Future Scenario for Stack Overflow

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A letter from the new CEO of Prashant Chandrasekar, in which he recalls the first months of work and shares his vision of the development of the company in 2020.

As we enter the new decade, we see how areas such as cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning are closely intertwined, and how cooperation between young programmers from around the world is growing rapidly. Every day, millions of developers visit Stack Overflow to find the information they need as technology advances. A lot has changed since I graduated from the Faculty of Computer Engineering. I was interested in programming languages ​​such as Perl, but at that time only my teachers, classmates, small forums, and a couple of penpals could help me learn them. The numbers below give an idea of ​​the impact our community has now and what opportunities lie ahead:

  • For 2019 Stack overflow and Stack exchange network has been visited by over 100 million users, and there are up to 10 billion unique page views.
  • Stack overflow added more 2.8 million answers and 2.6 million new questions; More than 1.7 million new users joined our community, also for 2019. There are currently over 18 million questions and 27 million answers on Stack Overflow; More than 150,000 people create Stack Overflow accounts every month. And this is after 12 years of our work.
  • Every day, users answer thousands of questions on topics such as cloud technology, containerization and machine learning. A storehouse of platform knowledge is constantly growing Amazon web services, Google cloud platform and Microsoft azure.
  • In connection with our updated code of conduct Community members and volunteer moderators processed nearly two million comments and filtered inaccurate, offensive, and inappropriate content.
  • Hundreds of thousands of engineers have used the service. Stack overflow for teams for more efficient and faster interaction.
  • Over 40,000 vacancies have been posted on Stack overflow jobs in 2019. Today we have more 1,000,000 active developer profilesinterested in being contacted on Stack overflow talent.
  • About million developers found new useful tools thanks to advertising on one of our sites.

Few companies have a significant role in the software world and contribute to the development of the digital society. Stack Overflow is proud to be one of these companies. I would like to thank our founders, Joel and Jeff, employees around the world and millions of members of the community who supported our mission and laid the foundation for further progress.

Work without the participation of our truly exceptional community would be in vain. Hundreds of thousands of users of Stack Overflow, with the support of hundreds of moderators, helped monitor questions, filter answers, suggest new tags, and keep discussions on the topic and without rudeness. These seemingly simple daily activities turned into a big deal. In addition to being highly active, detailed discussions such as cybersecurity, cloud architecture, and data science are expanding on the Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange pages.

Learning from the company and the community – and improving our organization

In the first three months of work in the company, from October to December 2019, I contacted all our employees around the world, spent a lot of time outside the office, talking with customers and community members. From the conversations, it became clear that software development was proceeding quickly, and now successful companies are developing internal culture and practices in order to keep up with progress.

The modern developer blurred the boundaries between programming languages, the framework, cloud computing and DevOps. Developers and companies, competing or interfering with each other, are trying to succeed and occupy a niche in the digital economy. Each significant development depends on the answers that programmers, asking questions, find on Stack Overflow. But while Stack Overflow expanded the rights and opportunities of programmers around the world, helped them learn, write codes and create products faster, we, as a company, could not keep up with the development of the industry.

By improving the platform, community infrastructure and culture, we will bring more benefits to the community and continue to be an integral part of the programmer’s workflow. Of the approximately 90,000 respondents to our Stack Overflow Developer Survey survey conducted in 2019, 80% called themselves amateur programmers, 60% wrote their first line of code before age 17, and only 10% of all respondents were women. These statistics greatly influence our community policy. The progress and growth of Stack Overflow is largely dependent on millions of developers from around the world who benefit from our site but who have not yet joined the community. We need to raise our reach and expand our engagement so that these developers join discussions and take their learning to new levels.

One of the key components of successful product development is to listen to the needs of the client and, based on research data, take a thoughtful approach to creation. In our case, it is very important to work closely with the community – to be able to listen, change and go faster. For example, over the past few months, we have not had a single dialogue with our community on how to best change the code of conduct and ensure compliance. We realized that we needed more effective ways to communicate with our moderators and community members. We did not update the channels of participation of experienced users, such as Meta, and did not report any prospect of improvements in the future. This caused friction, as the user audience and the business itself grew rapidly. We acknowledge these problems, apologize for our mistakes and plan to correct them.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, we created a special, large group to solve this key problem. It included active community members from across the company. The task of the group is to establish feedback and improve working relations with our community. We also introduced one representative of this group to our board, which we reorganized in such a way as to achieve high-quality leadership oriented to the community. In addition, we are forming a moderator council, which will include users with diverse experience and will also assist in the leadership. We have to make difficult decisions, but when planning the development of the community, we are not following the prejudices.

Most importantly, we started a key large-scale community survey called Through the loop. We invited our entire community to make requests and wishes about the functionality of the product, as well as share ideas on the development of Stack Overflow. We have received a consistent response from you on such key topics as the quality of questions and answers, friendliness and involvement, as well as the search for relevant questions and answers. All this is done to identify new, more productive ways to work with our community (with attention to its interests) and to bring the company to a new stage of development. We want to be useful to all millions of people who use Stack Overflow, and not just those who are familiar with the work of the site in the past. For clarity, this does not mean that channels such as Meta will disappear. But they must grow and guarantee users a timely response to any of their requests.

We have already decided how our board of moderators will be organized, agreed on an internal schedule in order to be able to ask our colleagues difficult questions, opened positions that will be able to make more ambitious decisions than Meta, and worked out the basics of the moderator training program. By the end of this quarter, all initiatives will be published so that you, our users, can familiarize themselves.

One of the main priorities of the Stack Overflow development program in 2020 is to attract and engage the community. Our team has already developed and published a plan to improve communication and empower our users within the company. By implementing it on an experimental basis, we hope to improve the work of those areas that, as we know, need our attention, namely: stimulating more issues, reducing friction between users, increasing the level of involvement, establishing closer cooperation between Stack Overflow and other technical Stack Exchange sites. The results of all this work are published on our blog under the new tag. Loop seriesas well as in sections news and podcast. We have already received some undoubtedly encouraging results: more and more people are asking questions, we were able to reduce the number of negative comments by almost half, and December has become the leading month in terms of the number of new subscribers!

Business development and help to each team

At the same time, Stack Overflow continues to grow and develop as a business. We started with the project. Advertising and gradually expanded to Talent. In the first months of work, I took part in managing these projects. Then I realized how underestimated Stack Overflow is a platform that allows developers to directly contact companies, get a job with them or present their products that are directly targeted at developers. And we have every chance to talk about these opportunities.

Our third line of business development is Stack overflow for teams, SaaS flagship product (software as a service).
Programmers have the opportunity to use Stack Overflow within their workgroup to resolve issues that arise during the development of code or technologies. This is an invaluable service for developers and technicians working in technology giants such as Microsoft, for which there are more users 70,000 people. The service will also be useful for small startups like Osso vr, several dozen developers of which are already using our platform. The corporate version was released just two years ago, and we reached the level of medium-sized business as half a year already. In a very short period, Team has become our fastest growing product. As part of this project, we pay special attention to expanding partnerships. Stack Overflow works with many popular tools — Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Okta. Soon, the list of key developer tools will also include GitHub Enterprise and Jira.

A distinctive advantage of the Stack Overflow for Teams service is that it can be used without leaving your home: development teams strive to release the product faster and respond quickly to customer requests. For this, it is necessary that the specialists in design, management and marketing closely cooperate not only with each other regarding the production and delivery of the product, but also can help the sales and customer service groups present their audience with accurate and up-to-date product information, updates and release plans . We recently launched a trial version of Stack Overflow for Teams, free first 30 daysso that everyone can appreciate how convenient this tool is for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Talking with clients or members of the community, I constantly hear that the tools that we created to discuss code writing can be extremely useful in other areas – in designing, product development, marketing, and even in the field of business operations, law , customer service and sales. Since I know that developers love accurate data, I would like to share the main points of the study that we ordered from Forrester Consulting to evaluate the economic impact of the Teams project. Sowing with our four major customers, they began to dig deep. After weeks of interviews and careful calculation, we got results that confirmed the incredible return on investment of 179%. A full analysis also revealed other unexpectedly high indicators that the company received from the Stack Overflow Team:

  • $ 224,000 for the first year, eliminating the need to repeat the question over and over
  • $ 1.1 million for the first year, saving time to get an answer
  • Shorter time to market
  • Quick inclusion of new team members in the work

These numbers inspire optimism and confidence in our company that we can continue to help developers and technicians around the world do their jobs better and more efficiently.

Stack Overflow Growth

In order to stimulate the further growth of the company in 2020, we expand and diversify management responsibilities. Just last week, we announced the appointment of the Director of Procurement Theresa Dietrich, which previously held senior positions in companies such as McKinsey New Ventures, Namely and WebMD. And also we included in our council Adrianne Burroughs. Adrianna was previously a lead marketer for Microsoft and Cornerstone OnDemand, and currently serves as director of marketing for PayScale. I am grateful to our new specialists for their experience and assistance in promoting the company.

Stack Overflow has already become an integral part of the developer’s workflow, but much remains to be done. Many of the innovations that we are preparing to introduce under Theresa’s leadership will be related to opportunities arising at the intersection of the private and open Stack Overflow. Developers want us to be more active in their workflow. More than once a day, programmers turn to published questions and answers in order to find a solution to their pressing working questions. But they also want more active interaction and a broader opportunity for the exchange of experience, especially when it comes to our product for corporate use.

We have already seen how many companies use the infrastructure of our community and thereby improve the quality of their work. Sencha, Snowflake and Mapbox announced that they intend to use the Stack Overflow platform and help programmers resolve issues regarding their products. “We want everyone to find it easier and faster to find answers to their questions, especially to those that have already been asked earlier by other users, without waiting for an answer from our team,” wrote Janiv Markowski, Head of Mapbox Support. “As a bonus, participating in discussions creates a feedback loop that allows us to fix the problem and understand how we can improve our product.” We are currently studying how to facilitate the interaction of developers and companies on Stack Overflow – that is, to create more curatorial channels and spaces so that you can interact directly with specific groups. Follow our news!

In 2020, we plan to promote a public question and answer format, expand our community and strengthen our position as a pillar of the software industry and an extensive knowledge resource. We also know that we have a lot of work to do to improve ways to interact with our community, as well as continue to strive for greater openness, accessibility and diversity.

We are facing a big challenge. Therefore, entering this year, I asked all Stack Overflow employees to support the development course (working hard, giving feedback and not losing inspiration), remember our goal and conduct each meeting as if it was attended by a community representative or our client. I ask you – anyone who reads this post – to continue to grow with us, to contact us through new feedback tools, and to continue to rely on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange as a necessary resource for exchanging ideas and information on technical topics.

Companies that have foresight, adhere to not only a specific business model, but also missions, challenge problems whose solution will advance humanity forward. Stack Overflow has the opportunity to realize our deep mission – to help write a script for the future, supporting developers and technical experts. So let us all together answer the most important questions of this great new era of technology.


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