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Christopher Diggins

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Stack Overflow: Programmers working for Free?!

October 17, 2009

Recently I have found myself hooked on answering questions on StackOverflow.com. I think it may provide some insights into the psychology of programmers. One question regarding what languages can broaden a programmer's perspective, made me sit down and provide a detailed answer.

StackOverflow.com has found a way to leverage the psychology of programmers (including yours truly) into providing free advice and problem solving on a massive scale. 

I don't fully understand why it works, but it seems to be related to the fact that by assigning a score (reputation) to people, and giving away "badges", they have made answering questions into a game.

I have seen some incredibly intelligent and knowledgable people on the site (including respected computer science researchers), giving away their time and knowledge for a simple up-vote. I don't know exactly why I feel compelled, but I do know that I have both obsessive and a competitive components to my psyche, which are probably playing into it.

One question I answered recently may be of interest to the DobbsCodeTalk community. The title of the post was C++ programmer looking to broaden perspective. Since I felt like I was a C++ programmer who had spent the last several years having his perspective broadened due to my research into programming languages, I compiled a list of languages I learned and the epiphanies they provided me .     


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