StackOverflow Podcast #81 Notes from the Underground

So I’ve been listening to several podcasts on my commute these days and one that I religiously listen to is StackOverflow’s. Unlike other excellent podcasts like Boagworld and Herding Code, StackOverflow’s regularly makes me yell at my radio. I think I listen to this podcast for the same reasons I used to hang out in the AOL Christian chatrooms way back when I found the internet, i.e. the need to feel superior. How I can feel superior to people who have a very successful business and reputation in the tech world when I have a blog that averages 3 visitors a day is probably a discussion best left to my psychiatrist.

That said, on this week’s podcast (which I haven’t listened to fully thus supremely qualifying me to talk about it on the internet), Jeff Atwood starts off the podcast trying to explain away his GitHub comments. His main argument seems to boil down to him being a more command-and-control project manager. However, not 15 minutes later in the podcast, he essentially scolds Joel for running his business with a brick wall around it and not being open to outside information. Hello Pot, I’m Kettle. Seriously, if you’re so freaked out by the fact that you stuck some code up on GitHub, essentially abandoned it and then came back to find out other people had cloned it, you shouldn’t be calling someone out in public about their desire to build brick walls around anything. Further making this worse, Joel runs his own damn business and should have every right to build a brick wall around it if he wants to. But expecting to have a command-and-control approach to an open source site hosted on GitHub whose tagline is “Social Coding” is so illogical it boggles the mind.

The real problem here is that Jeff just doesn’t understand GitHub and went ahead and negatively commented on it on a very public, very popular podcast. And now he’s trying to say that he didn’t mean to piss anyone off, all the time sounding horribly condescending when he complains about features of GitHub THAT ARE INTENTIONAL.

Sigh. I’m going to have to start listening to this podcast on Mondays. The reaction I find myself having is much more suited to that day than Friday.

StackOverflow Addiction

They tell me (They who? The voices in my head singing like angels from Heaven. Ed.) that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. What they don’t tell me is that it’s also the first step to becoming a full blown addict, lying in the gutter wondering if this is how Edgar Allen Poe died. I’m not sure which of those will happen but I’m addicted to StackOverflow. I have been aware of StackOverflow for quite awhile now because anytime I search for an answer to a tech question, the site pops up prominently in the results usually. However, I had resisted digging into how it worked too much, even though I listen to the weekly podcasts by Atwood and Spolsky.

All that changed last week. I’m going to the StackOverflow Dev Days in Washington, D.C. in October and it occurred to me that it would be conference suicide to not have at least signed up for the site. So, last week, I dutifully signed up, figuring nothing would ever come of it. How wrong I was.

For those of you unfamiliar with the site, it’s a place where people can post questions about any kind of programming problem and have the community answer them. While this sounds just like every other site or forum out there, the difference here is that people vote on both the answers and the questions so that the cream rises to the top. On top of that, registered users of the site have what is called reputation. Your site reputation is based on how much you participate in the community. The more questions you ask, answer or correct (among other actions), the higher reputation you have. There are also badges which are doled out based on things you do.

No longer do people answer questions out of the goodness of their black, little hearts. They start doing it so that their reputation score goes up. Better answers means more reputation. People start checking the site every day. People edit their answers so that they are better. People start checking the Unanswered list, hoping to find a really tough question to answer because it’s worth more (I think. It should be if it’s not). This is all hypothetical of course. I wouldn’t really know.

Ha, who am I kidding? It’s a sick, sick, little cycle, one that I’ve fully been sucked into. I’ve answered two questions on the site, I have 1 badge (Teacher! Woohoo!) and my reputation is up to 21 in 7 days. It really is addicting. It’s taken every ounce of self-discipline I have not to go try to answer a question while I write this post.

I have a goal of getting my reputation at least up to above 1000 before I go to the conference (if you’re interested, they just added several more days). I have no idea if that’s possible but since I haven’t seen anything about StackOverflow methadone or treatment at the Mayo clinic, I figure I have a pretty good chance.