State of the Stack 2019: A Year in Review

A loooong time ago, we used to post an annual “State of the Stack” update on the company and community. Then at some point it became an infographic which was… listen, everyone was doing infographics in 2011. Now it’s 2019, the company has grown and changed in so many ways, so we’re bringing this tradition back and taking a look at how far we’ve come while being open and honest about how much work we have left to do.

2018 was a big year! Some stats:

  • Across all of Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network, we saw 9+ billion pageviews from 100+ million users over the course of the year.
  • Stack Overflow alone had over 2.5 million answers and 2 million new questions, with over 1.6 million new users joining the community.
  • Our community members and volunteer moderators handled almost 2 million flags, to keep abusive, unwelcoming, and inappropriate content off the site, and apply our updated Code of Conduct.
  • Over 40,000 jobs were posted on Stack Overflow Jobs. We now have over 900,000 searchable profiles of developers who are interested in being contacted about a job on Stack Overflow Talent.
  • And we launched Stack Overflow for Teams, a new way for developers to use the power of Stack Overflow Q&A inside their organization. Thousands of organizations are already using it to help their teams share knowledge and ship faster.

All of this matters because Stack Overflow exists to help everyone who codes learn and share their knowledge. Every time someone finds a solution to a problem, learns something new, or finds an opportunity to grow their career on Stack Overflow, we’re all advancing that mission together.

We also know that we still have a lot of work to do. Stack Overflow helps a lot of people today, but it is not yet the the welcoming, inclusive, and diverse platform we want it to be. That’s something we are committed to continuing to improve on this year, but we can’t do it without your help!

Community Update: Welcoming everyone who codes

Stack Overflow has never been about the company, or about any one user. It’s about bringing all the world’s developers together to learn from one another, and together creating shared artifacts that help millions of people all over the world. It’s about creating a community where everyone who codes — regardless of how they identify, where they work, or where they went to school — can participate and feel welcome.

That said, good intentions aren’t good enough and we’ve fallen short of that ideal in a lot of ways: too often people feel unwelcome, unheard, and unable to help or to find help, particularly women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups. This has to change, and it starts with us, the company, providing the tools and support that you need to help one another.

In May, we launched what we call the “Welcome Wagon”, an effort to identify and improve areas where we can do better. This is a collaborative effort, with our developers, user researchers, data scientists, and community managers reaching out to community members, moderators, and voices from outside the community to work together on solutions.

We’ve made a lot of progress in half a year. We rolled out a new Code of Conduct and added new flags on comments to identify both abusive and unkind comments. We added a “New Contributor” indicator to encourage people to be helpful and friendly to new users, and we’re testing a new Ask Question wizard to help guide users through asking their first question.

But we’re still just scratching the surface. One thing we’ve heard loud and clear from the community is that we need to also address a lot of existing bugs and community debt. These issues have accumulated over the years to lead to confusing and frustrating experiences for all of our users, and we haven’t been doing enough to prioritize fixing them.

So in 2019 we’re going to be redoubling our efforts on this, adding more devs, designers, PMs, and community managers internally (in fact, we’re hiring right now.) They’ll be split across two major initiatives: continuing the Welcome Wagon work of making Stack Overflow more welcoming and inclusive, and a newly focused effort on community improvements and expert user experience.

Business Update: How does Stack Overflow make money again?

Stack Overflow has three main business lines:

  1. Stack Overflow for Teams and Enterprise, our newest product, brings the power of Stack Overflow Q&A to organizations in a private, secure space just for internal teams.
  2. Our Advertising products help companies reach and engage the developer community with on-topic, relevant ads.
  3. And Stack Overflow Talent helps organizations reach, attract, and hire the right technical talent for their team.

The biggest expansion in our business this year by far was on Teams and Enterprise. The product idea is simple: give organizations a private version of Stack Overflow Q&A just for their team. While Stack Overflow public Q&A has been enormously successful at helping programmers share knowledge and find quick solutions to their problems, it can only ever solve a fraction of the problems professional programmers face because most programmers work on private code they can’t ask about in public. Every software team struggles with documentation and knowledge sharing, and Stack Overflow is designed to enable developers to write reusable snippets of documentation for one another in a way that doesn’t feel like a chore.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that so many customers are finding that Stack Overflow helps their team onboard more quickly, reduce knowledge silos, and ship code faster. Thousands of organizations are already using Stack Overflow for Teams and raving about it, and Stack Overflow for Enterprise is seeing success in Fortune 500 companies that range from major technology companies to the world’s largest financial service firms.

