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Is DEV doomed?

Nočnica Fee
Actually the pug from Dune (1984)
・3 min read

cover image by By Rhododendrites - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

After reading Samuel's piece on some concerns about the DEV content streams (and the great discussion in the comments) I found myself writing something so long I decided to post it as its own article.

Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no." And this article is no exception.

tl;dr DEV is a human-operated editorial site and as such isn't locked in to any content strategy. No site will be perfect for everyone but DEV has a ton to offer to most developers

Working as a dev advocate, this site is one of the places I go to work: promoting interesting tutorials and ideas that will appeal to people. As such its vagaries are quite fascinating to me: that beginner content is dominant isn't that surprising considering that the tech industry is trying to double in size in the next five years, but other stuff is more surprising like the heavy weighting on recent posts. Anything from last month feels invisible. It's almost a hybrid of Twitter and Medium, with content going stale quite fest. That contributes to a sort of 'treadmill' feel where a 'beginner's guide to GitHub' gets to the top of the charts almost every week.

I find that Dev encourages a blend of content. Everything from short punchy discussion questions, to longer tutorials, to beginner's tips. No one content type is dominant and that feels about right.

the question of calving

One of the questions not addressed here is how you handle the fact that communities often calve off into sub-boards, and Dev's tagging system doesn't really allow for that. There's no way to say definitively "I only want to talk about Java running on AWS, and I don't want to read any Javascript at all" (It turns out you can mute tags per Michael's advice by giving a negative weighting on 'my tags')

DEV is more human than you know

Human effort plays a huge part in the general vibes of Dev, and it's helped enormously: you'll note that 'a beginner's guide to Git' is no longer the #1 article in the digest... every week.

I think most people don't realize how big a role people play in the DEV experience. The 'top articles' are selected from high-performing pieces but are not simply the 'most clicked.' And did you know that tags are heavily moderated by volunteer humans? It's true!

Culture is key

And humans do a lot more than deleting odd, content-farming articles and outright spam: they also delete comments and articles that are mean-spirited and disingenuous. There will never be a Prager U of Dev.to, and that's by design!

The future is bright

Most of us want more information on the tech sector. Everything from step-by-step tutorials to extremely meta articles like this one. As such DEV is riding a rising tide. What exactly the future looks like isn't perfectly clear. I'll be interested to see if the two biggest 'market shares' on the site (beginners and JS) come to dominate, split off, or lose ground to new subjects.

What is clear is that there is place for the interesting hybrid that is DEV and the Forem platform: a community site that isn't purely algorithmic. A frenetic content pace that still makes room for a few timeless pieces. And above all, a page where you can read about tech while remaining blissfully unaware of what Elon Musk is up to.

Discussion (7)

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ellativity profile image
Ella Ang (she/her/elle)

I always value your contribution to discussions, Nica, and this post is no exception. Thanks for jumping in with your perspective as a developer advocate (and for sharing some insights that it would feel kinda defensive for a DEV team member to write)!

Your post highlights the hard work our volunteer moderators do, without minimizing the scale of the task we face every day in upholding our Code of Conduct in an industry that contains significant pockets of resistance to anti-oppression practices.

I really love your emphasis on human-driven content. Let's hope that this translates into a deeper understanding that your readers can play a role in shaping the content culture here on DEV.

Things people can do include:

  • submitting abuse reports from the ... below the reaction icons
  • volunteering to become moderators for specific tags, or the site in general
  • reacting to and commenting on the types of content we want to see more of so it rises up the feed
  • sharing this content with our networks to help broaden its reach
  • adjusting the experience level of their posts from the /manage page and adjusting the experience level of their feeds from the /settings/customization page
  • tagging posts appropriately and adjusting their personal tag preferences from /dashboard/following_tags
  • and, of course, following @nocnica 's example of creating the type of content we want to see more of.
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nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author

Hi Ella! Appreciate you! I really hope that others see this comment since, I really want to emphasize that humans are in control of DEV and it's possible to both customize our views and change the tone of the site with our contributions.

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samuelfaure profile image
Samuel FAURE • Edited

Thank you for the quote.

I have to say I'm slightly disappointed about the comments on my other article: most seem goal-oriented towards what I described was the least problematic issue (the JS prevalence thingy). But not enough focus on the real issue: the half-hearted self-promoting content.

I opened 5 articles at random since yesterday, and I think yours might be the only one that is not a blatant half-assed attempt at making me click on your company's youtube videos, and is not promoting anything. It's disheartening, really.

The problem is not outright spam, because spam is easy to filter. The problem is half-assed half-hidden promotional content.

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nocnica profile image
Nočnica Fee Author

Yeah you really pinpointed something that has stood out to me: the way Forem kind of buries 'old' stories. This means there's always room for a new 'basic guide to github' no matter how great the one from last year was.

It is beyond the scope of my skills to know how to really address this. I want to log on to DEV and see new stories! And I don't want the top-voted thing from 2018 to always be on the home page.

I suspect that some feature and display tweaks will keep happening, and we might see some new views in the next year to address this.

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leob profile image
leob

Great piece, this one caught my eye:

"that beginner content is dominant isn't that surprising considering that the tech industry is trying to double in size in the next five years"

How should I view "the tech industry is trying to double in size in the next five years", is that just your gut feeling, or can you back that up with numbers/evidence? And "trying to ..." sounds like it's a deliberate plan, but I guess it's more like a "trend".

Just curious, although I certainly think this not far off the mark, things like the bootcamp surge seem to support this.

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panditapan profile image
Pandita

Why not create a feature to mute words or to up words?

For example, I may have absolutely no interest in "ternary operators" but I'm super interested in anything that may have "refactoring" in it's headline or first paragraphs.

So I could add a word and add a weight to it, just like with tags!

I wouldn't mind more abilities in curating my feed to show me what I truly am interested in ;3

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drsensor profile image
DrsEnsor

The only complain I have about DEV is the recommendation system still sucks even after using the filter tag. I have blacklisting several tags but it keeps popping up on my Feed.