It’s Not Just You: Stack Overflow Is Still Full of Jerks

The annual Stack Overflow developer survey has a lot of good fodder and insight. This year, it also has one of the best self-owns we’ve seen in quite a while.

Stack Overflow admits it’s a toxic hell-stew.

Deep down in Stack Overflow’s 2019 Developer Survey is the ‘community’ section, which is a look at who uses Stack Overflow. It also gauges how often they use the platform, why they visit, and whether it’s useful to them. From the study, we have the following takeaways:

  • Most use Stack Overflow daily, or multiple times per day.
  • A majority have been using Stack Overflow for several years.
  • Almost all users go to find answers to their questions.
  • Comparing frequency of use and how often they find answers to their questions, most are successful.
  • Many think Stack Overflow saves them time compared to other resources

Late last year, Stack Overflow instituted new community guidelines, mandating that developers ‘be nice’ to one another. It offered up such gems as “If you Google it, you’ll find tutorials that can explain it much better than we can in an answer here,” as opposed to responding with, “You could Google this in 5 seconds.” It was an effort to clean up the site, which the company knew was just terrible.

Did it work? Nah.

Some 73 percent of respondents say Stack Overflow is just as welcoming to users as it was last year. When it asked respondents what they’d change about Stack Overflow, one of the more popular requests was to fix the “community culture.”

Women and men see Stack Overflow differently, too. When asked what they’d like changed, men most often responded with words like “bounty” and “force.” The words women used most were “condescending,” “replies,” “nicer,” “rude,” and “dumb.”

It’s not all terrible news; Stack Overflow reports “respondents who are people of color, especially black or of African descent, South Asian, and Hispanic or Latino/Latina, are especially likely to say they feel more welcome this year, both in the United States and worldwide,” which is awesome. And people are finding solutions to their problems, which is what the site is about anyway.

But when you’ve got to wade through a river of ego and spite before being told to “Google it,” we start to wonder how long people will tolerate a Stack Overflow where a “cultural shift” hasn’t yet taken hold.

11 Responses to “It’s Not Just You: Stack Overflow Is Still Full of Jerks”

  1. I remember back in the days when I was quite eager to learn coding for my studies, I asked questions on Stack Overflow and I always get unfriendly and sometimes rude replies (or they simply just downvoted you without explaining anything – I never posted any question without extensive search). There’s of course nice people who helped me out, but the rest of them were a bunch of ego people. That community’s attitudes was one of the reasons why my interests in programming reduced drastically.

  2. What an unproductive article…What is the end goal here? At least Stack has been a productive tool for our community. Dice is filled with recruiters who do not know how to write a decent email. I wouldn’t in a million years visit Instead of slamming another website, how about you update us on what Dice is doing to improve themselves? Not a good look

  3. Gamified human communication is a mistake.

    SO may have been a business success, but in helping developers, it has been a massive failure because of what it costs: millions of hours of developer talent wasted in meaninglessly deleted/closed questions, and countless opportunities for experts to share their own questions and information in the formats that best suit the needs of the problem. And let’s not forget the social damages of a toxic Internet.

    A world without SO/SE would likely have been one where people are still able to give longform questions and answers on their blogs or elsewhere without fear of having their well-crafted and even pertinent questions closed or deleted, and where competent people may not be incentivized by a cheap Skinner’s Box-style upvote fix, but won’t be actively discouraged from spending time thinking of ways to help people for the sake of helping other people.

  4. SO simply sucks. It is full of entitled incels. Programmers don’t tend to be geniuses, most of them are just regular guys, they are not rocket scientists, but they think they are the elite of all the elites on planet earth, they are the mean cousins of dunning kruger.

    I am a programmer myself, but I am not an incel, after attending to a lot of conferences, I can clearly state that, if you see a mean guy on SO, read his profile – he’ll have a cat picture, he will stress how geeky he is and how many languages he can speak, or in how many languages he can “code”, he is probably an incel.

    SO is full of Supreme Gentlemans. They should change their name to Supreme Gentleman Incel Club.

  5. Crect Answr

    SO should have, in addition to normal reputation, an asshole reputation score for each user.
    Next to a given comment or answer provided by a user, there should be an “This guy’s an asshole” button that a reader can press. This increases that users asshole rep.

    Users who accumulate a noticably-higher-than-average asshole rep should have everything they write prepended with some bright colorful message to the effect of “I’m an asshole, so read on with caution.” The asshole rep could be gradually reduced if the user makes comments or answers that *don’t* incur very many asshole button presses.