got to know worldbuilding through the subreddit when I worked over at reddit. I found it fascinating, then and now.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 1:30
  • 1
    @Philippe I'm glad to hear that - it's definitely an area that's accessible to so many folks because of its breadth!
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 23 at 15:22
6

Same deal as in Yaakov Ellis's answer: I was listening to Joel and Jeff's podcast in Q2/Q3 2008, and I registered a few days before the public beta (Sep. 2008).

That lead to my first two answers, and my very first daily score: -1 (and I do mean -1: even if it was displayed as 0: the rep graph, the old one, always shown a negative axis for the first few years).

I since used my daily participation as a training opportunity, learning entire new fields (like distributed version control) or programming language (like Go) entirely by answering question on Stack Overflow (meaning I knew nothing about those when I started adding my own answers).
I never left.

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  • 2
    Now that’s a one I haven’t heard before but I wonder how prevalent it is…answering questions to learn something from scratch?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 24 at 1:14
  • 2
    @Philippe Yes, that how I am experiencing Stack Overflow every day: I rarely answer questions on topics I fully know about. That is how I learn. Feynman(ish)-style.
    – VonC
    Jul 24 at 1:23
6

I handled all the coding for the small company I worked for and one of those pieces was an infuriating piece of code called the Quickbooks Web Connector (aka QBWC, which, from what I've heard, was cobbled together in a weekend in what we'd now call a code-a-thon). It allowed you to access Quickbooks data... but it was written in SOAP (XML's illegitimate child) and Intuit hadn't really seen fit to document it. The one person I'd found who took that mantle up used the WSDL file (think of it like an instruction manual for executing SOAP commands) that Intuit hosted. One day, Intuit decided they didn't like hosting that file anymore, so they stopped. Which meant my code broke.

At the time, Intuit (among many companies doing so at the time) had dumped everyone into Stack Overflow for support. So I created an account to ask what on earth was going on. I learned that I just needed to get a copy of the WSDL file and host it myself.

I started answering PHP questions and even stumbled across where they make the PHP sausage (seriously, a decent chunk of the working group behind the PHP language meets in there). Then one day a regular invited me to help close questions. 50k close votes (and a diamond) later, and here I am.

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  • 3
    Cool! I dropped in on the room you linked to say hello. :)
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 24 at 1:12
6

If we're talking origin stories, in the vein of "how did I get here?" and are my kidneys still here - I think my old answer on MSO probably covers the broader, slightly dramatic origin story.

Its been a long road since then, and the answer kinda focused on SO (or lack thereof), and I've hit (100k) on 2 sites and Mod both of them. And I feel like to an extent, kinda doesn't talk about some of the other communities that matter.

There's still no Ewoks (and I guess no dog at the moment) but I think everything in that answer is still true. I did accidentally find Super User off a random Slashdot article but that story is told - I didn't come here to ask a question, I came here to poke around and gawk I guess :D.

My second site before Meta was Server Fault. I run servers as a hobby (and occasionally professionally, when the stars line up), and as the 'elder' site to SU, and not programming related, there wasn't that much of a network back in those days. It was a topic that interested me (and as a pen and paper/model wargamer back in the day, I suspect the site culture was a natural fit). The chat community was vibrant (and while folks have moved on over time, quite a few folks still hang out in the same communities off site).

I joke I mainly came onto meta cause someone critiqued a mod decision, I replied wonderfully (and the post was deleted, so I had to get 10k to read it. - they changed the rules before I hit 10k). I guess I found that the knowledge I accumulated of the network was useful to folks, and of course, a certain sense of "this is important to all of us" through the issues we've had in the past

I've dipped my toe into a few other sites - World Building cause of HNQ (and I might have helped lobby for them to keep their mascots in their page design), Pets (Had questions about dealing with my late dog getting old), Ask Ubuntu (its adjacent to SU and server fault) and so on.