Between the explosive growth of Teams and Enterprise, and the continuing value of Talent and Advertising, 2018 added up to the best financial year in Stack Overflow’s 10-year history. While we’re not quite swimming in pools of cash yet, we’ve never been on better footing heading into a new year of growth.

Company Update: Who are all these people?

As the work has grown, so has the company. We now have employees in 14 different countries, working either in our offices in New York, London, Munich, and Denver, or remotely from wherever they happen to live.

We’ve been working hard to create a more diverse team and inclusive team internally. We’re taking a look at our policies, benefits, interview practices, and internal trainings to make sure that we’re supporting the team we have. We’re also working hard to recruit a more diverse team. Globally, the number of people working at Stack Overflow who identify as women, non-binary, or transgender is now 39% (including 42% in management and leadership, and 32% in technical roles), and 15% of US employees are from an under-represented racial or ethnic group (10% in management and leadership, and 9% in technical roles). While this isn’t where we want to be, it represents substantial growth over the past few years. In 2018, we also concluded a third-party compensation review to address any gender or racial pay gaps, and implemented a Rooney Rule for tech and leadership hiring to ensure we continue to address the gaps in our hiring.

We rolled out some new employee-friendly policy updates, too. For employees who have been here for more than two years, we have an extended stock option exercise window so that employees aren’t forced to exercise their options 90 days after leaving (and often pay hefty taxes) or lose them forever. We also extended our fully-paid parental leave to 16 weeks for primary caregivers and 12 weeks for secondary caregivers, and removed pro-rating in your first year (so everyone gets the full amount regardless of how recently they joined).

In 2018, 13 people in the company took advantage of our sabbatical policy to take an extended break to travel the world, work on a side project, learn a new instrument, or just spend time with their family. We’re very proud of our sabbatical policy, which lets any employee who has been here for five years take an extra four weeks of paid time off to rest, recharge, and spend time on things they care about. I think it’s one of the reasons why so many of our earliest employees are still with the company.

Get Involved: Help us build the future of Stack Overflow!

2018 was a big year for Stack Overflow, and I’m excited for what 2019 holds. Developers are shaping the future of the world, and we have a responsibility to help push that future in the direction of more openness, diversity, collaboration, and empathy. If we can do the hard work to make Stack Overflow a place where everyone who codes feels welcome and able to contribute, extend that to every company through Stack Overflow for Teams and Enterprise and Stack Overflow Talent, we can change the world for the better. And the best part is that anyone can join in and be a part of this mission.

If you’ve never joined the community or tried asking or answering your first question, there’s no better day than today! The community works because regular, every day programmers like you decided one day to give something back and help someone out. By treating people with empathy and respect, you’ll help us create a more welcoming and inclusive community.

If your company thinks knowledge sharing is a priority, give Stack Overflow for Teams a try — it’s free for the first 14 days and starts at just $10 per month (flat!) for your first 10 users. Or if you’re looking to hire developers, or reach our massive global audience of developers, try Stack Overflow Talent and Advertising.

And if you’re looking for a new challenge yourself, we’re hiring, and not just developers: it takes a team to make all this happen, so we’re looking to grow everything from Sales and Customer Success to IT, Marketing, Product, Design, Finance, and more.

Finally, if you’re already a member of the community, THANK YOU for all you do to help others. We still have a lot of work to do to make Stack Overflow the welcoming, inclusive, and diverse community we want it to be, and we can’t do it without you! So if you have ideas, suggestions, or ways we can help you in 2019, please let us know.

Author

David Fullerton
President and Chief Technology Officer

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Comments

  1. I for one am seeing improvements in terms of the user experience and the design on the site. I have posted probably thousands of complaints, bugs, feature-requests in meta for years and for a while I thought nothing will ever change. But certainly 2018 you guys brought a lot to the table. Props to the design team for the recent changes. I always wanted the links that used to be on the top right to be placed on the left side and you guys did that. I wanted sites to be more consistent (look and feel) and that was brought about as well. I feel like at least for me my voice was heard – and that makes me part of the team as well. Thank You and nice job.

