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I'm taking three interns for a three month unpaid internship starting in March. Those interns are coming straight out of college and this internship is the only thing between them and their diplomas. Since I'll be their direct supervisor, I pretty much have a white card to do whatever I want with them.

It's not the first time I've done this (in fact, I've been doing for the past three years) and I know that those students are usually eager yet terrified of joining the workforce. At the college I take my interns from, I have a reputation of being a strict supervisor simply because I usually take their top students and that reputation is justified. Yet, students always come out of their internship saying that they loved the experience.

Why? Simply because I know this is their first exposure to the workforce as IT specialists and I try to make the experience as pain-less as possible. While most of the week is dedicated to work, I usually try to set time aside during the week for R&R or education (Beer nights, competitive code competitions, etc.).

I'm a strong believer of continual self-education and giving back to the community which is why I love Stack Overflow so much. I've been mostly providing high-quality answers to user questions and I'm looking for a way to give more.

I'm thinking this year of having Stack Overflow Thursdays. Essentially, I would dedicate half of Thursday to browsing Stack Overflow and answering questions (with good quality answers). Whoever gets most reputation during that half-day would get a free beer at the next beer night.

This would help teach them the importance of community in their work field and also would help them to hone their skills/acquire new ones.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea or not?

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  • 1
    +1 good idea... – Earlz Feb 11 '10 at 22:08
  • 2
    The best motivator of all would be to pay them with $$$ (or £££, €€€), instead of beer. Why are these internships unpaid? – Ether Feb 12 '10 at 0:57
  • @Ether: Because the provincial law here (Quebec, Canada) stipulates that college-level internships given in the course of one's education cannot be remunerated. – Andrew Moore Feb 12 '10 at 1:09
  • @Andrew: interesting, I did not know that (and I'm Canadian myself)! – Ether Feb 12 '10 at 1:24
  • @Ether: What's more interesting is that University-level paid internships are fair-game. Quebec always have to do something different than the rest of Canada, which is why we have those ugly CEGEPs. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CEGEP – Andrew Moore Feb 12 '10 at 3:37
  • Re: remuneration & internships - not my experience in BC or Alberta. – OMG Ponies Feb 12 '10 at 3:42
  • @OMG Ponies: As I said, provincial bylaw, not federal. – Andrew Moore Feb 12 '10 at 4:03
  • @Andrew Moore: Wasn't contesting that – OMG Ponies Feb 12 '10 at 5:17

I'm all for encouraging people to learn through teaching... but I wouldn't use rep as the criterion for the beer. Quite often a very simple answer will gain a lot more rep than a problem which took a lot of work and goes into a lot of detail.

I suggest you ask each intern to put forward their "best" (in their eyes) three answers from the afternoon, and you judge them personally.

Additionally, I'd suggest getting actively involved with their answers - give suggestions as to how you might tackle things differently, etc. Think of it like a code review :)

  • Oh, I must say I like this idea. – Andrew Moore Feb 12 '10 at 0:33
  • And that's the idea I'm going with. Thanks! Stay tuned, first SO-Thrusday starting March 4th! Will post user profiles then. – Andrew Moore Feb 17 '10 at 23:32

Overall a good idea.

There is a lot to be learned on SO on a wide variety of topics.

One thing I wouldn't do is use rep as a motivation/contest. Think of something win/win instead.

Replacement idea: Spend 30-45 minutes at the end of the day where everyone shares with everyone else what they learned during the session. Give free beer only to those who have something to share.


Love it, you're an inspiration to us all. Except give them the beer while they're answering questions!

Seriously, I wish more employers would pony more up toward the community end of things.


I think you (and they) may be better off if you ask them instead to monitor a few RSS feeds they are interested in and spend 45 minutes a day (about the same amount of time) spread throughout the day simply reading what other people have posted, and answering what they can.

During beer night (or during another company meeting is beer night is reserved for social interaction only) have them explain (3 minutes or less each!) some concept or technique that they found interesting or new that they learned from SO, and how they used it, or might use it, in their work. Then the other more experienced programmers will riff off what they learned, and expand things for them - they will learn a lot more through interesting programming discussion with experienced programmers, and they essentially get to choose the topic.

It would expose them to more opportunity to learn something new at SO (rather than refreshing constantly, looking for something interesting for a short period of time), it would make your beer nights/company meeting a little more productive with a little direction, it would help them learn to multitask, and they won't have to 'give up' their half day of SO reading because they feel they are in a time crunch.

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