I suspect though, as much as "how did you find these spaces?" - why folks stick around (or came back) might be as good a question. But that's probably another question for another day, and probably a lot harder to answer

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  • 1
    Indeed, I'm adding "why do you stick around" to my list of potential questions. That's a good one.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 13:35
  • 1
    @Philippe Per the "history" aspect of my answer to your last question, a similar question was asked here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334757/why-do-you-stay though highly influenced by contemporaneous events, and you'll notice some now-anonymous answers from people who didn't. There is also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/340055/… about the purpose of meta specifically which includes a lot of responses about "why do you stick around here specifically", referring to MSE. (not to discourage a new question of course!) Jul 23 at 14:20
  • 2
    Thanks for the links. I assumed similar had been asked. I just hadn’t taken the time to search yet. Thanks!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 24 at 1:15
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I'm sure I stumbled here a few times looking for quick programming answers; I don't remember anything I was looking for in particular, or how often I found my answer here versus somewhere else. I also found Cross Validated the same way. I never needed an account then, though.

Eventually, I had a particular stats question, but there wasn't an existing Q&A here or anywhere else I could find. I knew I had seen some related questions here and that at least one of the authors of a particular R package was regularly active, so I bit the bullet and asked a question. At the same time, I figured I owed others to answer some questions in areas I was more familiar with and ended up answering a few questions on Biology and Academia.

Still haven't asked a question on SO, but I've since been answering questions on several other sites as well. Academics often separate their professional roles into research, teaching, and service. I have an academic research position, though I'm not a professor and my job doesn't require I contribute any effort towards teaching or service. However, I enjoy those roles and see my free time spent here as a rewarding way to fill that gap. Honorable mention goes to "procrastinating thesis writing" back then.

I never got a direct answer to my first question, though there were some helpful comments and I eventually sorted it out on my own. I wish I remembered what the actual solution was so I could self-answer now.

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  • 3
    I wonder how often people get to the answer of their first question and then think to go back and self-answer? I’m sure those stats exist, and if not I would be willing to bet that someone on my team can get them for me. @catija, can you help me remember to check on this?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 1:37
  • 2
    @Philippe If you really want Catija to help you remember, you might want to ask in a different place too: she won't get a notification of your ping here. It's not how comment @ replies work on SE, which is probably a good thing... way too much noise otherwise :D
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 23 at 11:27
  • 1
    Heh. It worked anyway She asked someone at the office to help - and I’m perusing the results now. Once they’re validated I will share.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 24 at 1:19
  • 1
    Well, here's the answer: "self-answering questions appears to be quite common on Stack Overflow -- it looks like around 10% of non-closed, non-deleted posts receive at least one non-deleted self-answer. it also looks to be relatively consistent, historically. But there's an interesting trend: sites focused on academic topics (chemistry, mathematics, quantum, physics) tend to have substantially reduced self-answer rates, and it's quite the swing, down as far as 1-2%." Many thanks to a new staffer, who will be introduced soon, for this data!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 26 at 10:22
6

I first learned about Stack Overflow around 2009-2010 at a programming forum where I was active at that time.

I joined SO in 2011, after the forum mentioned above was terribly broken by its owners. So, it was essentially a replacement back then. Guess I would eventually join anyway, even if they didn't break that forum - but that would happen much later and I would be much less active here.

Just a little bit later I joined Software Engineering Stack Exchange (called Programmers back then) because it turned out much more convenient than Stack Overflow when I wanted to focus on design related questions (at SO I had to filter out too many coding / debugging questions to get to design matters).

Soon after joining I gained a bit of rep answering questions in topics I was proficient in and learned about associated conveniences given by rep-based privileges and got a bit hooked by this "numbers game".

Very soon after that I discovered suggested edits and benefits associated with it. I almost immediately became a very active editor - and in fact, at every new site where I intended to actively participate, I preferred to start with edits, and would recommend this to anyone without hesitation.

And why wouldn't I? Suggesting edits is probably the safest and one of the easiest ways to gain initial reputation (up to whopping 1K points, go figure). And what is equally as important, this provides fantastic (and, again, safe) opportunity to better learn about the site and about how you can use it best.

In 2012 I joined Workplace Stack Exchange. Prior to creation of this site, their topics were part of Software Engineering SE and I didn't like how these mixed with design questions and so I wanted to help grow new site to make a better, separate home for these topics.

At about the same time I also became active at meta because I discovered that this helps me better understand how system works and how I can better use it.

