I’ve been an active member on Stack Exchange for almost a year now, mostly on the Fitness & Nutrition site (for which I was appointed a pro tempore moderator). Other than that, I passively browse Stack Overflow whenever I have a programming related question. The whole Q&A format of the site makes it so simple yet the philosophy behind it is what really sets it apart from other Q&A sites.
What I’ve learned so far about Stack Exchange is that thought-out, well-written questions are of “higher quality” and tend to produce better answers. It’s fairly straightforward communication — being to state something clear and concise so that others can understand and properly interpret the question at hand. Just reading what other people have written has taught me to read things a bit more carefully and also really try to dig deep at what people are really asking.
There is a pattern of questions that I’ve seen crop up, and those questions usually are very vague and general. They tend not to do so well, because by their nature, the responses will also be vague and general. Sometimes people have very set minds about a certain topic, and my impression is that the answer those people are really looking for is one way off their path of thinking. I don’t think it’s a really good idea to validate other people’s views especially when doing so doesn’t address the real issue.
Participation in Stack Exchange has also translated to real life situations for me personally. I get into this habit now of asking more questions when someone asks me a question (all the meanwhile thinking to myself, “this is a sucky question,” in my head) to really drill down to what another person is asking for and then trying to answer it.
I knew Stack Exchange would be a great place to learn about various subject matters, but I never would have thought it to be a place, especially given that this is the Internet, to learn how to communicate effectively. The whole community, its open nature, and participation system really makes it worthwhile to get involved.