I LOVE SO and SF. They make me feel giddy, knowing that I can tap into a humongous pool of experts in the areas that directly affect me and my life. But, so far, I've introduced Stack Overflow and Server Fault to three of my colleagues, and I just can't understand why they aren't more interested in it. They take a look, maybe even create an account, and that is it. It doesn't amaze and intrigue them the way it does me. They don't follow up. Am I doing a poor job in explaining things to them? Do they think they already have the answers? What are your experiences with introducing others to the SO family of sites?

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    -1 for "giddy" :( – juan Apr 22 '10 at 18:00
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    0 for "giddy" :| – Grace Note ModStaff Apr 22 '10 at 18:01
  • "I'm as happy as a little girl" – user27414 Apr 22 '10 at 18:02
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    Maybe "gruntled" instead? (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gruntled) – AnonJr Apr 22 '10 at 18:44
  • -1 for not talking about SU to your colleagues. I now understand why they were not amazed. – Gnoupi Apr 22 '10 at 19:01
  • @Gnoupi of course I talk about it with them. I describe what it is, why it is cool, etc.. I even convince them to check it out and create an account. One of them has even gone so far as to ask a question. But they don't seem to do anything after that, and I feel like if I hassle them about it I'll seem like a righteous zealot and they will push back. I'm a huge fan, but I don't want to be one of those crazy fanatics that everyone just writes off precisely because they are a fanatic. – Jed Daniels Apr 22 '10 at 19:14
  • @Downvoter You make me wish I could downvote a comment. :) – Jed Daniels Apr 22 '10 at 19:22
  • @Jed Daniels: how did you discover Stack Overflow? And Server Fault? – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Apr 22 '10 at 20:30
  • @Peter Mortensen I discovered SF via SO, but I don't remember how I discovered SO. Probably a google search for a question that was already asked. – Jed Daniels Apr 22 '10 at 21:45

10 Answers 10


I also like SO. Mainly because I am very hungry on knowledge and always want to know the pros and cons of different technologies. And I want to learn everything related to computer science.

But there are software developers, that aren't hungry on more knowledge, they are fine with their job, and just want to do the work and get their salary. They think they don't need to know more or better to do their job. And I hardly belive that they are doing any coding in their sparetime, instead they take care of their family. They simply spend their time with their job and not on StackOverflow or ServerFault.

That's what I think.

  • @Sanoj Can't someone both take care of their family AND code in their spare time? – Jed Daniels Apr 22 '10 at 21:46

You can show them the door, but they have to walk through it.

Everyone has different needs, interests, amount of free time, etc.

There are many ways users can interact with the sites:

  • Asking a one-time one-situation question they really need help with
  • Taking on a teacher role to help others
  • Passively learn different things from the wide variety of questions that get asked
  • Discuss and develop ideas and methods with the many experts that may not necessarily be available through any other channel, or at least not so directly
  • ...

The truth is that you will never convince your colleagues to either (a) use the sites, or (b) use the sites in a way which makes the most sense for you.


As an indie developer and founder of my own company, I find myself constantly drawn to StackOverflow. Unlike most employees, I don't have to "do just enough to get my salary." I have to earn it. If I don't produce outstanding code, the users lose interest and I lose everything.

"The path to wisdom lies in knowing that you know nothing"... That's us, dude!

I know that I still have much to learn, although I have come an astonishing distance in the last three years. Therefore, I need somewhere to learn from.

Tutorials are okay, but the main problem with following a tutorial is that you just get stuck trying to apply what you learned in a specific situation to another specific situation. Trawling Google is boring, and most of the time you just find obscure forums where the question has been asked but nobody answered, or the answer is old and no longer relevant.

Wisdom of the Ancients

StackOverflow, on the other hand, is probably the most active interactive place of knowledge on the internet. You can interact directly with other programmers, teaching and learning from them. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a question and realised "that'd be a really neat feature to adapt into my site". I love answering people's questions because I can be sure that most of the time my answer will contribute to the success of someone else's website. I don't ask as many questions myself, but when I do it is done in confidance that either I will get an amazing answer, or will be told why my idea is a bad one.

