How often do software engineers use Stack Overflow?

Around 30% of software engineers use Stack Overflow every single day with another quarter visiting the site multiple times per day. It is the world’s most popular collaboration platform for developers and serves more than 100 million people a month. 98% of software engineers use Stack Overflow in some capacity every month. 

The platform is the de facto home of software development. If you have a question, the likelihood is that it’s already been answered on Stack Overflow. There are more than 22 million questions on the platform and a whopping 84 million comments. 

Stack Overflow is essential viewing for any aspiring or professional software engineer, it will form a part of your problem-solving toolbox throughout your career. Its reputation system means that the answers on the platform have authority and are trusted by people around the globe.

Let’s dive into the data and find out how often software engineers use Stack Overflow and the various ways in which they participate. 

How often do software engineers use Stack Overflow?

Female software engineer

More than 97% of software engineers visit Stack Overflow at least once a week with just under a quarter visiting it multiple times per day. The influence of the platform on the developer community is hard to overstate. It’s frequented by the majority of developers regularly with at least 30% of programmers visiting the site daily.

However, participation and visitation are two different things. With 100 million monthly active users the 33 million answers don’t seem enormous in comparison. The reason is that most people who visit the platform are just there to browse. They get their answer and then get back to work. 

Nearly 70% of developers either never participated in a Stack Overflow Q&A or only do less than once per month. That is a stark contrast to the number of people who visit the site. Less than 4% of software engineers contribute towards Stack Overflow daily. 

The difference makes sense. Most people don’t feel like putting their solutions out into the public domain. There are also far more young junior developers than seniors, so it makes sense that these are the people looking for answers. It’s only once you have a bit of experience under your belt or have been promoted a few times that most people feel comfortable enough to help others.

Do software developers use Stack Overflow?

Stack overflow data
Developer survey data

Software developers use Stack Overflow a lot with less than 1% of developers reporting they have never visited Stack Overflow. The platform has become synonymous with software engineering and has helped millions of programmers out of a tight spot at some point in their careers. Stack Overflow is a trusted and well-respected platform in the software development community. 

They don’t give specific demographic breakdowns but the site receives 100 million visitors a month and is one of the 50 most popular websites on the internet. The reputation system on Stack Overflow means it’s a reliable source of information that is openly vetted by the wider community. The nature of software development means there are often multiple solutions to a single problem, so it works well to have numerous people provide answers for a single issue. Then let other developers decide which is the more informed choice.

99% of developers have visited Stack Overflow and other Stack exchange sites making them the most active developer communities on the internet. However, not everyone who uses the platform has an account, around 13% of visitors use Stack Overflow without an official account.

Slightly more than 43% of software engineers consider themselves active members of the Stack Overflow community. While the remainder views themselves as neutral or not part of the community. Plenty of programmers jump on and off the platform all day but never actually post answers or ask any questions. So it makes sense that not everyone would feel a sense of community. 

Getting stuck on a problem can be a real pain, especially if there is some time pressure on the work you are doing. Visiting Stack Overflow was the second most popular option, right behind Googling, when software engineers get stuck on a problem. Google provides a better interface to get the answers you want from Stack Overflow. For the majority of language-related questions, the top answer will be SO anyway.

​​Should programmers use Stack Overflow?

Without a doubt programmers should use Stack Overflow, it is an incredible source of information for all things development. Many of the solutions are answered by experts and then rated by people with years of experience. It is a great way to learn new approaches and get extra help when you encounter a tough problem.

The answers on Stack Overflow are comprehensive, especially for the most popular languages. The majority of big topics have been indexed by Google so you can almost guarantee that Stack Overflow is going to be near the top of the search results for the most common questions.

It’s important to use Stack Overflow as a resource and not blindly rely on it. Copying code from Stack Overflow has its consequences and won’t help you improve over the long run. While people will have run into similar issues to you, it’s unlikely the problem and therefore the solution, are identical. Be savvy when using other people’s code and try to use it as an opportunity to learn, rather than to just steal.  

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