Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE stackoverflow.com. I have my beta badge. The very first question I posted was answered in under 40 seconds. You cannot beat that! stackoverflow is a GREAT tool that will help you learn and work better. I wish we had something like this a long time ago. And I am EVER grateful to Jeff Atwood for granting me permission to use his excellent blog posts in my podcast.
My question stems from my interest in the workings of the human brain and human nature. Early in my career, often times when I ran into a programming roadblock, I would run to the senior developers and they would help me resolve the issue. On one such run-to-senior occasion, none of the seniors devs was available. Came back to my desk and 10 minutes later I resolved the issue. That lack of easy access to a ready solution forced me to “think-out-of-the-box” and solve the problem.
Will easy access to stackoverflow.com which has no barrier to entry (no logins to create, no registration, just ask away) make you lazy? Instead of spending that extra 10 minutes, will you just post a question and wait for answers? Granted you have to know when to stop endlessly spinning the wheel and ask for help, but you also have to realize that it is better to learn to fish than just go get the fish. But then, you also use google to search for a solution to a problem. Often I have pasted the error message in the search box and gotten a good solution. Does that make you lazy? Not really. But stackoverflow is different. There are these answer trolls sitting around answering questions. At least that’s what it looks like. The number of unanswered questions, whenever I have looked, has stayed below 100. The goal of stackoverflow is to eventually have the answers popup via a google search for the question.
Good developers will always know when to stop and ask for help. I think the voting feature built into stackoverflow, especially the ability to down vote a question, will eventually weed out silly questions. And, as developers wishing to move beyond 5:01 one should resist the urge to post every question on stackoverflow. You may argue that you are learning from others’ answers but answering a question is a better way to learn and will help you build your reputation.
To answer my own question, No stackoverflow will not make you lazy. The lazy, average 5:01 devs will always be lazy. Let’s make stackoverflow a great resource.
Now, go answer those few unanswered questions.