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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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Simple, I'm kind of a learner more than a developer. Since I started learning programming, I started to have questions in programming, while searching, I saw one of the top results: Stack Overflow. What I liked and surprised in the first place that there were many questions that were asked before. As I searched for answers, I started to see simple questions that I could answer, so I joined the site to answer those questions, and I also just wanted to rate the content since I saw some helpful answers that I wanted to upvote them. I also saw bad, unhelpful answers that I wanted to downvote to make sure that in the future people will understand what's helpful and what's not. Classic Story, anyway.

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It's very likely that I found out about Stack Overflow via googling technical problems, but it was a computer science teacher that introduced me to Mathematics, as he had an account there and occasionally answered questions. Compared to other answerers here, it seems like I started asking questions fairly quickly, about various patterns that I found interesting and the like, and I continued through the summer.

I am certain that Hot Network Questions introduced me to the whole SE network, and during that summer, I found Area 51 and committed to a few proposals. Most notably, Christianity, where I was an active participant in the private beta. So much so that even though I was not nominated for moderator, I was still contacted by a CM about it and became one of five pro-tem mods. (Most sites start with three.) I was one of four elected mods three years later and I continued to moderate the site until the whole mess in 2019 happened. I resigned almost exactly eight years after I became a mod, and this is the first time that I've participated in anything on SE since then.

I also at some point became an active participant on Code Golf and I think the Tetris in Game of Life project is one of the coolest things I've ever participated in. I still actively chat with many people from CodeGolf.SE in Discord as it's a community of many like-minded people that are united in one purpose: write terrible code in bad languages just to save a few bytes.

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I was just learning Windows GUI tweaking five years ago through the registry. An online search how do I tweak a system window pop-up? led me to Superuser.

After browsing ill-fitting Q and A. I asked the question myself and was bombarded with questions that had little to do with an answer, much less be helpful suggestions. Such as "Why do you want to do that? Why are there so many wifi signals available" Why don't you automatically connect to one?" When I followed up with trying to simply answer the additional questions I was told "I don't know", it left me with a bad impression of the site. I learned elsewhere that my tweak couldn't be done. I stopped even going to the site.

Fast forward to the present. I was trying to understand a neighbor who knows very little English. I have always considered myself an English major, I just didn't know the 'rules' of sentence structure much less what they were called. Gerund? Is that a new millenial name?

I searched online because my neighbor was so obsessed that these grammar rules were more important than first learning the translations of words. That led me to English Learners and Language.

I've slowly branched out from there, seeing the individual sites as one in bringing understanding to everyone. Everything is a language, and it can either be an obstacle or the fast lane towards communication. Whether it's construction, programming, gardening, or graphic arts, we are all trying to learn new languages.

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    I think I will save that one to use to on my mother, who was an English teacher. “Gerund? Is that some kind of millennial name, mom?” I will be sure to credit you.
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 1:25
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For me, it all started while writing my master's thesis. I was doing some data analysis on the difference between potential wheat yields estimated with models, and potential yields estimated with trials.

I began digging around the web to find the data I needed and ended up with so much data I was completely lost as to what to do with it, and how to analyze it. One of the faculty staff then showed me VBA in Excel, and I was simply hooked on it. It made my life so much easier. Transposing data to the workbooks and sheets I needed them in, pulling data from one very slow website (saving me millions of mouseclicks), etc.

This staff member gave me a piece of code he wrote, that did about what I wanted, and from there on out, I just googled my ass off. Landing on SO 9 out of 10 times, I decided to sign up, and make my life easy. The next time I ran into a problem I posted a question, to swiftly be met with downvotes. I didn't know the lingo at all, and hence my google-fu failed me. I believe my first question was quickly closed as a duplicate and tidied up by Roomba the next time it passed by. My oldest surviving question is from April 2015. And really a silly question that must have been asked thousands of times.

Every now and then I answer a question on SO, but less and less these days as I'm more active here on MSE.

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I first signed up to SE while participating in a CTF that linked a few resources from SO. Being about cybersecurity (and Python, hence the SO account), I discovered Information Security. InfoSec and SO were pretty helpful in solving the problems in the CTF, and I wanted to give something back to the sites that made things easier for me on more than one, two, maybe six occasions, until I found MSE. MSE really appealed to me because I like requesting, reporting and destroying spam/R/A content in order to keep websites in good shape, and the place to do that turned out to be Meta. I do still intend to go and post a few answers on SO and InfoSec, partly because reputation is required to help with higher-level moderation, but it seems hard to get around to it... sorry ;) But there you have it.

