Abdullah Diab’s Blog

In the celebration of 10M questions on StackOverflow

Who among us developers doesn’t know StackOverflow? If you don’t know it then there is a big chance you didn’t search for any programming related question in the last 7 years, so you either are doing a super great job, using a super old community of old school programmers, or actually didn’t practice programming for some really long time.

StackOverflow reached more than 10 million questions, I won’t list those amazing numbers and statistics here, feel free to see them on StackOverflow’s 10M page, they are really great to read and to try to imagine them.

I’m not going to talk about its history, the internet is full of those articles, you can read about it from Wikipedia or from its co-founder Joel Spolsky. I will talk about my story and how I see StackOverflow in this occasion, it’s my way of celebrating the success of this global platform, and the success of humanity there.

My Story Before StackOverflow

Feel free to skip to the next section if you’re not interested in my personal history 🙂

When I first started my programming path, around year 1999, I had no internet, never even heard of it back then, we were living in the dark in Syria, anyway this is not the place for politics, so I started my programming path with no internet, and the only way I could get help was by searching through the thick book I was reading, I taught myself Visual Basic by reading the famous SAMS Teach Yourself Visual Basic 6 in 21 Days, and whenever I had any question back then I would try to find the answer there in that book, if I can’t find it I had no one to ask, I knew of no programmers then, my dad knew a bit of Visual Basic and he put me on the path of programming, but he couldn’t answer my questions as he was using it only for programming in Excel. In around 2001 I think we had our first dial-up connection, and it was bloody expensive, so I wasn’t allowed to use it, we’d use it very wisely, and couldn’t spend time wandering online, so I barely got to know any website for programmers.

Things started to get better by time, and I discovered CodeProject – I think I was using MSN to search for stuff back then, I don’t remember when was the first time I used Google actually – and I was able to learn some extra good stuff, downloaded some Visual Basic projects, and I could understand them and learn. I also remember I was searching in Arabic a lot, my English wasn’t good enough back then, so I got to know some Arabic programming forums, and that was the way I was able to ask my questions, and many people were using those forums and would help me, I still remember Arab Team 2000 as one of those leading forums back then. Then my path on .NET started and I found very nice Arabic content related to the new framework, I still remember me reading the books written by M. Hamdy Ghanem and I remember me sending him lots of emails back in 2005 and 2006 asking about many different questions and he’d answer them all, also I remember reading the books of Turki Al-Asiri and checking his website which had a forum for questions and answers.

Right around 2006 I remember I found a website that was a community for those who are interested in computer science in Syria, it was called CSC-SY (Computer SCience – SYria) and unfortunately it is not live anymore, it’s a long story why it’s not there anymore that involves politics too. On CSC-SY I was able to actually find a community that I fit it completely, many like-minded people all discussing computers, programming, algorithms, and all these stuff that I like, and actually discovering that community is the main reason that I entered the Informatics Engineering Faculty in Damascus University, because before that community I thought that people are still living in the dark in Syria. The forum on CSC-SY allowed me to ask a lot, and eventually I started answering a lot, and in a couple of years I became a moderator and then a manager of the forum, this was the place I hanged out everyday for at least 4 years.

Then in 2009 I joined StackOverflow and started finding answers to my questions there, and since then I’m a user of that platform and a part of that community.

Life before CSC-SY was hard, and it got way better when StackOverflow came into the picture, and now I can’t imagine the programming world without StackOverflow.

Together For a Better Life!

I believe in paying the community back for the knowledge I get, in Islam we have the concept of Zakat, a great way of ensuring that each person contributes to the better of the community they live in, the contribution is based on what you have, and must be spent to those who need it and to make the whole community better. Many scholars have generalized this idea from money and valuable stocks to everything that can benefit the community, and knowledge is one of the biggest contributors to the prosperity of nations, and I believe that I have to pay back, to contribute, to pay it forward, too many names to one concept: Together For a Better Life!.

Now as a professional software developer I see that there are many ways for me to make life better, two main ways are in my opinion open source projects whether it is contributing to them, starting them, or maintaining them; the other one is spreading knowledge and that’s by me writing on my blog about the stuff I find interesting and might help someone, and by me answering questions on StackOverflow.

I’ve got some open source projects that I worked on or contributed to on my GitHub profile, not much, but I try to keep it going, and whenever I see something that I can fix I don’t hesitate to fix it.

Also I don’t spend time on StackOverflow now the same way I used to spend time on CSC-SY, but that’s mainly because I’m now much busier than how I was 6 years ago, I only contributed around 60 answers now, but I try to open the site every couple of days and I check the questions there and try to help when I can.

In general I’m giving some time, even if it’s little, to the community of developers that I can benefit, and to the world by working on projects for a better life. I don’t think that I’ve covered my part of the Knowledge Zakat in any way, but I’m trying to cover more.

The community on StackOverflow and GitHub are paying it forward, keeping it going and making this world a better world to live in, everyone contributes amounts of knowledge and time, and no matter how small that amount is, the massive effect is really world changing, and the numbers on StackOverflow’s celebration page are a proof that humanity works together for the better of humanity itself.

So in the celebration of 10M questions on StackOverflow I would say: To humanity, to mankind, to life! Let’s all make it better! We’ve already done a great job! Let’s keep it going!