What Colleges Use Stack Overflow the Most?

This week is a short week in the United States with the Thanksgiving break so I thought I would do something fun with Stack Overflow data. This is also the time of year that many high school seniors are in the process of sending out college applications, so I wondered to myself which colleges were the heaviest users of Stack Overflow.

While I am not a data scientist, I was able to download recent site traffic to Stack Overflow and analyze the data. There was a lot of it and not all of the domain traffic could be uniquely identified since some universities route traffic through an Internet service provider or telco company. This would be like logging in to the Internet from home or the local coffeeshop (assuming you are not running your own cloud server from home that is 🤣).

What made this exercise easier than expected was that all the top universities and colleges have clearly laid out identifiers for their IP address blocks. So if I wanted to find my alma mater, Boston University, it was listed as “Boston University” in the IP traffic data.

So what colleges are the most active users of Stack Overflow? I broke this down three ways as each dimension tells an interesting story. First I looked at usage by overall sessions on the site, then by number of unique users, and lastly by utilization, in essence sessions per unique user.

If you want to know “HOW” students are using Stack Overflow, check out this analysis on that very question!

For most sessions, the data that came back was not all that surprising. The schools that rise to the top of the stats happen to be the most well known and well regarded schools for computer science and engineering (personal shout out to my hometown of New York though with two schools at the top). What was interesting to note is that only one non-US school is listed in the top 15 schools for overall sessions, the University of Toronto.

For most users, again the data did not surprise. Colleges with the most students have the advantage. University of Washington has 46,000 students and University of Toronto has over 86,000, compared with smaller schools such as Stanford (16,000) and MIT (11,000). The one curve ball is “academic computer centre cyfronet agh” which is the University in Kraków (or Jagiellonian University) in Poland. For reference, they have over 43,000 students and is an excellent university.

The most interesting dataset however was the utilization metric. A bunch of new schools popped into the picture. The top spot is held by Russia with Innopolis University. Some names are obvious, but others required a bit of digging. The number 4 and 5 spots are respectively IIIT Hyderabad and IIIT Delhi (both in India), numbers 7 and 13 are Technical University of Denmark and Aalborg University (both in Denmark) and Academia Sinica which is in Taiwan. Quite the global mix!

What can be learned from this data? Well, the kids love Stack Overflow for one and it’s how they are learning to become knowledgeable developers. The other important lesson to glean from the data is that the next generation of developers to enter the corporate world are going to have certain expectations about the resources and tools they want to use.

Consumer tech creeping into enterprise IT is not a new trend. The BYOD movement has forced companies to bow to the will of their employees and their mobile phone preferences. The same is happening with tools. Out with the clunky corporate tools and in with the slick consumer apps. That is how Slack, Github and Stack Overflow have taken over the developer desktop.

How is your organization adapting to the consumer tech takeover? And if you are curious as to where your school landed in the rankings, let me know!

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Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, startups, community building & engineering culture. Author is Mark Birch @ AWS 👉 https://twitter.com/marksbirch