Do you keep your Stack Overflow ID a secret from your colleagues? If so, why?

Sometimes I wonder if people might do so thinking it will undermine their apparent expertise.

closed as not constructive by Rosinante, ChrisF, Time Traveling Bobby, George Stocker, Pops May 17 '11 at 17:39

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    You're talking about this in context of posting questions rather than posting answers, right? – BalusC May 14 '11 at 20:55
  • seems harsh to close this, to be honest. in fact, it seems the edit of my title is actually what caused the closure. – miguel May 17 '11 at 19:41

You seem to be asking in the context of asking questions, if I read between the lines.

So: if you don't want to feel embarrassed by asking questions, make them good questions. Make it clear and well-written; explain what you have looked at, and why there is still a gap. State your expectation and how reality differs. Show code, but the minumum code to understand the scenario (don't dump your entire week's work). Format the question so it can be easily read. Appropriate punctuation is nice.

And to answer your question... no, I don't conceal my stackoverflow id or any other. The things you do online are part of your online portfoilo, essentially. Make them good! Make them impressive to both your current and future employers. By standing up and saying "hey, this is me; I stand by this question" you are likely to make it a better question - more attachment and association. Oh, and it is also entirely fine to make mistakes in public. That is OK; it isn't a problem, and you don't need to be embarrassed - just be gracious.

Heck, I recently spent several hours implementing something I thought was lacking in .NET; blogged about some findings, got corrected, was happy to be corrected, and re-blogged with this new knowledge. But even in error I learned lots about the tools I was looking at. And I was much happier to find that an existing "core" tool filled that exact niche perfectly.

And stepping out of an anonymous shadow might lead you into other avenues... blogging, OSS, geek-talks, whatever excites you. Whenever I've seen a colleague stand up and take a stand in their own name (whether that is asking or answering, blogging, whatever) I'm happy; I know that is a colleague who just stepped up and took responsibility and ownership of their online persona.

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    Oh, if I could give more than one upvote..... – Kevin LaBranche May 15 '11 at 2:24
  • great answer. Egoless development is the transcendental plane of developer existance! – miguel May 15 '11 at 10:13
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    @Miguel well, depends... Ego can be positive if it drives you towards improving quality, but negative if it makes you unable to accept correction – Marc Gravell May 15 '11 at 10:25
  • Agreed, but many developers, especially early in their careers, can veer towards the latter. – miguel May 15 '11 at 10:32
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    @Miguel ooh! I thought of a sensible time to keep it private from colleagues... "I work for a site with a hyphen in the name" – Marc Gravell May 15 '11 at 10:57
  • Making correctable mistakes is OK (especially in something as trivial as writing programs – shipping code is a bit different, but that's why there is QA) so long as one doesn't keep on making the same mistake. Blundering the same way over and over is dumb and embarrassing; I try so hard to avoid it… – Donal Fellows May 15 '11 at 11:10

I have done the opposite. My ID is designed to be identifiable back to me fairly easily. I do this because I am proud of my knowledge and work. I've worked hard for it! I am not trying to be egotistical about it either.... Rather I want to be willing to help others as well as receive it and be open to admitting I need help.

If someone wanted to hide themself just for personal privacy then so be it. That's a personal preference.

If someone wants/needs to hide behind a persona to mask that they may not actually know something they have bigger problems than keeping that from colleagues. If they are any good they'll see through it anyway.

We shouldn't feel vulnerable because we don't know something. If you are in that kind of a shop then run! You should be able to openly tell someone I don't know but I'll research it. Or even better, perhaps one of my team members does know. Teach me!

Even a leader of a team can/should learn from his/her team members and not be afraid to admit it and promote such a kind of work environment.


I wouldn't want my collegues reading my stuff because its my stuff. If I have sought a solution to a problem, I don't want them to know what my problems are.

This goes double for programmers where I may put up a question on a situation that doesn't reflect well on them.

Generally though I just want to seperate different areas of my life. My home life work life and online life shouldn't collide. I would count it an invasion of privacy for them to be checking up on what I'm doing even though its not private data.

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    On the tech stuff, I kinda disagree with this on a lot of levels; sorry, but I just do. If my tech problems relate to work, I'm already open with things that are barriers - and a well-written question should stand any level of scrutiny without shame. If it is outside of work... why should they care? – Marc Gravell May 14 '11 at 21:49
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    Thats fine @Marc Gravell I'm not assuming for one minute that its the only correct way to look at this. Mostly my problems aren't really work related anyway. Which is kind of why I wouldn't want them being read. Some are. Little miffed on the downvote as the question was specifically on what we do. But thats fine its a healthy discussion to have. – Wes May 14 '11 at 21:51
  • ok, that's fair - it does indeed match the question. I'll agree to disagree then. – Marc Gravell May 14 '11 at 21:57
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    @marc - sometimes and sadly office politics are a scenario where keeping your Stack Overflow activity separate(/secret?) is a must. i.e. you disagree with a colleague or manager about technical issue so you come to SO and ask for guidance or to confirm who is right or wrong. The next thing you know you're being hauled over the coals because you didn't "like it or lump it". Fortunately I don't work under such draconian conditions, but I know a few devs who have to tread carefully in their places of work. – Kev May 14 '11 at 22:57

Personally, I don't keep it a secret, but since I work in healthcare, as an ODP (a non-programming-related job), it is of little relevance to my colleagues anyway...

One reason for keeping it a secret, though, might be to conceal one's unfamiliarity with a programming language or style, while beginning a new job. Or changing projects.

Another reason might be to deliberately avoid becoming the go-to guy for problems in a particular language, but if that was the case it's hard to imagine why this person would be providing answers on Stackoverflow in the first place...


I'm fairly cagey, though I suspect they could work it out if they're motivated (I always have at least one tab with a Stack Exchange site open...).

Several reasons:

  • some of my questions have been about internal technology decisions which I've found dubious (though the answers haven't always come down on my side).
  • similarly, some of my areas of 'research' have been on technologies which would very definitely challenge the status quo.

Yes, I'm careful to not let my coworkers know my SO ID. The last thing I want is for my boss to go to my activity page and see what I've been doing all day when I was supposed to be on that conference call!

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