Stack Exchange, or “How to master a topic overnight”

The brain

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I’ve been spending a lot of time on WordPress Stack Exchange lately and I’ve really fallen in love with it. I’ve always been a moocher of Q&A sites (always the Q and never the A) and decided it was time to give back. I also wanted to give back to the WordPress ecosystem (and along these lines, I have a few “game-changing” WordPress plugins I’ll be releasing soon as well), so I started with their forums, which are terrible — lousy organization, no “preview”, lack of alerts, etc. I then moved over to StackOverflow and then onto it’s WordPress sister site.

While my intentions going into this were selfless, I’ve found a tremendously selfish reason to continue contributing to Q&A sites like this: you learn fast. It doesn’t matter how much you know about a topic, your knowledge of it balloons after spending a few days fixing other people’s problems and answering their questions. Maybe you know something off the bat and you have the best possible answer for it, and you’ve shared that with others. Or maybe you only know something 95% and you take a few minutes to learn that last 5%, and now you’ve polished up your knowledge of that topic. Or maybe you don’t know the answer and you “favorite” the question so you get notified when someone comes along and nails it, and now you’ve learned something totally new. Or, and this is when it gets real cool, maybe you just think you know the answer to something and someone comes along and crushes you with an answer you hadn’t even considered — the socratic method at it’s finest. Lastly, in your day-to-day experience with the topic, you become better at answering your own questions because you develop methods for finding answers fast — and, of course, if anything ever truly stumps you, you can just ask about it! Q&A sites FTW.

As if this all weren’t enough, the Stack Exchange network makes itself horribly addicting by gamifying the process with a point system. And anyone who knows me and my predilection for high scores knows that I won’t rest until I’m at the top! Long story short, this is my new way of learning anything. And I mean it, they have sites for cooking, photographyJudaism and Christianity, movies and TV, LEGO®s, you name it.

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