"Hey bossman, my great friend XXX, who I worked with at YYY, is getting bored over there. He's a great programmer and would be a great fit for our team and the infrastructure position we have open."
And bossman will definitely give him an interview and massive bonus points for the personal recommendation and relationship, and wisely make him a better offer than some stranger that comes in from StackOverflow or GitHub.
This cuts both ways.
As an engineer, you want a job that a colleague recommends to you, far before some random posting you see on StackOverflow Careers.
So I made a conscious effort to answer questions. I loaded up the questions list and ... nothing. Not an effing thing. All these questions from such a broad base of so many topics. I didn't know the answer to anything.
F I thought. Then a little later I asked a question that I needed an answer to... and I got points. Lots of them. And "badges". And I voted on an answer - more points and badges.
So I thought WOW I can ask my way up to 100k reputation! Fells a little like cheating doesn't it?
Then I reconsidered. Actually the 100,000 questions would be just as valuable as proof of skill, since it's all contributing to your 10,000 hours of practise (See Malcom Gladwell) - furthermore - as you contribute questions, you help build the encyclopedia of knowledge and someone else might find your answer in their "first go".
I think it's really neat that Stack is this odd sort of community where it's virtually impossible to give more than you get from it but simply by participating, even as a supplicant, you contribute to the greater good.
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4240416/reverse-engineeri... and it was good :)
Back to Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers" (in which he states that the requirement to master anything seems to be 10,000 hours of practise).
With 10,000 'hours of questions', assuming progression and growth, would you not find yourself at the same or similar level of mastery as someone who'd provided 10,000 hours of answers?
Quite frequently nowadays, I find myself at work seeing a question about something not functioning quite right - (height and width of a graph, cross browser/OS page performance & display) and I find that I've got an immediate answer, because I asked the question on stack over the weekend (when I'm doing my fun projects).
Another interesting point - that I've just noticed this morning, is that I think there may be an Algorithm in Stack that "bubbles up" questions about things that you've asked questions about in the past.
My initial attempt to "give back to stack" were met with nowt because I couldn't find any questions on topics that I have relative expertise on - but - now that I've asked a number of questions on the things that apply to me (DOM, jQuery, Ajax, Selenium, PHPUnit etc...) Questions with those tags seem to be closer to the top of my list.
Maybe you've got to ask enough questions for stack to know what questions to ask of you.
It's really neat. I actually quite like it there :)
Of course, you can't fully describe a person by just a number. It's theoretically possible that a highly reputed Stack Overflow user could be an awful programmer at work, but I'm sure that the intersection of "highly reputed SO users" and "people you'd regret to hire for a programmer position" is a very tiny set.
I think that number contains much more significant information for that kind of position than whatever you could extract from a CV or an interview.
Maybe I'm just naïve.
Sure it can, if I think you are more invested in your badge-earning game mechanics than in the money-earning game-mechanics for which I pay you.
Of course, the chances that I review your SO score with this mindset seem relatively low, since in order to cover this possibility, I also need to check out your GamerTag, gear score, and Wikipedia edit history.
That said, asking and answering technical questions can be really beneficial. It's much harder to write about something clearly than some people realise, and a great skill to develop.
Also, rather than the whole reputation, I might take interest in particular answers: a single solid answer to a difficult question demonstrates a lot more than many point scoring answers to easier ones.
But that was not my "rep"...
That, plus my location requirements, plus a so-so interview, plus the fact that I wasn't particularly qualified for the job, surely led to the following "Thanks, but no thanks" followup call.
If I was an employer looking at a candidate, obviously I am more concern about the quality of each answer than the quantity of each answer.
Imagine you have two applicants or roughly equal aptitude/suitability. When asked why they're looking for a job, both state that they are not being challenged in their current position.
One seems to have done a lot of posting on SO, HN, and so forth during business hours. You like their posts but not that they were made during business hours.
They other has no record of HN or SO posts. Do you assume that the other person was hard at work at the last job and hire them?
You might be right, but then again, it could be that they were watching the clock in ways you can't detect so easily. Maybe they read books about programming. Maybe they read all these sites but didn't contribute. Maybe they took a lot of smoke breaks.
You know that one of the two did a lot of non-job stuff while being underemployed, but you also know that you like their posts. I think it's reasonable to hire them anyways, and also reasonable to pass on them.
But what isn't reasonable, IMO, is to give the candiate with less information a "free pass" by hiring them without further investigation. I would ask:
"You say you weren't challenged in the last job. You must have had some free time. What did you do with it?"
If they tell you about all the extra value-add they created for their employer, great. If they tell you about surfing job boards or reading books about programming, great. If they stare blankly at you, dig deeper.
This is speculative, of course. YMMV.
But you have a point. We all have small spaces in the course of a day where we're not actively engaged in real work (as I am right now). Once can spend it on Facebook, or one can be looking for things to keep the knives sharp.