We are happy to announce the official release of a brand new, revamped version of Stack Overflow offline! Thanks to the folks at Stack Exchange, we’ve been able to fully revamp our Stack Overflow-to-Kiwix (Sotoki) scraper and will continue providing not only the SO developer forum, but also an offline copy of every other Stack Exchange forum (about 180 in total now ready for the taking). Updates will be run on a quarterly basis for the time being but will gradually increase to monthly.
From now on, we will be working with the Stack Overflow folks to ensure that an up-to-date version of their dataset is easily available for those who need it. The Sotoki code is, as with all things Kiwix, free to use, share, look into and modify (or, hopefully, improve). And for those of you wondering, these 21 million questions (and answers) will take up 80Gb on your hard drive. Quite the bargain.
But then, you ask, who can be both working on internet-related tools and need offline access? Lots of people, in fact.
Some of them are on their way out of prison: Jessica was 16 when she entered a juvenile correctional facility, sentenced to life without parole. She finally left the justice system a free woman after 26 years, and set to work in her new role as CTO of UnlockEd Labs. The organization is operating in three prisons across the state of Missouri with plans for expansion to more facilities and states in the near future. And, surprise surprise, they train future coders and developers who, on account of being incarcerated, have no access to the internet. Key to their success, says Hicklin, is the knowledge contributed by the Stack Overflow community over the years. “It was the difference in making our project work. Unlock Labs would not exist without Stack Overflow.”
“When you have a problem you cannot simply go to the internet and search for help,” says Neil Barnby, an instructional officer with Code4000, a non-profit who also trains inmates in the UK. “Stack Overflow offline allows [students] to search the resource for possible solutions.”
Another use case for Overflow Offline is for CS students with no consistent internet access. “The Internet coverage rate in Cameroon is 34%” says Yannick, a local ed-tech entrepreneur. “Students pay for internet packages via their smartphones to connect to their laptops and the price of effective packages for research is expensive.” With Kiwix they can also download packages and study at home. “30% of students in Cameroon are in digital courses and this rate is growing. We are planning to install Stack Overflow in all the networks of our universities. By the end of this year, about 50,000 students will be able to access Stack Overflow without an internet connection.”
…and Giant Ice Cubes
In the world of science, Stack Overflow is used offline in locations like The Ice Cube Lab, a remote research station at the South Pole and the world’s largest neutrino detector. “We constantly work on scripts, a lot of Python code.There’s always something that doesn’t work. That’s when Stack Overflow comes in handy,” says Ralf Auer, the Ice Cube Data Center Manager.
There are two people onsite year-round to keep the experiments running and there are hundreds of scientists around the world that depend on the data. “Right now we update once a year during the summer season when I can go down there with a drive. There is no way for us to download 135 gigabytes over the satellite,” says Auer. “Of course it would be nice to get updates more frequently than what we have right now. When I look there and I have a problem with Python, the knowledge on Stack Overflow is just incredible. Just the amount of knowledge that is already out there is very handy for us.”
As we said, we will keep on updating Overflow Offline and improve the scraper.
There are a few remaining bugs that need ironing out. Have a look at our Sotoki repository on Github or, if you are a developer and would like to help us bring more content to more people, check out our list of onboarding tickets.