Gender, Representativeness and Reputation in StackOverflow

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Tue Jul 24 03:30:34 CEST 2012

On Mon, 23 Jul 2012 17:44:27 -0400, Terry Reedy wrote:

> On 7/23/2012 8:51 AM, Alexander Serebrenik wrote:
>> Do you participate in StackOverflow discussions?
>> As a part of a joint on-going research effort of the Brunel University
>> (UK) and Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands)  on the
>> impact of collaboration sites on the developers community, we would
>> like to understand the demographics of StackOverflow participants and
>> their activity. Specifically we are focusing on how genders, minorities
>> and cultural background are represented in the population of users and
>> participants of StackOverflow.
> StackOverflow is open to anyone in the world who can write and read
> English. Aside from political interference and language problems, the
> other factors should be mostly irrelevant.

Should be irrelevant. But how do you know that they are irrelevant unless 
you check? By intuition?

If you don't measure, how do you know? Do you really mean to suggest that 
your intuition that sexism and racism have no effect on the reputation of 
StackOverflow participants is so infallible that it's not worth doing a 
study to find out?

>> Therefore, we have prepared a small questionnaire:
> The scientific value of self-selected respondents is pretty low.

Not necessarily. But you would need to check how the researchers account 
for the bias to tell.

> Leaving aside the point that this is not directly related to Python, my
> opinion is that if the authors will not make past and future papers
> freely available, not even an abstract, they should not ask for valuable
> free data from freely donated time.

Well of course it is your time and your judgement to make, but in my 
opinion even non-free scientific knowledge is better than ignorance.


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