Joel just announced the launch of Stack Overflow Careers. Like most things Joel, this seems to be built around his idea of how the world should be, which is actually pretty cool, since in his world we’d all be treated like super stars. I do however take issue with one of his statements:
Instead of submitting a resume, you’ll fill out a CV, which links back to your Stack Overflow account, so that you can demonstrate your reputation in the community and show us all how smart you really are. To a hiring manager, the fact that you took the time to help a fellow programmer with a detailed answer in some obscure corner of programming knowledge, and demonstrated mastery, is a lot more relevant than the Latin Club you joined in school.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I actually disagree. I don’t think having an uber Stack Overflow reputation means that you’re a great catch for a potential employer. In fact, I think it may mean the opposite. Along the same lines, I don’t think not having 50 bajillion points on Stack Overflow means you are not knowledgable and skilled.
Why do I say these things? Well, the day consists of 24 hours. Let’s assume you sleep for 8 of those (I know that’s probably on the high side for most of us). Let’s assume preparing for and commuting to/from work eats up another 2 hours a day on average. We’re down to 14 hours. Let’s assume we don’t work for all of that, let’s say we spend 4 hours doing things outside of work. That leaves 10 hours a day. Let’s say I don’t work much overtime, so my employer gets 9 of those hours. That leaves me with one hour a day. Exactly when am I going to fit in time to read and answer 50,000 questions on Stack Overflow to rack up some serious reputation? I don’t think people are doing it in the “free time” on Saturday and Sunday. Are they doing so on the clock for their employers? I bet most of them are. While I agree that participating in Stack Overflow can be a good thing, I see people that spend entirely too much time on there. If I was their employer, I’d be cutting their pay.
If I’m an employer, I’m paying people to add value to the business, not to chit-chat with their peers. If I see a resume that lists a ridiculously high Stack Overflow reputation, I’m throwing that resume in the trash, because I’m pretty sure that person is going to spend more time on Stack Overflow than on doing real work.
Let’s look at someone else (me). I don’t spend much time on Stack Overflow at all. I lurk on quite a few mailing lists and forums, I follow several good blogs, and I read any spare chance I get, but I don’t participate much. If I can’t find an answer to a problem through other channels (such as newsgroups, forums, and mailing lists), I might post a question or discussion, but that’s about it. I don’t spend a lot of time participating because I’m too busy doing real work. Simply put, while I’d love to participate, I don’t have time. I’m too busy adding value to our products.
The same goes for Twitter and blogs. I actually know of several cases where someone was hired partly because they had a lot of followers either on their blog or on their Twitter account. If I see someone that’s hyper-active on either Twitter or their blog, I’m going to have the exact opposite reaction.
Thoughts? Am I being totally selfish to use Stack Overflow (and other sites) in a mostly read-only manner? How exactly am I a worse dev because I don’t spend time on Stack Overflow grinding out reputation points?