Somewhere in between 2013 and 2015 I discovered that Stack Overflow became the most convenient place to find help when I'm coding. And I am very very actively using it to get this help until now.

Have a look at Stack Exchange traffic stats page. Look at "10m visits/day" shown for Stack Overflow - I am absolutely one of those visitors.

Don't get me wrong; Stack Overflow isn't universal. When I need coding tutorials or discussions, there are typically much better places elsewhere. But when I need help doing practical coding, this place and format just... run circles around anything else.

6

I 'got started' in two different ways, in two different spheres of interest. Actually, three ways if I separate the Technology sites from the others.

In summary:

Step 1: I used Technology Stacks as a good resource to find targeted answers without engaging in their 'communities' at all.

Step 2: I was asked by a trusted contact if I was interested in supporting a proposed Stack for a common interest area (Genealogy).

Step 3: Using the confidence I gained as a user/moderator for the Genealogy Stack, I joined the Technology Stacks I'd previously used and started to ask questions.

In more detail:

Step 1: I dipped into StackOverflow intermittently for answers to programming questions as soon as it started turning up in the results of Google searches; I learned to look on it as a reliable site (and good first stop) for finding good answers but it was really a 'hit and run' relationship -- I didn't create an account, and I don't remember which were the questions I used. Later, my usage extended to other Technology sites within the network -- like Drupal Answers, SuperUser, Wordpress Development, UX -- but I was still a consumer of answers, and didn't really pay any attention to the nuts and bolts of SE, not did I even vaguely think about it as a 'community' -- and (possibly importantly) didn't find any reason to change my behaviour and stick around. (I am notoriously immune to things like reputation points.)

Step 2: Then I was asked by an online contact active in the same application arena as me (Genealogy) if I'd like to contribute to a Stack for Genealogy and Family History. I took a look, decided it was something the field desperately needed and jumped in (in spite of reservations about the gamification aspects).

Step 3: Cutting my teeth as a registered user (and sometimes moderator) on Genealogy SE encouraged me to register as a user on other Stacks, and very cautiously start to ask questions. (Cautiously not because I was scared of negative responses, but because I wanted to get useful answers to real questions without wasting anyone's time.)

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  • 2
    I wonder how many folks start moderating on a smaller site and “move up” (for lack of a better term). I may have someone dig into that.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 25 at 15:51
  • 3
    @Phillippe Or even start using a smaller site ("training wheel's" ) before venturing further? Jul 25 at 16:01
5

If you didn't come in as a result of a question, I'd be very curious about how you found us and what brought you here as well.

Before SO went online I subscribed a newsletter from https://www.codeproject.com that said Stack Overflow was about to launch (or had just launched), so I visited in the early days. (By coincidence I was developing in C# and also knew of Joel's blog.)

What was the question that brought you to SO or the network originally?

Pretty much everything after that. But I'm a slow adopter, so it took me 10 years to sign up for an account.

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  • 7
    Oh hey, a CPian! Knew there was something I liked about you 😁
    – Shog9
    Jul 22 at 21:13
5

I'd been using Stack Overflow read-only for years, since I was a student and was told to do so. Along the way, I came to know of the existence of other network sites (probably from HNQ but I don't recall for certain).

One day, after being shoved into the role of Scrum Master, I had a question about it, so I decided to join pmse in order to ask it (I wasn't even aware at the time that questions could be asked anonymously).

Since I'd already joined, I figured I might as well read up on the existing questions. After a few months of that, I figured I might have a decent grasp on things, and so decided to test that assumption by starting to answer questions and see how my answers were received.

And things just went from there. I eventually joined some other networks (SO, database admins...) when I had questions.

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I honestly don't remember when I heard about or used Stack Overflow for the first time (SO was definitely my gateway into the network though)... Long before I joined or used it frequently, I just remember it being around as a useful resource.

When I really started programming as a senior in high school, I definitely started referencing Stack Overflow a lot from then on, and I enjoyed the lack of "noise" and wealth of information the site offered. I'll admit that the SO's reputation of being a bit... harsh, or "strict" maybe, probably deterred me from joining or asking anything directly, but there was so much content from those that had asked before me that it was really just a matter of finding the right search terms to get the info I was after; I continued using it for this reason.

