Pratically no one in 2023 does programming without looking up code on a wiki, tutorial filled website or, when you need to go into specifics and can’t find the answer already posted somewhere, in stackoverflow, the most popular question-and-answer websites for developers of all kinds. Is it worth it venturing in that website as a newbie though? Is there no alternatives to it? We shall see.
One of the main issues with StackOverflow is the toxicity that can sometimes exist on the platform. Experienced users can be dismissive or even rude to those who ask “basic” questions or don’t adhere to the website’s strict guidelines. This can be a discouraging experience for new users or those who may not be as experienced in coding. Many times, even when questions aren’t immediately locked for being a “possible duplicate”, if they’re considered too simple by some users, they can get a very rude answer.
Another issue with StackOverflow is the inconsistency of moderation. Some users claim that StackOverflow moderators are inconsistent and that some questions and answers are unfairly removed or flagged as inappropriate. This can lead to frustration and confusion for users who may not understand why their question or answer was removed. On top of that, there’s also the issue of marking similar questions as duplicates, even though in many cases an issue can pop from a library or engine change, which means that an old answer won’t work even if the problem is the same.
Some users believe that StackOverflow’s moderation policies and community norms favor certain types of questions or answers, leading to bias and unequal treatment. This can be discouraging for users who may feel that their question or answer is being unfairly judged.
ChatGPT to the rescue
chatGPT was trained on a large set of data, that more like than not includes basically all questions and answers from stackoverflow up until 2021. So despite stackoverflow staff thinking it doesn’t generate high enough quality answers it is very much capable. So much so that there are tools based on it, such as Github Copilot, that use it in order to assist programmers. On top of that, with soon-to-be-released GPT 4, you can copy paste the documentation of a library as context, to then ask it questions, which gets you much more accurate and up-to-date information. See the demo below:
To wrap things up, while stackoverflow does have its merits, in my opinion the website has gone into a downwards spiral, with no expectations to improve anytime soon. Its toxicity and unwelcoming behavior to the people who need it the most has been criticized throughout years, saddly with no changes to the community, but thankfully now there are ways to get answers to whatever code questions you might have without any of that and in a much faster way.
Update: AWS CodeWhisperer
And now we got yet another option to not depend on stackoverflow: Amazon’s CodeWhisperer, a tool released to AWS users that functions similarly to github’s codepilot, but its entirely free! It also automatically scans your code for vulnerabilities and has customized suggestions based on what it learns from you. Take a quick look: