Home opinion-and-analysis The Linux Distillery Jeff Atwood, StackOverflow suffer 100% blog data loss

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Jeff Atwood, one of the two founders behind the popular StackOverflow question-and-answer site, has suffered a complete loss of his entire blog archive including both his personal Coding Horror blog and the StackOverflow blog site. Given Atwood has admonished people in the past for not following his advice on backup regimes what went wrong?

The Internet loves a bit of irony now and then. Earlier this year online identity expert Dick Hardt lost control of his own private honeymoon photographs and now a spruiker for backups has lost all his own data.

I first came across Jeff Atwood when he posted about “separating programming sheep from non-programming goats” on his Coding Horror blog site. This post mused on the academic problem of whether programming is something that can be taught to anyone or if there genuinely is some characteristic – a gene, perhaps – that separates those with programming ability and those without. If so, can educational institutions detect this even before students have even touched a programming language?

I subscribed to Atwood’s blog and enjoyed much of his regular bursts of wisdom, gems like if you have a problem and solve it with regular expressions you now have two problems and how do you perform such-and-such a task in JavaScript? You don’t, you use jQuery.

Another time he said most of the people who would benefit from reading blogs, books and articles on “good” software development are the type of people who don’t actually read blogs, books or articles, and I’ve seen the truth of this – not just in programming, but in other fields like accounting and management.

Atwood hit at the concepts of passion for your craft and life-long learning but expressed in his own vernacular.

I wasn’t the only one reading Atwood’s blog. He achieved so much financial success from advertising that he was able to quit his regular full-time programming job to focus purely on blogging and other pursuits.

One such pursuit was the creation of StackOverflow.com along with another well-known programming blogger, Joel Spolsky of “Joel on Software” and FogBugz fame.

The goal of Stack Overflow was to provide a Web 2.0 question-and-answer community for programmers which self-managed the promotion of good answers and rejection of bad ones.

StackOverflow directly competed with the older and more established Experts Exchange - at least as far as software development matters, but strove to provide a more usable interface.

The site achieved popularity quickly and receives a significant amount of traffic via Google. Since its launch Spolsky and Atwood have launched spin-offs ServerFault.com for system administration issues, SuperUser.com for home and small business power users as well as others.

Yet, something somewhere went wrong in the seemingly Midas Touch Atwood possessed.


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David M Williams

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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.