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I'm looking for empirical papers which investigate if a user can benefit from Q&A sites like Stack Overflow. I welcome any papers related to this topic, e.g:

  • an experiment, investigating if a specific task can be executed faster,
  • an analysis, investigating if a user understands the solutions on Q&A sites or if he just does copy&paste without thinking about it,
  • a comparative analysis of the code quality of users with access to Q&A sites in contrast to users without internet access (but just offline documentation of APIs).
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    $\begingroup$ You mean that there are computer programmers who don't have internet access at their job in 2013? Where do they work? What do they do? $\endgroup$ – Виталий Олегович Jul 3 '13 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a reasonable question, since it deals with something that would be quite common in an area such as HCI or Social Computing, which do fall into the realm of CS. $\endgroup$ – jmite Jul 4 '13 at 5:33
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There was a presentation on ICSE 2011, at the New Ideas and Emerging Results track, entitled "How do programmers ask and answer questions on the web?". They only had initial results, but they sounded very interesting and promising. Maybe you could contact the authors if you need more info (they're from the Dept. of Comput. Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada). Here is the full reference:

Treude, C.; Barzilay, O.; Storey, M. How do programmers ask and answer questions on the web?. In Proc. of the 33rd International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), 2011.

UPDATE: This paper was just mentioned at the Stack Exchange blog:

Chris Parnin, Christoph Treude, Lars Grammel, Margaret-Anne Storey. Crowd Documentation: Exploring the Coverage and the Dynamics of API Discussions on Stack Overflow. Georgia Institute of Technology, Tech. Rep, 2012. [PDF]

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The conference paper "StackOverflow and GitHub: associations between software development and crowdsourced knowledge" looked at the correlation between activity on StackOverflow and GitHub for users who have accounts on both. From the abstract:

In this paper we investigate the interplay between StackOverflow activities and the development process, reflected by code changes committed to the largest social coding repository, GitHub. Our study shows that active GitHub committers ask fewer questions and provide more answers than others. Moreover, we observe that active StackOverflow askers distribute their work in a less uniform way than developers that do not ask questions. Finally, we show that despite the interruptions incurred, the StackOverflow activity rate correlates with the code changing activity in GitHub.

Bogdan Vasilescu, Vladimir Filkov, Alexander Serebrenik. StackOverflow and GitHub: associations between software development and crowdsourced knowledge. 2013 ASE/IEEE International Conference on Social Computing (Washington DC, USA, September 8-13, 2013), pp.188-195

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