What does Stack Overflow mean to you?
Is it simply a place to get questions and answers?
Is it is a community where you enjoy being around people like you?
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I think Stack Overflow is a place where even the most beautiful prancing unicorn is no more important than the smallest dust mite. All shall have their chance at glory in the cage, but only one can be crowned Supreme Lord of the Rainbow Sphere!
Of course, I've been licking a lot of brightly-colored toads lately.
It's a place where I can see a big number next to my name (and the badges don't hurt either).
I've lurked at programming sites before, but never participated. Then one day in September I saw a question on SO that looked easy, so I signed up and answered it. Then I got upvoted. Then I got a badge. Then I couldn't stop.
I also do quite a bit of editing, mainly because I like making things better; it drives me nuts when I'm on any other forum and I can't edit anyone's posts.
But for all that, I would likely have gotten bored and left months ago if it weren't for that number at the top of the screen.
With Stack Overflow I can:
Answer questions for fun - recreation
Amuse myself while waiting for long winded batch jobs to finish - kill time
Get a sense of helping somebody by ... helping somebody - participate in a community
Get help with problems - better technical support than most vendors
Pontificate on topics that interest me - can't be arsed setting up a blog
Learn by digging around further to answer a question that I know part of the answer to - self improvement
Learn stuff I didn't know by reading answers - self improvement
Occasionally get pats on the back for stuff that people appreciate - warm fuzzies
Occasionally get lots of upvotes for writing a good answer - sense of achievement
I like Stack Overflow, because it gives the me the ability to contribute and promote growth. I typically try and facilitate this with my editing and moderating abilities. I have been around since the beta, and I have enjoyed watching Stack Overflow grow into an overwhelming success.
I like to think I played at least a small part in this.
I view it as a place to increase my skills and abilities in multiple ways. First of all, obviously, is technically. As a c# programmer there are many areas of the .NET framework I've never had to touch, but I've learned at least bits an pieces about many of those areas from SO. Additionally, I believe it has improved my communication skills. By trying to provide answers that get upvoted, I've had to learn to communicate my thoughts better. I believe this is immensely important to my day job because any time you work with a team, your ability to communicate and show people why you think what you do is extremely important. And finally, as my knowledge and answers have improved it has been a source encouragement and validation of my talents.
I used to come for the boat-programming questions, but they are banned. Now it leaves me mostly empty inside. I come to visit less and less.