I formally made an account shortly after I got my first full-time position as a software developer, in the midst of the pandemic last May, since Stack Overflow had officially become a daily reference tool for me (and I really wanted my upvotes to start counting!). I've dabbled lightly in other Stack communities, but Overflow is definitely still my home site... though, I spend as much or more time here on MSE and on MSO to keep up with the community too.

It's such a cool concept to me that the community gets to be a major driving force here, and that the site itself (and its success) was set up to depend on its existence in key ways. It's so awesome to be able to take an active role in content curation, to feel like what you're doing actually matters, and that it will be useful to future visitors. I don't mean to make what we do here sound overly important, but the fact that information on any Stack site isn't lost to the void of a forum environment is a breath of fresh air compared to nearly any other online community I can think of, in this regard– and that's truly awesome.

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    You just captured in one post what I love about this site, and what gets me excited about it. Thank you!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 1:34
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I'd visited Stack Overflow and probably some other sites in the past, but the first site I registered on was the Linguistics site. I wanted to talk about the lexical nature of the verb to teach, but I couldn't remember any useful options from my linguistics degree; none of the aktionsart terms were right. I registered and asked What do you call an activity accomplished by other activities. But then I was hooked, and I think I joined about 5 other sites that same day, and many more in the years since.

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Back in the olden days of 2009, I was given a task at work to create a Windows Forms application with a list box, but I don't remember what for. I wanted to make it look better, so I thought to add some colors, and have each item in its own color.

I didn't find a way through the IDE, so Google was next. The first result was Background color of a ListBox item (winforms) and the accepted answer gave me the push in the correct direction, however it gave only blank colored items, while I needed to add text as well. I did it, and as token of gratitude to the site that helped me, shared my whole code as a new answer on that question.

The answer gathered upvotes, I was able to start upvoting, and became pretty active, mainly in JavaScript questions which I felt more comfortable to answer. What made me really stick around was the Unsung Hero badge which came as pleasant surprise, golden medal that meant for me "Even though many answers of yours have 0 score, here is something to cheer you up!" and it worked.

I didn't become a badge hunter, but I watched my reputation rise, started to take part in reviewing, etc.

Soon enough I also started to spot bugs and being curious about features of the site, so found my way to Meta. And the rest is history. :)

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As a maths student, I was using Mathematics SE a lot back in 2012, but never considered it as a community rather than just a resource to search and find answers. At some point I scrolled down to the bottom of the page, saw the list of network sites that used to be displayed there (and isn't clearly displayed any more ... grumble grumble ...), and noticed there's a site for Science Fiction & Fantasy. As an avid reader of fantasy novels, I eagerly clicked through and enjoyed reading fun questions like Were there ever any "good" Orcs? (as a response to an answer, '"No, there aren't." Well hmmph! I frown in disapproval in your general direction, and I hope something mildly unpleasant (but not actually inconvenient) happens to you.' from a user named NiceOrc is still one of my favourite comments on SE).

I always planned to sign up and ask some questions about my favourite fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. Fast forward to summer 2014, when I had some spare time on my hands, and I finally created an account, naming myself after the main character in the Wheel of Time series, and asked six questions in three days: five about Wheel of Time, and one story-ID question.

My SE activity was sporadic until November 2014, when, needing to distract myself for a week, I discovered Puzzling SE via the Hot Network Questions list, specifically the puzzle Secret Admirer Secret Message and the ridiculously convoluted answer from Geobits (now Set Big O). I eagerly signed up and started actively participating there, first sharing a number sequence puzzle that I'd recently heard, and then being inspired by a plug socket to write my first riddle. The rest, as they say, is history: I quickly became one of the most active users on Puzzling, and the SE buzz, whether on Puzzling (where last year I became the first person to get 100,000 reputation), Sci-Fi & Fantasy (where I was elected moderator in 2016), Literature (where I've been the highest-rep user since the site's inception and was elected moderator last year), or elsewhere on the network, never left me from then on.


PS. I'm not a member of Stack Overflow or any of the other computery sites, and I don't know anything about programming.

