Stack Overflow Is You

by Jeff Atwood

on November 25, 2008

I was surprised to find the following question on Stack Overflow:

Jon Skeet Facts

Apparently this "question" is.. somewhat controversial; as of now it has 31 revisions and 65 comments. It was opened by Bill the Lizard, who accepted this answer, from Jon Skeet, appropriately enough:

These are written in the third person so as not to disrupt the style of the thing. But hey, as we all know, Jon Skeet can make 1 == 3 anyway, so it makes no difference.

  • Jon Skeet is immutable. If something's going to change, it's going to have to be the rest of the universe.

  • Jon Skeet's addition operator doesn't commute - it teleports to where he needs it to be.

  • Anonymous methods and anonymous types are really all called Jon Skeet. They just don't like to boast.

  • Jon Skeet's code doesn't follow a coding convention. It is the coding convention.

  • Jon Skeet doesn't have performance bottlenecks. He just makes the universe wait its turn.

  • Users don't mark Jon Skeet's answers as accepted. The universe accepts them out of a sense of truth and justice.

Funny stuff. We do prefer that questions on Stack Overflow stay on the topic of programming, but as Joel and I have discussed before on the podcast, this is somewhat subjective, and it's OK to err on the side of "fun" every now and then. Not all the time, mind you, but occasional peripherally related digressions that the community enjoys (and upvotes) are perfectly fine.

This question may be more on-topic than it looks, though. One of the major reasons we created Stack Overflow to give every programmer a chance to be recognized by their peers. Recognized for their knowledge, their passion, and their willingness to help their fellow programmers get better at their craft.

Jon, like many other highly voted Stack Overflow users, has gone out of his way to help his peers, and demonstrated an impressive breadth of knowledge in his questions and answers. So much so that his peers felt he deserved this accolade. He does, and he's not alone.

I was happy to find that I am no longer on the first page of Stack Overflow users sorted by reputation. That's the way it should be. Stack Overflow isn't about me. Nor is it about Joel. Or anybody else on the Stack Overflow team for that matter.

Stack Overflow is you.

This is the scary part, the great leap of faith that Stack Overflow is predicated on: trusting your fellow programmers. The programmers who choose to participate in Stack Overflow are the "secret sauce" that makes it work. You are the reason I continue to believe in developer community as the greatest source of learning and growth. You are the reason I continue to get so many positive emails and testimonials about Stack Overflow. I can't take credit for that. But you can.

I learned the collective power of my fellow programmers long ago writing on Coding Horror. The community is far, far smarter than I will ever be. All I can ask -- all any of us can ask -- is to help each other along the path.

And if your fellow programmers decide to recognize you for that, then I say you’ve well and truly earned it.