In a sentence or two, why would you use Stack Overflow over a more specific forum such as (Java, Apache, Android, etc.)?

Just trying to get a sense of why, if I have a Java question, for example, why don't I just go to the Java forum?

Why do you use Stack Overflow? Just curious. Thanks.

  • 8
    Who is downvoting and why?
    – Moshe
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 16:51
  • 5
    Are there any Java experts left at these forums? Which is why of course. Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 17:58
  • 9
    to paraphrase A. Dent: "Who are you calling a forum??" Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 19:15
  • 1
    More to the point: why is this being closed? Seems on-topic to me.
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 23:20

11 Answers 11


The answer is two-fold:

  1. Volume. Stack Overflow has more java-specific activity than the official java forum. That means a larger audience of qualified experts for your question. While both Stack Overflow and the java forum will likely be able to get you an answer for your question, this means that Stack Overflow is more likely to be able to do it in a matter of minutes or hours instead of hours or days.
  2. Quality Stack Overflow has several features not found in traditional forums to help improve the quality of your answer:
    1. Voting. As the asker, you are admittedly the least-qualified person the judge the quality of each response. The voting mechanism helps you see what the community as a whole thinks of the different options presented, and thus make a better judgement from among the potential solutions presented.
    2. Editing. Incorrect or poorly worded responses can be corrected, such that you can end up with better answers
    3. Cross-discipline audience. If you ask a question about how to use mysql in Java, you might get an awesome response from mysql-specific expert that would never have seen your question on a java-specific forum
  • 10
    I was reminded again today of the quality factor when I tried to look up some random issue today, the specifics of which escape me now. Visited forum after forum from the Google hits, including the evil hyphen site and the official MSDN forums, and it was just crap crap crap. Once I got lucky and found a poorly-written, incomplete answer; the other times it was as if people hadn't even bothered to read the whole question. Stack Overflow's far from perfect but at least crap tends to be labeled as crap.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Dec 1, 2010 at 1:10

StackOverflow is great because it's not meant for lengthy discussion. I have a question. I ask it. Shortly thereafter, I have my answer.

  • 1
    Here on MSO, discussion is okay.
    – Pops
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 16:49
  • @PopularDemand - Okay, good to know. My answer still stands though.
    – Moshe
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 16:50
  • I never said it didn't.
    – Pops
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 16:51
  • 1
    @PopularDemand - I never said you said it didn't. :-) I did edit though.
    – Moshe
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 16:52
  • 4
    somewhere it seems that something was misunderstood...
    – IAbstract
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 23:46

I use Stack Overflow because it works.

Really bleeping well.

  • 2
    Welbogging-awesome, man!
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 18:36
  • 7
    That was a very rude edit that made it a lot less funny. I hope Matt rolls it back. Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 23:06
  • @Henk: done. Glad you found it that funny :)
    – Matt Ball
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 23:22

Because 50% of my questions get answered in under 10 minutes:

select DateDiff(minute, SQ.QuestionDate, SQ.AnswerDate) As Diff
select Questions.Id, Questions.CreationDate as QuestionDate, 
        MIN(Answers.CreationDate) as AnswerDate 
from Posts as Questions
inner join Posts as Answers on Questions.Id = Answers.ParentId
where Questions.PostTypeId = 1
and Questions.OwnerUserId = ##USERID##
Group By Questions.Id, Questions.CreationDate
) As SQ

You copy the query and try it for yourself here.


I think the answer is simple. Most of the time, I get the answer I need here on about anything programming related.


I glimpsed at the answers to your question and no one seemed to notice three defining features of Stackoverflow.

  1. One bin for all question - whoever used other 'old school' discussion boards and had question that spanned a few categories understands what I mean. It's s simple approach to offer one bin for all question but people love it.

  2. Overlapping tags, no need to explain how important it is.Imagine one superset with overlapping subsets.

  3. Clear rewarding system, this is the most controversial one. People like to be rewarded for how they contribute to the community, but should expectation of a reward for a contribution stand before contribution itself? What I've notice here is that many people here are just for points/reputation only. I'm not saying that this sort of behavior is driven by vanity or unfulfilled desires, but I'm just wondering how many of those people who spend 15h a day on SE would keep answering questions after all rewards/reputations points got suspended?I think not many. There's no such a thing as free lunch on the other hand, so this is how it goes.


Stack Overflow is great because good questions float to the top, good answers float to the top, and bad stuff sinks to the bottom.


It's fast, easy, simple, and useful. I mean this in more ways than one; everything from the user interface to the concept is nearly flawless.


Now what is the message on Stackoverflow? The message is that there are known "knowns." There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know.

When we start to believe that we know enough, we visit stackoverflow which helps us comprehend the fact that we, in fact, actually know nothing.


One site does it all ... by that I mean I work in a number of languages and StackOverflow allows me to ask questions about (just about) all of them, instead of going to a Java forum for Java questions, a Python forum for Python questions, a C forum for C questions, a PHP forum for PHP questions ...


Mostly because of the high standard of answers (the rules are really good at keeping it). Secondly because of the speed.

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