· software engineering Stack Overflow

Why students find Stack Overflow useful, and when they don't

In one of my junior optional courses, I conducted a simple survey in the form of homework to ask my classmates’ experience about Stack Overflow. They are all my peers at the Software Institute, who have extensive experience of developing large and new software projects (therefore use Stack Overflow a lot) compared with more traditional CS students.

There were two questions in the survey:

  1. Under what circumstances do you want to use Stack Overflow? Hint: think at different software development phases.
  2. When does Stack Overflow fail to fulfill your requirement? Why does it fail?

I collected 67 valid responses, and the response rate is 100% since it’s homework :). Here are my interpreted results:

To the first question:

To the second question:

In hindsight, I should have asked them to provide concrete examples.

Many of these claims are interesting and I never saw them in previous studies on Stack Overflow. Such result demonstrates a wide spectrum of how things can go wrong, and I believe there is a huge opportunity for researchers to dig beneath the surface.