So if you’re a programmer you know that Stack Overflow (SO) is the best thing that happened to programming since like object oriented programming. It has revolutionized solving programming issues and I rarely program without it (I have been a member for 1 year and 11 months as of writing this and visited the site 372 days).

Yet despite how great it is, I have like 111 rep (aka next to nothing). If you look at my profile I have a 100 reputation association bonus (from Workplace StackExchange) and one question with two upvotes. I mean I have also cast 160 votes and flagged a comment but that doesn’t really count. Why do I have almost no SO activity? Two reasons.

I have asked almost no questions because I have been able to answer all but one of my questions by looking really hard. I one read a post on meta SO (MSO) where a high rep user (+100k) was saying you should be slightly ashamed to have to post on SO and that you should only be using it as a last resort after doing at least 2 days of searching. While I think that is a little extreme, I generally agree, most questions (in popular programming areas) have answers on the internet. Additionally SO isn’t for debugging code, if you come with nothing but a stack trace, you’re not going to get an answer; you need to know generally what your problem is, have tried to find a solution and tried some stuff yourself. As a result, I don’t post on SO unless I have spent about a day searching and trying stuff with no luck and as such have only posted once.

I haven’t answered any questions mainly because I don’t feel like camping the question queue or searching for questions. SO has a ‘fasted gun in the west’ problem on a lot of questions, what this mean is the person who posts the answer fastest normally gets the best score. I like to spend my time answering questions and by the time I have written a response someone else also has a response and I feel that my answer add little value. You might be noticing that I am talking like I have answered questions, I have answered two a long time ago, one I deleted because someone posted a better answer and one I deleted because I rushed my answer and it was wrong.

On top of what I have said, SO is a pretty hostile place (see the top MSO question) and as such I tend to avoid doing much other than lurking.

The reason I am posting this is I know some places consider SO reputation when looking for programmers. While I think that having huge SO rep definitely shows you know your stuff, I know people who have well over 1k rep and have never programmed, they just know how to google search and write answers. SO rep isn’t the whole story when it comes to looking at programmers, nor is grades or working on open source projects. They’re all good things (particularly open source) but having any of those doesn’t mean you’ll be a good employee/programmer and not having them doesn’t mean you’ll be a bad one!