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Derek Fowler
Derek Fowler

Posted on

Should developer blogs be peer reviewed?

Sharing your ideas, discoveries, opinions with the wider developer community via a personal blog or a site like DEV is a lot of fun and has never been easier.

With great power comes great responsibility though and for every one up-to-date, well researched, post there are many others that are less helpful which at best is some out-of-date information and at worst can include a piece of code or be advocating an approach that might leave your code with a serious vulnerability if you were to act on it or copy/paste the wrong thing.

In researching something yesterday I had to read through three articles which included incorrect solutions to a problem before I found one that contained the right solution, wasting a lot of time in the process. That is with 15 years of experience and knowing what the right solution would look like - for beginners this presents a real problem. This is compounded by there being, on the posts with incorrect solutions, just as many comments from people saying "Thanks, this is exactly what I was looking for" as there were on the correct solution.

This isn't just small blogs too, even on MSDN there used to be (and probably still are) many posts which included samples containing SQL injection vulnerabilities that are bound to have been copy/pasted into codebases across the globe. The new docs.microsoft.com now allows you to suggest edits and feedback on each page which is a huge improvement.

Are other people feeling this same pain? What could we do to solve this and improve the quality of information we're sharing?

I'm thinking along the lines of some voluntary code of practice which would cover things like:

  • Making sure posts include a date and the version number of the frameworks or libraries they're talking about
  • Some commitment by the author to keep the post up-to-date as things change - if the post becomes obsolete there could be a standard way of flagging this at the top
  • Old posts can still appear in Google search results years later so keeping comments open to allow people to flag things
  • Following the example of other professions and having a peer review of a post before publishing, just like a code review of a pull request

Stack Overflow does a pretty good job of covering these things already. It has version specific tags for many frameworks, allows you to make peer reviewed edits of other people's questions and answers if you want to suggest an improvement and it allows questions to be flagged a duplicate.

The obvious drawback to this is that it makes things more formal and less fun which is partly why Stack Overflow is seen as unfriendly compared to DEV and others.

What do you think?

Discussion (3)

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shailendrabirthare profile image
Shailendra Birthare

Valid point and good suggestion. I agree, the contributors should take these steps before posting and at the same time, should not be afraid of sharing what they think is correct. Readers has to read between the lines and take precaution while using something from the internet.

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dezfowler profile image
Derek Fowler Author

I think there's an important distinction between presenting an opinion or experience and presenting a fact. I don't think there's anything wrong with someone writing a post about their experiences with language X or why they think framework Y is rubbish. But if the post is about how to correctly configure authentication in framework Y or how to query a database with language X then there's a huge amount more scope for spreading misinformation and the author needs to take responsibility for ensuring the facts presented are correct.

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shailendrabirthare profile image
Shailendra Birthare • Edited on

Totally make sense... I have seen and struggling to get developers start writing about their problem/offer solution because of fear that they might be wrong. I encourage them to not be afraid, there will always be an opportunity to correct a mistake if you share it and someone point it out :)