Why Stack Overflow Careers is a Disruptive Innovation

Today Joel (typo fixed) Jeff Atwood announced via the Stack Overflow blog a new site called Stack Overflow Careers, a programming job site focused at job hunters.¬† This is a compliment to the job listing service which allows companies who are hiring to advertise on Stack Overflow. Seems like the the world’s most ‘no shit’ idea, right? But this is more than a simple idea, this is disruptive innovation in job hunting that will revolutionize¬† how programmers, and later other technical talent, get jobs. Why so revolutionary? Because Stack Overflow is the venue where programmers actually prove their mettle. What SO has that no other job site can offer hiring companies is access to not just resumes, but code samples, writing samples, and conversations which the candidates have provided through use of SO. I’ve hired technical talent and it is hard to figure out if the person can get stuff done and do critical thinking. It’s even hard to figure out their level of mastery of a given technology without spending a lot of time testing. But with SO I can see how people answer questions, how they ask questions, etc.

The value of this service to job hunters is high enough that I think SO is smart to charge for providing the link between a user’s resume and their profile. The price is low (<$10/yr right now) But this could provide a meaningful revenue stream for SO without cluttering the site with ad noise.

This should also have positive feedback effects on Stack Overflow. I anticipate that the quality of answers and questions both will go up. While I’m still stupid enough to post a comment that says “hey dumb ass…” most users will be smarter than that. Even if it’s just in the back of someone’s mind that a potential employer might be reading, it should improve their answers.

Now, I’m an economist, so I think there will be some unintended consequences to the Stack Overflow Careers site. First unintended consequence will be an increase in the number of new accounts. Why? Because everyone has to set up a “dumbass” account for when they want to ask stupid questions or make a sarcastic remark. But then when someone is about to post a 750 word answer with 5 pictures and 3 screen shots they will put on their “game day” account and knock that SOB out of the park! But over time most folks will let the idea of future job hunts slip out of their conscious mind and will basically use their main account for all activity. Plus even dumb questions earn karma points, so why not!

The second unintended consequence will be a plethora of clinger-on-ers. These will range from the simple: I give Dice 2 months before they allow some sort of linking to a SO profile; to the more complex: some job site is going to not only link to a SO profile but also scrape all that user’s SO activity and dynamically link it to their resume. I am unsure how the Stack Overflow Creative Commons license will protect SO from this type of activity. Stack Overflow may end up spending more on money on lawyers than they ever anticipated.

The third unintended consequence is that Stack Overflow, the company, just went from taking nickels away from Expert’s Exchange to taking dollars away from job listing sites. I hope that SO has both lawyers and sales people because now that real money is on the table they will have some savvy competition.

Good luck Joel and Jeff. I’m rooting for you!

**Disclaimer: **I have no financial interest in Stack Overflow at all. I have been involved in getting the R programming language community involved in Stack Overflow because I think it is the best information exchange platform available and I want more R information to be exchanged. Plus it pissed me off that the R community was using a freaking mailing list as it’s primary Q/A platform. A mailing list. In 2009. Honestly.


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