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Stack Overflow embraces automation with the introduction of Overflow AI

Having shunned ChatGPT over fears it could generate shoddy code, the developer platform has launched its own generative AI tools.

By Ryan Morrison

Developer support platform Stack Overflow has launched a new AI helper called Overflow AI. This will include a knowledge base product for enterprise and integration with developer tools like Visual Studio Code. This represents a U-turn on generative AI for the platform, which banned answers generated by ChatGPT when the OpenAI chatbot first launched last year.

Stack Overflow is a platform used by developers to find responses. When ChatGPT first launched the site banned answers made by AI (Photo: Dennis Diatel / Shutterstock)
Stack Overflow is a platform used by developers to find responses. When ChatGPT first launched the site banned answers made by AI. (Photo by Dennis Diatel/Shutterstock)

Stack Overflow is used by developers, sysadmins and other technology professionals to get answers to a wide range of questions. When ChatGPT first launched, the company expressed concern over “wrong but plausible looking” responses to technology questions from the AI.

The platform believes it has now come up with a reliable automated alternative in the form of Overflow AI, an umbrella term it is using to cover a mass expansion for the platform that will include integrating generative AI across its public site, as well as enhancing its enterprise product, StackOverflow for Teams, which works with Microsoft’s Teams collaboration software. This includes a new knowledge base product that will allow organisations to use generative AI to create tagging structures and Q&A output.

Teams customers will also be able to use an AI-enhanced search function that will make it easier to find relevant answers to specific problems, as well as design learning paths from trustworthy sources to enhance specific skills. Sources include the public version of Stack Overflow, GitHub and Confluence.

The same knowledge base, as well as the 58 million-question, public-facing database, will be integrated into Microsoft’s IDE Visual Studio Code. Stack Overflow says this is important as it brings the information directly into the space developers are working in and focused on.

Overflow AI stays ‘true to the premise’ of Stack Overflow

Through a Visual Studio Code plug-in, developers will be able to pull in validated content from public and private Stack Overflow accounts. For Teams customers there will also be personalised problem-solving guidance integrated into the plug-in and, in turn, the IDE.

Salesforce-owned Teams rival Slack is also getting the Stack Overflow treatment through a new StackPlusOne chatbot plug-in. This will allow teams working in Slack to pull in community-validated solutions to technology challenges in a way to respects the data privacy of the company.

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It uses data from the organisation’s own private knowledge base instance and checks it against the public, validated sources including the millions of responses on the public platform. “The power of generative AI will allow these answers to arrive in a conversation format,” the company said. This will also allow for natural language engagement so that business users with little technical knowledge can understand the responses.

Stack Overflow is also releasing a new AI community discussions section of its public platform. Called the GenAI Stack Exchange, it will allow for discussions, questions and engagement on technical aspects of AI, and inform decision-making around its use.

Explaining its evolving position on the use of generative AI, CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar said: “Our aim is to stay true to the original promise of Stack Overflow, keeping our developer community at the centre, ensuring that trust and attribution are at the core of what we build and that the people who contribute their knowledge are recognised for their efforts.”

Chandrasekar said that “getting to this point required an incredible effort from so many dedicated Stackers”, explaining: “We have run back-to-back-to-back sprints, pushing ourselves to our limits.” He added: “With the news of our roadmap now out in public, it’s time to begin the marathon of bringing these exciting new AI-powered tools to users and customers, listening to feedback, iterating and improving.

“We’re excited to learn from our community and customers as we evolve Stack Overflow for the next era of technology.”

Read more: OpenAI’s ChatGPT explains how it can help CIOs do their job

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