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I first heard about Stack Overflow as part of my classes, and remember the teacher telling the class that it was a good place to search for answers. At some point, I ended up finding useful stuff often enough to create an account, and vote for it. Only to realize it didn't really work that way: Without enough reputation myself, my votes wouldn't be visible.

I kept using Stack Overflow as part of the job that came with those classes, and would often save a few questions I came across while looking for something related, to read on the long train ride home. From there, I also started reading hot network questions during those train rides, mostly to kill time/boredom.

At some point, a site about interpersonal skills got launched, and after seeing a few of their questions on HNQ, I decided asking there might be a good place to get answers to a nasty problem. Sadly, the problem still persists (I just run into it less often), but after asking my first question there I was basically hooked.

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I first discovered the network when the Judaism site (Mi Yodeya) would frequently turn up in internet search results relating to Judaism. For a while I just browsed content here and there without ever participating. About a year later I read an answer and I wanted to post a comment on it. Of course, not having any reputation, I could not post comments, so I decided to answer a few questions to get 50 reputation in order to be able to post my comment.

Once I broke the ice and began participating, I just kept it up. This whole time, though, I was not really aware that the site was part of a larger network of Question & Answer sites. Eventually I noticed the Hot Network Questions in the sidebar, but I didn't really know what it was – it just seemed to be random links or ads. However, when I started seeing Star Wars and Harry Potter popping up on these lists, my interest was piqued enough to click on them, which took me to the Science Fiction and Fantasy site. From there I realized that there was an entire network of similar Question & Answer sites, and over time I joined some of the ones that interested me (Literature, Biblical Hermeneutics, English Language Learners, etc.)

I studiously avoided Stack Overflow itself for as long as possible, but eventually I needed to join that one as well in order to post a Meta question about the Stack Overflow survey which I had attempted to take despite not being a programmer in any way, shape, or form. Much to my chagrin, the follow-up question that I asked when I tried taking the next survey and experienced different results is my highest scoring of 250 + questions on the network 😉.

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I'm jumping in here because there's one aspect I haven't seen in other answers. I will have occasionally found SO questions as part of learning to code at various stages, but never actually joined up. When I needed to find how to do to certain things in Latex I similarly found Tex.SE, but then I also found some fascinating question from other sites in the sidebar and in particular ones about TRPGs, a bug that had recently taken hold in my group of friends. There I did end up joining and answering a few questions. Ashamedly, I've yet to make a Tex.SE account and repay that help in upvotes. Maybe one day.

Answering did get me access to chat though, and I think it was chat that really made me stick and eventually sink all the way in as it were. A welcoming and friendly general chat room, covering whatever topics come up and moving certain topics to siderooms as necessary (because a lot of topics are worth discussing, but not always nice to stumble onto) and even occasionally TRPGs :)

I'll limit my soapboxing, but if you want to look at what helps bring users in and keep them, I'd put a healthy (general) chat room high on the list.

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    Tex.SE is probably the site I use the most professionally, reading posts there when I run into some TeX issue while writing papers. I too have yet to make a Tex.SE account and repay that help in upvotes :-) Jul 29 at 11:59
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I don't remember what originally brought me here, that's definitely lost in the mists of time.

Statistically, it was probably searching out an answer on a particular coding problem, I would have found the answer and stayed ever since.

And I'd like to say: it's been great, thanks for having me. Thanks Joel & Jeff for creating the site. I've enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) my time here, although I have had to learn to balance time spent here with what's happening IRL. And hopefully I've been able to help a bunch of others, even just a little bit.

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    With 20.1k rep, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you’ve likely helped a bunch of others alright!
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Jul 23 at 5:55
  • @Philippe that's their Meta rep. Their SO rep is 47.7k.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 8 at 10:23
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I was an active Wikipedia editor and member of the Java Forums (javaprogrammingforums.com).

I got so sick and tired of answering the same four questions over and over again, that as soon as I heard of StackOverflow (likely either via Google or a forum link) I jumped ship, realising how it would be so much better.

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