INFORMATION EXCHANGE IN COMMUNITY QUESTION AND ANSWER SITES
An empirical study of Stack Overflow as Community of Practice
Purpose: The purpose of this study is firstly to explore how the users of Stack Overflow, an online community-based Question and Answer platform, inquire for information through the formulation of a question, according to the community guidelines. Secondly, to observe the information exchange procedure between the question and the comment section. Finally, to investigate, if this volunteered informal learning and information exchange environment shares any similarities to the Communities of Practice. Theory: An emphasis was put to analyse situated learning and Communities of Practice as described by Wenger (1998) as well as additional research dedicated to this particular field. Additionally, previous researches were analysed to observe the important characteristics regarding the question formulation and information exchange (suggestive solutions). Method: Two different mixed method content analysis were executed. Firstly, to define the patterns that entwine questions in the platform and observe the importance of the community’s guidelines. Secondly, another mixed content analysis to observe the interaction between the asker and other users in the comment section. The data was gathered as part of a research project between the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Applied Information Technology (IT) within the University of Gothenburg. Results: The first part of the analysis showed that the community guidelines are the epitome for a successful question in the community. Even though users are willing to aid new user with ill-informed questions, there is a connection between the question’s score and asker’s reputation. As thus, users with longer expertise in the platform are generally able to create successful questions. The users of the platform are utilizing the comment section as a troubleshoot chat; aiding the user not only by providing suggestive solution but by reformulating their question for future use by other users. Users of the platform edit and provide external resources to learning material to aid askers that are still learning how to code. It was evident that they do not recognise the platform as a hand-out solution site but as a community willing to aid users that are willing to learn.