OpenAI Enriched By Stack Overflow
Written by Sue Gee   
Wednesday, 08 May 2024

Stack Overflow has announced a partnership with OpenAI that could improve the accuracy of ChatGPT with regard to programming knowledge. This sounds promising, but there are potential problems.

Two months ago Stack overflow announced a similar partnership with Google Cloud, putting together Stack Overflow’s store of  community-vetted knowledge with Gemini for Google Cloud. Now it's the turn of OpenAI and ChatGTP. As before it is the OverflowAPI that is key to the collaboration which has benefits to both partners:

  • OpenAI will utilize Stack Overflow’s OverflowAPI product and collaborate with Stack Overflow to improve model performance for developers who use their products. This integration will help OpenAI improve its AI models using enhanced content and feedback from the Stack Overflow community and provide attribution to the Stack Overflow community within ChatGPT to foster deeper engagement with content.

  • Stack Overflow will utilize OpenAI models as part of their development of OverflowAI and work with OpenAI to leverage insights from internal testing to maximize the performance of OpenAI models. OpenAI’s partnership with Stack Overflow will help further drive its mission to empower the world to develop technology through collective knowledge, as Stack Overflow will be able to create better products that benefit the Stack Exchange community’s health, growth, and engagement.

Prashanth Chandrasekar, CEO of Stack Overflow has high hopes for this two-way exchange of expertise:

“Stack Overflow is the world’s largest developer community, with more than 59 million questions and answers. Through this industry-leading partnership with OpenAI, we strive to redefine the developer experience, fostering efficiency and collaboration through the power of community, best-in-class data, and AI experiences. Our goal with OverflowAPI, and our work to advance the era of socially responsible AI, is to set new standards with vetted, trusted, and accurate data that will be the foundation on which technology solutions are built and delivered to our user.”

How could this possibly go wrong? Well recent history suggests several points of tension.

At the outset, when OpenAI's ChatGPT burst onto the scene developers were very keen to try it out. This had consequences for Stack Overflow which was suddenly flooded with answers generated by ChatGTP, many of which were inaccurate or misleading - leading to Stack Overflow banning AI-generated content from the site.

Stack Overflow faced different problems when it rescinded the ban and instead effectively instructed moderators to take no action against AI-generated answers. The community objected not only to the new policy but also to the manner in which new terms were introduced with no room for discussion or compromise and some volunteer moderators, some of whom took strike action. 

The emergence of GitHub Copilot and other LLM-based, gen AI facilities exacerbated a decline in Stack Overflow's traffic which  in turn forced the company to make two rounds of layoffs - 58 employees, around 10%, in May 2023 followed in October 2023 by approximately 28% of its workforce.

OverflowAI Search, Stack Overflow's pro-active response to incorporate gen AI into its opertations was unveiled last July and a limited private alpha began in September. The alpha concluded after 6 months with partcipants no longer able to engage in the ongoing work on it. While Overflow AI is billed as "Coming Soon" for Stack Overflow for Teams, responses from Staff on the Meta Stack announcement Concluding the OverflowAI Search Alpha on Stack Overflow suggest that there are no plans to launch this particular aspect.

So how is the Stack Overflow community likely to react to Stack Overflow sharing the content that they as a community originated with Open AI? We have to bear in mind that OpenAI has attracted criticism for not being open enough and that while ChatGPT was welcomed with quite a lot of enthusiasm it is far from being trusted - an issue, of course, that OverflowAPI is intended to address.

There has already been some backlash from devs but protest action has led to being banned from Stack Overflow and those tempted to remove their own contributions have discovered this isn't possible. What about deliberately posting misleading answers? Doing this knowingly is against the ethos of the site and its reputation system is designed to keep the quality of both questions and answers high so hopefully this won't happen.  

It is crucial that gen AI is made trustworthy and this partnership, if it works as intended, is to be welcomed as a way of harnessing the power of large language models to the wisdom of the crowd. 



More Information

Stack Overflow and OpenAI Partner to Strengthen the World’s Most Popular Large Language Models

Related Articles 

Stack Overflow On Google Cloud

Stack Overflow Announces AI-Powered Features

Stack Overflow Reduces Workforce 

Stack Overflow Traffic Slumps As Devs Turn to ChatGPTP


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 May 2024 )