DEV Community

loading...
Cover image for Is Dev.to victim of its own success?

Is Dev.to victim of its own success?

Samuel FAURE
I love : Web development - Writing - Music // I hate: Corporate culture // I value: Radical honesty
Updated on ・3 min read

I love this platform. I've been hanging around there ever since Medium became shit. So while it's great to see the platform all grown-up, it's also kind of disheartening to see some (most) of the issues that plagued Medium follow along.

Here's a personal take on issues that plague Dev.to. Please be reminded as you read that this does not intend for any moral judgement, but is a single man's opinion on the origins of the issues.

Over-representation of a certain type of development

Not a big issue, but certainly an issue. It feels like this platform is centered around a certain type of developers. Precisely, the "Junior fullstack javascript developer fresh out of bootcamp".

This is not a bad thing per se, but many developers outside of this category just have very little reason to browse around here. Most posts are centered around Javascript, Node.js and React. Very little talk about the rest of the ecosystem.

It would be a net gain for everyone to appeal to a broader audience.

Lack of quality

Dev.to is not Reddit nor Hackernews. Content is not organized by "best". Which is not to say that it should. But as with any platform that becomes big enough, more and more people are posting here.

Which would not be a problem if everyone was doing its best to write great, useful, and insightful articles. Sadly, this is not what's happening.

To be clear, I'm not trying to say that inexperienced developers should not write, quite the contrary I think they definitely should.

What I'm trying to say is that writing should be motivated by mostly altruistic reasons, rather than selfish ones.

Personally, I wrote some Ruby articles because I felt like they were missing while I was learning the language. I wrote what I would have wanted to read on the internet and that did not exist yet. I wrote so people around me would have it slightly easier than I did.

Writing a good article is hard and takes time. Sadly, the front-page seems stuck with the eternal same "5 Top VSCode extensions" or yet another guide to React hooks. Were the previous guides so bad that the internet needed yet another?

The shallow and repetitive nature of the articles wouldn't be an issue, if it felt like there always was a genuine / heartfelt attempt at producing quality content. But there is none of that, because a genuine effort is rooted in altruism, and that's not why most people seem to post here.

Personal and professional branding / advertisement

And here comes the bigger issue. Every post seems to either be motivated by personal branding, or is just plain business advertisement.

I'm not even criticizing anyone here, I'm just stating the facts: I understand launching your startup and being in need of free advertisement. I really do.

But ads don't make for good content at all. And this is one of the main reasons why good content is becoming rarer and rarer here.

I'm also not criticizing the fresh-out-of-bootcamps junior devs that want to be able to distinguish themselves - the job market can be quite a bitch for juniors. We've been repeating for years that junior devs should distinguish themselves by contributing, starting a blog, sharing their knowledge, and participating in open-source projects, if they wanted to have a chance at getting a job.

But the return on investment is much better by just rehashing the same knowledge over and over again.

There seems to be a dissonance between what the writers on Dev.to want, and what Dev.to need.

What do?

So how can a website with a very low bar of entry such as this one, do its best to promote the best possible content, without becoming yet another Reddit?

Should there be some kind of human curation happening ? The newsletter is trying to achieve this, but this doesn't help with the browsing part of the experience.

Are there community-driven ways to uphold ourselves to higher standards?

I don't really have a solution. Do you?

Discussion (155)

Collapse
afif profile image
Temani Afif

I totally agree with you. I see a lot of great content underrated and lost behind the "200 Awesome resources that will make you the best developer" articles. I also don't understand why people love such articles too much (they get a ton of reaction immediately).

As a moderator here, I tend to mark them as "low quality" but it seems not enough. I suggest to have more manual work.

  • The feed should be curated and selected manually. I know there is a lot of articles each day but if each tag moderator handle a tag, it can be an easy work. It would be good to have a kind of "kick this article" button that allow us to simply remove it from the feed (while still visible on the other tabs). Of course, and to avoid any kind of abuse, such action should be tracked and some kind of notifications are sent to the team to make sure the action was legit and that article doesn't deserve to be in the feed.

  • Stop the automatic badges, the ones given each week to the top author (CSS, JS, react, etc). From what I noticed, it's only based on the number of reactions and since the low quality "listicles" are getting a ton they will earn that badge easily which will encourage them (and the others) to do the same to earn the badge (the gamification system). The "Top 7 posts" is a great idea because manually picking 7 good articles will encourage great content and will stop the bad gamification. All the badges should be like that IMO. Why not adding more of them, like "Top of the month", "best of the year", etc We can even have a new tab called "editor picks" where we put interesting articles hand picked by the team or the stuff.

Collapse
fawazsullia profile image
fawazsullia

Man, I feel you on this. And the irony is, nobody even goes through or uses those resources.

Btw, I remember your name. I've read article/stack answers of yours that have helped me quite a bit :). Thank you

Collapse
avantar profile image
Krzysztof Szala

Maybe there should be some kind of special category for that kind of "articles". I totally agree, that most of the "loved" articles are just poor list of link to libraries, repos etc. It has nothing to do with self development and quality. Hope it will change soon, because finding something valuable here is ridiculously hard. Regards!

Collapse
sebastienlorber profile image
Sebastien Lorber

There should be a mandatory #listicle tag that you can exclude if you want to!

Thread Thread
avantar profile image
Krzysztof Szala

It would be fine enough as well! :)

Collapse
leob profile image
leob • Edited

The only problem with manual curation is that it's subjective, however the "top articles" thing where the listicles very often get a lot of attention is ALSO subjective.

