If you were hiring programmers, and could choose between one of (say) the top 100 coders on topcoder.com, or one of the top 100 on stackoverflow.com, which would you choose?

At least to me, it would appear that topcoder.com gives a more objective evaluation of pure ability to solve problems and write code. At the same time, despite obvious technical capabilities, this person may lack any hint of social skills -- he may be purely a "lone coder", with little or no ability to help/work with others, may lack mentoring ability to help transfer his technical skills to others, etc.

On the other hand, stackoverflow.com would at least appear to give a much better indication of peers' opinion of the coder in question, and the degree to which his presence and useful and helpful to others on the "team". At the same time, the scoring system is such that somebody who just throws up a lot of mediocre (or even poor answers) will almost inevitably accumulate a positive total of "reputation" points -- a single up-vote (perhaps just out of courtesy) will counteract the effects of no fewer than 5 down-votes, and others are discouraged (to some degree) from down-voting because they have to sacrifice their own reputation points to do so. At the same time, somebody who makes little or no technical contribution seems unlikely to accumulate a reputation that lands them (even close to) the top of the heap, so to speak.

So, which provides a more useful indication of the degree to which this particular coder is likely to be useful to your organization? If you could choose between them, which set of coders would you rather have working on your team?

  • 8
    I'm pretty sure the top 100 people on SO know their shit.
    – Josh K
    Sep 26 '10 at 16:57
  • @Josh: thank you (really -- since I'm among that "top 100 people on SO") -- but that's not really the question. The question remains: given two people who are both obviously really capable, intelligent, etc., which set of skills is more important? Sep 26 '10 at 17:10
  • 2
    Skills for the position, but that have to have a programmers mindset. If they have that they can do anything. Of the two sites, I would say SO, simply because I've seen some crazy OOB I would have never come up with.
    – Josh K
    Sep 26 '10 at 19:39
  • In my dreams I'd have 100 candidates to choose from. When I find one candidate with real commercial experience related to an open slot in our start up I jump up and do a happy dance. That's enough for me to call the person on the phone and see if we think there might be a fit. Maybe it is because we are too small to afford to hire marginal candidates. We have no 'drone' jobs. We expect that even a new CS grad will either have some real experience, ether in a paid job or a creditable personal project. If the candidate also has a high SO or Topcoder score, so much the better. Sep 23 '11 at 19:51
  • I wouldn't want to work for a company that decides whom to hire based on a popularity contest, which is all that "ratings" on websites come down to. The best candidate may never post there, or post only things that get disregarded because they're not popular with the people asking questions (like "no, you can't do it like that, you can't run a high availability internet application from the 5 year old laptop in your mom's basement that's hooked up to her ISDN line).
    – jwenting
    Oct 1 '12 at 18:01

Why choose? When you are hiring, you want to post your offer everywhere.

Hiring based on reputation points or any other online results is a terrible idea and I'm pretty sure no one is doing it.

Sure that having 30K on StackOverflow will helps getting the attention of the hiring guy, but you will get hired for many others facts.

  • The experience in your domain or industry of the candidate
  • His physical location related to your office
  • The amount of $$$ he is asking for the job
  • His personnal interests (yes it has an influence, at least on me)
  • His recommandations
  • What people said about him during references checks
  • And more importantely, his seduction abilities! (during interview, you have to seduce within the first 5 minutes)

They are so many factors you can't summarize the hiring process to programmer's (supposed) capabilities.

  • 4
    +1 for seduction abilities! (Never had a female interviewer though...)
    – Jaymz
    Sep 26 '10 at 20:54
  • 1
    @jaymz: not necessary that way ... all interviews are affected by impression and psychological factors.
    – rwong
    Oct 4 '10 at 13:21
  • I wouldn't say that no one is doing this. It's probably more true that no one hires this way for very long, if you catch my drift. Oct 1 '12 at 17:07
  • Heh, I actually did get contacted about a job offer once because they ran a query on SO for highest reputation in my (former) state, Oklahoma, and because it's such a barren wasteland, I had the highest reputation (I believe it was 8K at the time)
    – Earlz
    Oct 1 '12 at 20:34

Depends on the job. If it's a web developer position, then the website that best indicates the programmers capabilities is more than likely the one that they created.


If they are top 10 on either site they probably aren't great workers because they spend too much time answering questions on websites and not enough time working!! :)

  • I don't know about that in the case of topcoder. I could see freelancers doing this for a portion of their income, which would be work. For the top of the pack, there might actually be some significant money to be made. Sep 23 '11 at 18:09

I guess both are pretty different from each other. TopCoders evaluate the programmers, On the other hand, Programmers evaluate themselves on StackOverflow. If an interviewer comes across a candidate, who has the profile on both of these websites, he will consider one profile over the other in following conditions :-

  • If it's system development position or gaming development, the interviewer will seek the individual's profile on TopCoders to see how he scored in the Algorithm's contest. In essence, cartain development position might favor TopCoder over the StackOverflow.

  • In case when the overall intellect is needed to be checked over specific programming trait, like in case of web development and Software development, the programmer might check to see the StackOverflow profile. So for a general development position, the SO profile will overseek the TopCoder

The one thing in favor of StackOverflow is the question Stack. The questions here will and always reflect real-life development problems. Whereas in Topcoder, the contest are always made hard, no matter if they applies to real-life problems or not.

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