There’s already endless posts on the Internet regarding the decline of StackOverflow and I don’t want to use this post to reiterate them or rant.
But, I do want to discuss the real reason why StackOverflow is declining. It’s a result of strict content guidelines being enforced by moderators. The reason for those guidelines all boils down to Google, and revenue.
First, let me talk a little bit about SEO …
Google values content. Fact. It’s one of the most important ranking factors they use to determine where your webpage is displayed in search results.
It’s no secret that longer content outranks shorter content. Google’s base guideline for content is around 300–400 words per page. The more content you have the better you will rank, and outrank competing websites for the same search term.
This explains why StackOverflow moderators are getting users to include as much content in their question as possible. It’s purely to outrank similar articles on other sites and increase the content per page.
Low Quality Content Is Bad For Traffic and Revenue
Low quality content hurts SEO. It has a direct effect on the ranking position allowing competing sites to rank higher.
Back in 2011 Google released an significant update called Panda. Any page on a site that had low quality content was affected. This included many big sites and StackOverflow was one of them.
The amount of content on Stack Overflow is huge. After the Panda update Joel and Jeff would have seen a significant decrease in traffic, which in turn means a significant drop in revenue. A lot of content on the site would have been pushed down the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Improving Their SEO
What’s the best way to improve this situation? Obviously it’s to increase the quality of content submitted by users. They do this by using moderators to enforce content guidelines.
If you post a question on Stack Overflow, and it’s viewed as thin content (content that contains less than the recommended words) you can almost be certain it will be rejected.
Remember, both the question and the answers on a StackOverflow page make up the total number of characters of the content. A question that consists of 200 words, and an answer that consists of 100 words, means the pages content is 300 words.
So, if a question is unlikely to get many answers, it will be rejected. Even if the question is perfectly valid.
StackOverflow Cares More About Revenue Than The Programming Community
The site has already lost a lot of users that used to contribute. Want some facts? Here they are: http://varianceexplained.org/r/are_users_quitting/.
Their numbers are falling, and the will continue to fall until eventually it’s a ghost town of archived content. They’re aware of this, and are doing absolutely nothing to stop the decline.
An alternative will come along eventually, I bet my bottom dollar on that. Yahoo Answers was eventually replaced by sites such as Quora and Reddit. And the more StackOverflow pushes users to alternative sites, the more they will suffer in the long run.
It’s sad that Joel and Jeff care more about their revenue than they do about their users and the programming community.
A Message To The Mods
Instead of helping to line the pockets of the owners — who clearly have no regard for the programming community — time would be better spent innovating new ideas and helping out elsewhere.
Stop wasting your time building reputation and points. It has little value and will not score you the best job, or the best clients. It’s meaningless.
Stack Overflow is now permanently added to my /etc/hosts file. I have found better alternatives such as: IRC, Discord, Slack, Reddit and Quora.