Why I Love Stack Overflow post

November 3rd, 2009

One of the sites I find myself visiting more and more often is Stack Overflow. The idea is so simple: create a web site where people can ask questions and then allow other users to answer them. Stack Overflow has spawned some other sites (most notably Server Fault, which helps sysadmins answer tougher questions) but I find it's origins much more interesting.

If I remember correctly, Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky started up Stackoverflow to provide a freely-available alternative to Experts Exchange. I have lost track of the number of times I was searching for an answer on the web, only to be led to Experts Exchange and their requirement that you pay for access to an answer. Jeff and Joel weren't having *any* of that, and thus Stackoverflow was born. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that they have figured out how to make money off the site (they've started doing job listings, but it doesn't cost someone like *me* anything to make use of this amazing resource.

For example, this week I'm doing a refactoring of an application to rework many URL's to now include a publisher key along with a league key. I discovered I needed to add a new field to a database table as part of the process, and long with that I also needed a migration script to go with it. I didn't want to write a one-off script, so I started googling around to find an answer to the question "how to do a Postgres update script with multiple sub-selects". After digging around for a while I suddenly realized I should ask an expert. So off I went to Stack Overflow and asked for some help. Then I went off to try a new sushi place in town for lunch.

By the time I came back I had my answer. A well-thought-out, correct answer. I tested it, worked just fine and I added it to the list of migration scripts for the upcoming code push when these changes go live.

I cannot recommend enough that you check out Stack Overflow next time you have a programming-related question that needs answering. Also, be a good contributor and see if you can't help out some other users of the site by providing them with an answer for *their* question. No, DIE IN A FIRE is not an appropriate response.