You just can't match the power of SO.


You can lead a unicorn to waffles, but you can't make it eat.

  • Too obvious, won't work. – Gnoupi Apr 22 '10 at 19:01
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    You can put a waffle on a bunny but you can't make a unicorn appear. – Earlz Apr 22 '10 at 19:49
  • @Earlz: What if I put 5 waffles on a bunny? meta.stackexchange.com/questions/45238/… – gnostradamus Apr 22 '10 at 20:19
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    Waffle+Bunny=Tastier bunny. – rlb.usa Apr 22 '10 at 23:19

I notice you didn't mention SU. Does it not make you giddy? If it doesn't, what's wrong with you?

As we all learned in elementary school, every person is unique and special. People learn in different ways, have different interests, &c. There are probably dozens of valid reasons that any one person might not like SO; certainly, enough that it would be impossible to list them all here.

Honestly, I'm much more curious about why you "can't understand why they aren't more interested in it" than why they aren't more interested in the first place.

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    Exactly. His colleagues obviously already knew about the trilogy, and laughed silently at him as he didn't mention SU. They were delighted from his ignorance and faked not being interested. – Gnoupi Apr 22 '10 at 19:00
  • @Popular Demand: SU doesn't impress me that much. It seems to me that the questions there can often be answered with a google search, whereas SO and SF questions have a level of complexity that goes beyond the current capabilities of google. – Jed Daniels Apr 22 '10 at 19:19
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    @Jed: Perhaps your co-workers feel the same way about the complexity of SO and SF. – Pops Apr 22 '10 at 19:49
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    @Jed I find SF to have relatively boring questions, SU on the other hand I like because I like repairing computers(sometimes) I think I may get my SU rep up to my meta rep and my meta rep up to my SO rep. – Earlz Apr 22 '10 at 19:50
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    @Jed Daniels: Many of SU's questions are more than a simple google, and many of my programming answers come from SO - through google. (Thus, every single one of SO's answers is a simple google, now :P) – Phoshi Apr 22 '10 at 20:41

For many folks, what legitimizes a service is seeing that site come up in search results they naturally do anyway.

Are these the types of people the kind that would be doing web searches that would eventually land them on SO, SF, and SU?

The best way you can evangelize the sites, honestly, is to do exactly what we're already doing -- generate a lot of breadcrumb trails of your awesomeness for others to eventually find.

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    Just be sure birds don't eat them – juan Apr 22 '10 at 19:41
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    If they stay long enough, eventually, they will be burned by Trogdor and become croutons of awesomeness. – Pekka Mar 15 '12 at 10:14

In my environment some people just don't jump into SO because of their knowledge and proficiency (or lack of) on the english language.

They are affraid to ask, shy to respond, feel embarrased with the need to explain themselves.. They either just don't take it, or give up after a few attempts and never follow on.

For many, they'd love SO in their language.

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    What's really sad is that this is only a barrier to those people who actually care enough to be embarrassed or self-conscious. And those people are the ones those of us who speak English well would be more than happy to help, either by editing their posts or explaining things more clearly. It's the people who get on and post nonsense without even caring or trying to improve that we wish would give up. – Cody Gray Mar 15 '12 at 9:56

We're all individuals and we're all intrigued by different things. Perhaps they would be more interested if they had an immediate need, or perhaps they just plain don't think it's cool. And that's fine. Not everyone has to love SO.


I disagree with Jon, they are absolutely suffering from dementia.

Next you'll tell us they don't like unicorns and waffles. There's no such person mister!

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    Plenty of people don't like waffles. Bad people. Very bad people. – user27414 Apr 22 '10 at 18:03
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    -1; the very thought is sacrilege! (Not actually downvoting because I fear it will trigger the ATWOOD Tactical Whistleblower of Offensive Obsequious Downvotes... but I would otherwise.) – Pops Apr 22 '10 at 19:15
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    @Popular: +1 for recursive acronym. – gnostradamus Apr 22 '10 at 19:26

Another possiblity:

  • StackOverflow is addicting. : >

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