  2. I read this, I re-read this, I made notes and re-read this, I walked away and then re-read this for a fifth and sixth time. I still found none of my concerns addressed (see end). First, there will always be a part of me that loves Stack Exchange. It has been therapy for me and given me the opportunity to meet the characters of the Python room. Even if many of the ones I worked with, many of those closest to my field, have left – I still have fun with the Data Scientists, Physicists who claim not to be programmers (even if their Py knowledge is insane), and Human or Canine Ninjas, and it has directly help me progress in my own education.

    I have sssooo many points, I cannot make them all. So I will simply start with Jobs:
    I have never, in all my contract work, found a single job using SO and only two leads, from the start of SO.Jobs, offering in my area/field. I’d wonder if that’s just my area but I still see nothing for developers, no data scientists, no data engineers (again, my field), no jobs, no anything in the technical field within your own job posting – linked within this Blog. You are looking for marketing people and sales peoples. So, I’m sorry SE is not likely a place you would find us applying – those of us in the actually field of computer science, information systems, and information technology. Have you forgotten your heart? Have you forgotten you were built by developers? engineers? IT people? IS people? those of us who live, breath, and sometimes even taste what it is to be in the industry of technology?

    I am now in my 20th (not consecutive, there was a break for war) year in the IT/IS industry. I have begun teaching others just starting on their journey. A question I keep finding myself asking is: “Should I point them towards SO?”. I don’t mean this in the sense of “will they use SO to cheat?” but in the sense that I will give my students as many advantages as I can and “IS SO AN ADVANTAGE?”. Once, this would be an easy call – now? The welcoming initiative, the way it was conducted, the lack of calls for developers in a system that almost begs for data people, for web developers, looking at a system that is losing questions more rapidly than has been acknowledged (https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/322192/2018-a-year-in-asking-and-answering/322193#322193) – why would I point them towards SO? Just why would I point them to something that is losing its prominence and not even looking for people within the fields they aspire to and I live in. None of these are addressed.

    Finally, I still have seen nothing from higher up on how it is treating its current userbase. Until I see that or a change within posts like this which truly acknowledges this (not with words – we are long past that and I will not forget – but within hiring, within corporate structure) it is impossible to trust anything said by the company.

    TLDR;
    SE no longer represents developers, data engineers, data scientists, or other coders. Its sub-sites (including SO) may but SE as a corporation has lost its connection with the IT/IS/Technology community and posts like this which link to Job offerings by SE which completely lack non-business/marketing people – just point to how far away they’ve drifted from their original audience.

    Concerns (as I don’t know if the blog links like Meta, please don’t upvote on meta unless you agree – I come from the background of pain is building, pain is alive. So do not think I have complaints about downvotes. “I said what I mean, I mean what I said” agree/disagree as you will):
    https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/314302/are-we-creating-divisions-in-our-quest-to-make-new-users-welcome/314393#314393
    https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/321075/how-do-i-draw-attention-to-a-meta-post/321090#321090
    https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/314474/add-a-way-for-users-to-opt-out-of-the-new-contributor-indicator-on-their-own-p/314479#314479

  3. I like a lot of this, but the “Community Update” section seems to be entirely focused on SO the site rather than the network as a whole. I get that SO is the biggest and most obvious and the thing everyone thinks about usually, but there are a lot of other sites out there. It just feels weird and alienating – the welcome wagon initiatives, the design changes, all have been network wide, but this section just seems to be focusing on “SO is for anyone that codes” rather than “the network is for anyone who does….well, a lot of things”. It feels kinda crappy to be someone who will never use SO, but who is a mod and contributes elsewhere. 🙁

  4. I’m sure Stack Overflow has played a very important role in every programmers life for those quick How To’s we’ve stumbled upon..

    Cheers to the community!

  5. I can’t tell you how to run your business. But please don’t push this diversity stuff too far.
    It should be about competence not which group someone belongs to or identifies as. I couldn’t care less if it’s a pan-sex furry apache attack helicopter as long as that person panages to ger the job done I’m fine with it. But if you specifically hire minority groups just for the sake of having more minorities in your team and therefore being more diverse, I’m not sure if I want to support that idiology any longer.

    So please cut the political crap and stick to providing good services.

    Other than that I quite like how Stack Exchange has evolved in the last few years. Keep it up.

  6. I can’t tell you how to run your business. But please don’t push this diversity stuff too far.
    It should be about competence not which group someone belongs to or identifies as. I couldn’t care less if it’s a pan-sex furry apache attack helicopter as long as that person panages to ger the job done I’m fine with it. But if you specifically hire minority groups just for the sake of having more minorities in your team and therefore being more diverse, I’m not sure if I want to support that idiology any longer.

