How One Little Website Saved Programmers 30 Billion Dollars

Some time ago, a debate got started about how valuable Stack Overflow was to the developer community. John Carmack, CTO of Oculus and pioneer behind the techniques used in Doom, Quake, and pretty much every top game, said this:

So someone thought to calculate how many billions exactly. What did this intrepid analyst come up with? $30 Billion Dollars.

Okay, before you blast me for such nonsensical, back of the napkin calculations, maybe there is something here. The productivity of solving problems faster does add up and given that our metrics estimate that people got answers to their questions 7.5 billion times over the 8+ years that Stack Overflow has existed, that has got to add up to something.

When I speak to companies about how they enhance developer productivity, there is a lot of emphasis on Agile and DevOps. But what is the cost in time and dollars of being stuck on a tough coding problem? What is the impact of all those “stuck moments” to project timelines and the downstream delays that it entails? What if the answer was a search box away?

Our in-house data science team did some digging into our data and found a few useful nuggets. On average, developers found 7 solutions per month on Stack Overflow and saved 40 minutes each time. Taking into account local hourly labor rates, you can quickly estimate the per developer productivity savings. When you extrapolate across an entire developer team, the savings start to become significant.

Time really is money. Or more to the point, getting the right answers to your questions is money…

Thanks again for reading this edition of the DEV.BIZ.OPS blog and my rambling thoughts on developer trends and insights. And let me know if you have any topics you would like me to tackle!

The staircase paradox, or why π≠4?

A fascinating case of what seems intuitive is anything but…

I help senior IT leaders and companies solve the challenges involved in digital transformation and moving towards a developer-centric culture that delivers innovation and customer value. In my day job, you can find me here.

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