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Evolution and differentiation of the cybersecurity communities in three social question and answer sites: A mixed-methods analysis.

  • Author(s): Wu, Muting;
  • Aranovich, Raul;
  • Filkov, Vladimir
  • et al.

Cybersecurity affects us all in our daily lives. New knowledge on best practices, new vulnerabilities, and timely fixes for cybersecurity issues is growing super-linearly, and is spread across numerous, heterogeneous sources. Because of that, community contribution-based, question and answer sites have become clearinghouses for cybersecurity-related inquiries, as they have for many other topics. Historically, Stack Overflow has been the most popular platform for different kinds of technical questions, including for cybersecurity. That has been changing, however, with the advent of Security Stack Exchange, a site specifically designed for cybersecurity-related questions and answers. More recently, some cybersecurity-related subreddits of Reddit, have become hubs for cybersecurity-related questions and discussions. The availability of multiple overlapping communities has created a complex terrain to navigate for someone looking for an answer to a cybersecurity question. In this paper, we investigate how and why people choose among three prominent, overlapping, question and answer communities, for their cybersecurity knowledge needs. We aggregated data of several consecutive years of cybersecurity-related questions from Stack Overflow, Security Stack Exchange, and Reddit, and performed statistical, linguistic, and longitudinal analysis. To triangulate the results, we also conducted user surveys. We found that the user behavior across those three communities is different, in most cases. Likewise, cybersecurity-related questions asked on the three sites are different, more technical on Security Stack Exchange and Stack Overflow, and more subjective and personal on Reddit. Moreover, there appears to have been a differentiation of the communities along the same lines, accompanied by overall popularity trends suggestive of Stack Overflow's decline and Security Stack Exchange's rise within the cybersecurity community. Reddit is addressing the more subjective, discussion type needs of the lay community, and is growing rapidly.

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