Stack Overflow (website)
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2012)|
Screenshot of Stack Overflow as of December 2011
|Type of site||Knowledge markets|
|Registration||Optional; Uses OpenID|
|Content license||CC-BY-SA 3.0 (for user contributions)|
|Owner||Stack Exchange, Inc.|
|Created by||Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood|
|Alexa rank||57 (March 2014[update])|
Stack Overflow is a privately held website, the flagship site of the Stack Exchange Network, created in 2008 by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky, as a more open alternative to earlier Q&A sites such as Experts Exchange. The name for the website was chosen by voting in April 2008 by readers of Coding Horror, Atwood's popular programming blog.
It features questions and answers on a wide range of topics in computer programming. The website serves as a platform for users to ask and answer questions, and, through membership and active participation, to vote questions and answers up or down and edit questions and answers in a fashion similar to a wiki or digg. Users of Stack Overflow can earn reputation points and "badges"; for example, a person is awarded 10 reputation points for receiving an "up" vote on an answer given to a question, and can receive badges for their valued contributions, which represents a kind of gamification of the traditional Q&A site or forum. All user-generated content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute-ShareAlike license. Closing unsuccessful questions is encouraged as a mechanism to differentiate from competitors such as Yahoo! Answers.
The website was created by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky in 2008. On 31 July 2008, Jeff Atwood sent out invitations encouraging his subscribers to take part in the private beta of the new website, limiting its use to those willing to test out the new software. On 15 September 2008 it was announced the public beta version was in session and that the general public was now able to use it to seek assistance on programming related issues. The design of the Stack Overflow logo was decided by a voting process.
In April, 2009 Stack Exchange implemented a policy of "timed suspension", in order to curtail users who either show "No effort to learn (the community rules) and improve over time" or engage in "disruptive behavior" and become a nuisance. The suspension is accompanied by temporarily setting the user's reputation score at '1' and a notation on the user's profile page indicating the suspension and remaining duration.
A 2013 study has found that 77% of users only ask one question, 65% only answer one question, and only 8% of users answer more than 5 questions. As of 2011, 92% of the questions were answered, in a median time of 11 minutes.
As of August 2012, 443,000 of the 1.3M registered users had answered at least one question, and of those, approximately 6,000 (0.46% of the total user count) had earned a reputation score greater than 5000. Reputation can be gained fastest by answering questions related to tags with lower expertise density, doing so promptly (in particular being the ﬁrst one to answer a question), being active during off-peak hours, and contributing to diverse areas.
Stack Overflow has been criticized for encouraging poor learning habits, using a rewards system with perverse incentives favoring quick answers versus quality ones, and having a community dominated and shaped by authoritarian moderators. Popular questions with both informative and humorous value have been deleted from the site.
Stack Overflow is written in ASP.NET 4  using the ASP.NET MVC (Model-View-Controller) framework, and SQL Server 2008 for the database. Unregistered users have access to most of the site's functionality, while users that sign in (for example, by using the OpenID service) can gain access to more functionality, such as establishing a profile and being able to earn reputation to allow functionality like re-tagging questions or voting to close a question.
The Stack Overflow team has recently begun the creation of an API for accessing the data contained on the other sites. Discussion on Stack Apps centers around the API, although users are encouraged to list apps and libraries developed for the API.
- Askbot (free engine)
- OSQA (Open Source Question and Answer)
- Shapado, an open-source clone of Stack Overflow
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