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    Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this answer is that displaying the list of SE sites in the bottom bar was a useful thing and really did increase intra-network traffic. I've heard a lot of people saying that nobody reads the bottom bar or finds sites from there. Jul 25 at 11:16
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I don't remember how exactly I got to know about Stack Overflow. In the first decade of 2000 I was fairly active on Usenet answering questions about C and C++ and discussing the finer details of those languages. Towards the end of that period, I noticed that the participation on Usenet started to decline and I got wondering where everyone was moving to.

Somehow, I became aware of SO and I joined to continue answering questions and helping others.

Over the years, I became aware of other sites on the network and joined where my interests lie, or laid at the time. Over time, I became fed up with the "Fastest gun in the west" aspects of SO and shifted my attention to other sites in the network. Now I am mostly active on Software Engineering and Open Source.

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Starting from some time fairly shortly after Stack Overflow began, I occasionally saw posts from it in search results and, on several occasions, I found a helpful answer there. However, I already had over 20 years of experience as a computer programmer, with much of my work then not involving anything really new to me, so I didn't have many questions to ask, and those few I did were already answered. Also, I wasn't particularly interested in writing answers since I didn't want to spend more time on programming related work than I was already doing in my job. Thus, I didn't join SO.

A few years ago, I discovered an interesting algorithm that works with prime numbers. While doing many online searches using several search engines to check if this was already known and for information that may help me to analyze it, I saw various related posts on the Mathematics and MathOverflow sites. I joined both sites in October of 2018 so I could more easily check on & keep track of these and other mostly prime related posts. Two months later, I read an almost 4 year old question on the Mathematics site asking about a conjecture that was dealt with specifically in an arXiv paper I had seen previously. I wrote my first post to answer this with the reference. Since my answer got a positive response of a few upvotes, and even a comment of "Nice reference!", plus I liked the quite high standards, quality & functionality of the site compared to others I had encountered, I continued participating to check on & answer other questions.

Later, I found & joined more sites through mentions in posts or comments, going through the list of all network sites and checking various questions in the HNQ.

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    That’s a great story. So what was the outcome? Was the algorithm useful?
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 1:24
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    @Philippe I'm not yet sure about the algorithm. I never found it mentioned anywhere, or anything else quite like it (FYI, the closest I could find is Gilbreath's conjecture, but although mine is more complicated, it's also considerably more easily fallible &, thus, should be more interesting to mathematicians). I also couldn't prove it, but I wrote a program that just recently finished checking all primes up to 2.1 x 10^13 (i.e., 21 trillion), with it not failing. I'm now working on writing a paper with my analysis and the results. Jul 23 at 1:34
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    That’s truly fascinating!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 2:10
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To quote from my answer on making anonymous edits to this site prior to joining:

First, a little about myself. Back in 2013, I created an account on Stack Overflow, so I could get help for computer programming assignments, as many of my Google searches were directing me there. After signing up, I got interested in the rest of the Stack Exchange network and got fairly active here on MSE (then MSO). I have a mental condition that causes me to want to study and know all about certain interests, and I developed such an interest in how SE works. That interest still persists with me today.

Approaching four years after posting that, that interest has never waned.

To add more details:

  • I got my start on the network not asking, but answering questions on Stack Overflow. Back then, I was taking a computer science course in high school, and had quite a great knowledge of the Java language, which I studied on my own using printed books and official Oracle documentation. I had gained an aptitude for the language's subtly nuanced features, and there weren't as many people answering Java questions on SO back then. I'd help by answering questions about said subtle nuances with links to and quotes from official documentation. This answer was my first post on the network.

  • After having joined Stack Overflow, I learned about the Q&A engine and how it works, and quickly fell in love with the system. I contributed heavily to Meta Stack Overflow (which at the time referred to this site) under a previous account, and gained 1,000 reputation on it before I was made to delete it due to reasons I've pointed out in the above link.

While I am interested in many of the subjects on which there are SE sites, I like the engine more than anything else, and that's why my primary site is here, this Meta site.

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I found Stack Overflow, I think, because Google Apps Script Help/Support page point me there very likely when I was doing some research related to a question that I found on the Google Products Help Forums. At that time I was trying to answer as many questions as I could, specially those that I found interesting and that I could learn something by researching about the question topic.

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