    So please cut the political crap and stick to providing good services.

    Other than that I quite like how Stack Exchange has evolved in the last few years. Keep it up.

    And you could show some confirmation-message when commenting here. I don’t know if my comment got registered before.

  7. Cindy Meister says:

    RE “often people feel unwelcome, unheard, and unable to help or to find help, particularly women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups”: I’m puzzled as to how this can be so. There’s no indication in questions or in answers whether someone belongs to any of these groups – rightly so. That being the case, I don’t understand how it’s possible to determine that this statement is true. And if it is true, it means these people don’t have the knowledge to be able to interact on the level of communication needed. This is not something that can be solved by the SO (or any SE) community/business. Being able to communicate is a basic educational question, whether we’re talking about a language barrier or being able to code at all. This statement is unclear, as well “help everyone who codes “. Is, in your opinion, someone who copies and pastes something they found on the Internet and don’t understand a person “who codes”? Where is the line, now? Is SO supposed to become a free tutorial site and/or code-writing service? What are the QUALITY constraints?

  8. Two things:

    1. Infographics are wonderful and amazing and should never have died. Please bring them back. They convey info very well and are gorgeous to look at.

    2. You used to have a nice “Team” page that showed all your employees (split by department) with names, job descriptions, and head shots (professional and silly-on-hover). This was very nice and great for looking up someone to reference during discussions or general curiosity. Why is it gone, and can we please have it back?

  9. Follow up comment – you mention

    ” address a lot of existing bugs and community debt ” in the We’re Hiring part of your blog, but there are zero positions open for actual Q&A engineers/developers… so can you specify what bugs and community debt you are planning to handle? It seems from the job postings board that it’s not Q&A bugs/feature-requests (by far the largest pile).

  10. It’s not just women and people of color or noobs who feel unwelcome.

    I am in none of those “at risk” populations. I’ve been around, and I still believe an ethos of friendliness would improve things.

    First, let me thank the vast majority of moderators who do an important job, selflessly. And courteously.

    However, there is also a _minority_ of power users and mods who act in an abrupt and condescending manner. Pettily, even. Closures, declarations of duplication, etc…

    Discussions outside of SO, not infrequently, refer to these actions, and, as a result SO’s reputation as a whole gets tarnished.

    Please, once you’ve unlocked your powers, be mindful and use them in a constructive and kind manner.

    StackExchange is an invaluable platform. Let’s keep it that way and not devolve into an elitist power struggle.

  11. This is very good news and very good idea to give a private version of stack overflow Q & A. Because there are many numbers of government and private organization who needs stack overflow Q & A. As a company employee I would to use private version. And also, I would recommend Stack overflow to work on India. because of two reasons. the first is a large number of population. second is your work is perfect that India needs you.

  12. Thanks a lot. Being able to develop even with no background of developers, stacks is the only place for such possibility.

    But there are some certain expert answerees that really don’t seem to value new askers. While it’s fair to teach newbies about guidelines sometimes the moderators tend to act so much developerness in front of a newbie like us. Yes, we don’t know how to ask in developers language, We ask in English, You corrected our questions because you understood our problem. Just provide the answer or mention the already answered question.

    Yes, there are awesome people on the site, waiting to answer without complaining about question qualities. Because of those awesome people, I get answers even asking about specific things outside of developer topic. And they always get there late because they are awesome, helping and answering everyone.

    When we ask about a third-party product, You don’t need to start throwing comments like – unrelated, not clear etc along with the moderation. For your instant comments, we feel turned down and it feels like stack is not a place for us.

    I have literally found the stack to be the only place to have helped me developed my site. But, those feeling of turned down on those occasions felt like it was a site for developers, by developers and not for us.

    Power and show off is still a problem in Stack, just like the world.

  13. As a programmer, I personally believe that Stack overflow has been a savior to all my problems. using it from college to professional life has been a great journey so far. The recent change in the CEO position and the method that stack overflow chose to bid adieu the present one was amazing.
    Also looking forward to addition of the feature of private Q/A.

  14. You listed all kinds of social media platforms, some unheard of before, but you don’t think Quora is a popular social media platform? hmmm.

  15. Thanks for sharing this nice article.

  16. Thank you. You listed all kinds of social media platforms, some unheard of before, but you don’t think Quora is a popular social media platform.

  17. Nice, very well explained.

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