Keywords: Q&As, Stack Overflow, social feedback, gender
Abstract: The Stack Overflow Q&A community has been frequently criticized for being a harsh, unfriendly environment. Despite numerous calls by the community to improve in this regard, prior work has shown that negative community dynamics continue to deter women, newcomers, and other marginalized groups from getting engaged. Social feedback can play a significant role in shaping community behaviour through group norm reinforcement and can, therefore, be employed as a tool to create more welcoming environments. With this in mind, in this paper we present the design and evaluation of a visible social feedback mechanism for inclusion in a Q&A platform like Stack Overflow. Through an exploratory interview study with 20 Stack Overflow members (10 men, 10 women), we explore users' perceptions of the mechanism's potential benefits and drawbacks. Our findings suggest that compared to the men in our study, the women were more open to additional social feedback on Stack Overflow, finding it a potential solution to make Stack Overflow more welcoming. Our interview findings also suggest that such a tool could be used to encourage newcomers and to allow users to show appreciation for supportive phrasing, complementing Stack Overflow's existing focus on feedback for technically accurate content.
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