Monthly Archives: November 2015

Singapore on StackOverflow


Everyone is buzzing about big data these days.  Without something interesting, I would rather be a reader or an audience. Until now, while I am doing my own website researches, I have noticed something which you may like to know too.

As IT geek coming from Hong Kong and working in Singapore, I can’t remember how many times I was asked “How Singapore is different from Hong Kong?”. There are many similarities between these two ex-British colonies in Asia. People like to compare and contrast both economies on their business readiness, innovations and productivity. In many city indexes, Singapore and Hong Kong are often competing.

After living in Singapore for over 2 years, I usually answered the question more based on my own observations and experience.  For people who is more interested in food, I can talk about the difference in food in the two places.  For someone who cares more in politics, I can talk about the difference in the election systems.  So, in the context of IT industry, “How Singapore is different from Hong Kong?” Which place is having a better competitive edge? Which will better leverage IT advancements to support economic growth?

I have gotten the opportunity to meet with IT professionals from both the public and private sectors in Singapore. Singapore Government dedication and investment on technology is impressive. We see many projects (some experimental) to reinvent this city state. Industry associations like Singapore Computer Society and SITF are working hand in hand to build the competitive edge of Singapore in the IT arena.  However, I am not a PR consultant and should dig deeper. With my IT engineering background, I am trained to be fact-based. So, instead of settling with a conclusion based on what I experienced or how I felt, I would like to finalize my conclusion with hard fact: Data!

So, I turn to, which is a website that tracks Internet usages and ranks websites in each region or country. The ranking of website reveals how netizen surf Internet which tells a lot of their digital life and thus indirectly on digital economy. From there, I looked into the Top 100 websites in Hong Kong and Singapore listed in Alexa website.

First, it stunts me when I see StackOverflow ranked 37th in SG but 57th for HK. This difference tells something about IT industry in two very economies. is the most popular website for programmers globally. Developers and technical professionals share their knowledge via forum-like platform. I myself find it most useful for undocumented features of programming languages & APIs. You don’t spend time on StackOverflow trying to find next hotel deal or sangria receipt. Developers spend time on StackOverflow exchange ideas and share bug-killing joys.

When StackOverflow ranked higher in SG than HK, we may loosely read that the percentage of time SG people collectively spend on developing software is more than HK (i.e. bug killing is more popular in SG). Yet, I believe it is more likely that SG has more developers or SG developers are more hard working!

Absolute ranking in Alexa maybe affected by seasonal or other technical issues, it may not paint the true picture. To avoid such bias, let us use relative ranking, i.e. the distance between Stackoverflow with other popular daily websites (I have chosen online banking and local newspaper). Let us throw in some simple chart here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 6.12.38 PM

Left hand side  shows SG ranking of Online Banking (DBS.COM.SG), Local Newspaper ( and StackOverflow-SG. Right hand side shows HK (HSBC, and StackOverflow-HK.

A shorter distance between popular websites and StackOverflow reconfirm our observations with absolute ranking. Singapore netizens are more geek! Or, Singapore geeks are more active on the geek-forum! More time are spent on analyzing IT and killing bugs. Just a caveat though: StackOverflow is mainly English, Hong Kong developers may prefer similar forum in Chinese.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 5.28.34 PM

When double check with StackOverflow own 2015 survey, Singapore has 31.7 devs per 1000 people. 6th globally, highest in APAC.

Even with user behavior data, the conclusion may still be too generalized.  However, I do think this gives an encouraging picture to SG policy maker (IDA,ITSC, MDA, LTA etc) and IT practitioners. Singapore have nurtured a culture for people to built and tinker. In the last two years, I met with different communities (like Null Security, iOS Dev Scout, Lean Startup) full of energetic people sharing their experiences and dreams.