I would say that for the "top articles" post they might start de-emphasizing the listicles, and start promoting good solid content ... I just want to see more in depth "how to" articles, solid tutorials, that's what seems to be getting less and less on dev.to, or at least it's probably there but it just gets less visibility.

Collapse
afif profile image
Temani Afif

I prefer subjective rather than random. As an expert in a specific field (CSS in my case) I can easily identify good articles from no-sense-very-bad-useless article. I don't expect to select articles to be shown in the feed but rather have the ability to remove the bad ones.

Thread Thread
leob profile image
leob

I think they already do a good deal of manual curation, the really bad stuff doesn't make it onto the site obviously ... in case of questionable quality content maybe what they could do is indicate it by tagging/ranking, rather than removing it altogether - so, people can still view it of they want, it will just end up having a lower default "ranking" in people's streams ... I see better tagging/ranking and better (more extensive and fine-grained) filtering as the solution, or at least a large part of the solution.

Thread Thread
afif profile image
Temani Afif

not removing altogether, simply removing from the feed and still visible in the other tabs (like the latest). Also we already have a tool (as moderators) to rank some posts up or down but it's not enough against the bad posts that get a ton of reactions.

Thread Thread
leob profile image
leob

Yeah that's exactly what I meant :)

Collapse
leob profile image
leob

Yeah lol way too many "listicles" :-)

Collapse
goldfinger profile image
Caleb

I think manual work can only last so long, it may be time to really work on some algorithms for the page feed to push some of the lower quality down. I don't come here as much as I used to for the same reason. I dont need {COUNT} of the best {X} resource everyday or how you can do a simple trivial task. I am all for people getting into writing but maybe there needs to be an approval, time limit, and quality posting before someone can hit the main page.

Collapse
quangcanh2975 profile image
Quang Canh Nguyen

Hope to see some of great articles. Because I saw a lot of articles with many interactions or views, but they just list out some tools, extensions or projects everyone should do. As fresher, sometimes I don't know which one I should read or spend much time on instead of reading useless contents. Thank you

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

Thanks for expressing your perspective in a thoughtful and thought-provoking manner here, @samuelfaure !

As a DEV team member and one of this community's moderators, I'm watching this comments section keenly for suggestions on how we can keep the community inclusive and welcoming for devs of all levels and stages of their career, while continuing to foster constructive and relevant content for members who are further along their journey.

Collapse
samuelfaure profile image
Samuel FAURE Author • Edited

Hi Ella, and thanks for reading and listening.

To go back on my suggestion for curating, I just checked the newsletter. It seems like the 7 selected articles of the week are the ones that had the most "success" (I'm guessing, views or interactions) this week.

On the last newletter, out of 7 articles, 3 are directly JS-ecosystem oriented. A quick look at the previous newsletters show a similar trend: about half of selected articles are strictly about the JavaScript ecosystem.

The other half are more often than not very junior-oriented (such as a basic guide for git rebase. Great content, but for a very fresh junior).

The problem with curating by most successful articles is that you're creating a feedback loop where you are reinforcing this population's prevalence on the platform.

On the other hand, I wrote a few articles which I think are quite decent, quite interesting takes, and I'm very probably not the only one in that situation. The issue is those articles don't get much visibility because they're not javascript-related at all, so they don't appear in the most popular tags.

A solution I might suggest is, again, human curation. Maybe you guys at DEV can try to browse different tags and share with us every week what YOU personally liked or found interesting.

Generally, the platform needs to put the brakes on the perpetual flow of beginner-JS content and try to promote different works, both on the feed and the newsletter.

Collapse
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

This is helpful feedback!

Currently the newsletter is actually curated by humans, so all of the advice that you have for us here can be applied to our current methods.

I know that our team tries to choose from a variety of authors and touch on a variety of topics, but totally hear ya that JS/beginner posts are getting more air time than the rest. I think part of this is likely due to the fact that there are more posts tagged with #javascript and #beginners than anything else. If you look at our top tags page you are able to see the most used tags in descending order and how many posts are published under each — it's clear that JavaScript and Beginners have loads of posts created under these topics. We need to be aware of this and remember to look to other less used tags when curating the newsletter/top 7.

Thread Thread
burneyhoel profile image
Burney Hoel

In addition to @samuelfaure points out about topics not in the “most popular tags”, I would like to see an option in “My Tags” to ignore specific tags. This could help the tags I am interested in that are not popular fill my feed more than they currently do.

Please let me know if this is already and option and I have simply missed it.

Thread Thread
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

Great question! There is a way to make this happen, but it's a bit difficult to discover right now so totally understood that you missed it...

If you navigate to your User Dashboard (available when clicking on your image in the top right) and click on "Following Tags" (in the lefthand sidebar), you'll be taken to this page which allows you the option to adjust the "follow weight" of your different tags. A negative follow weight is counted as an "anti-follow" meaning that the tag will show up in your feed less.

☝️ This is all described in excellent detail by @afif in the post 💡 Quick Tips: Make your DEV.TO home feed better with "Anti-follow" Tag Weightings

Thread Thread
burneyhoel profile image
Burney Hoel

Fantastic, thank you @michaeltharrington and the DEV team for this functionality!

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

This is a pretty concrete suggestion, thanks! I'm curious to run this by not only the DEV team, but the incredible volunteer moderators who give their time and attention to helping this platform run smoothly.

Do you mind if I share this post and your suggestion with them?

Thread Thread
samuelfaure profile image
Samuel FAURE Author

Do whatever you want with it. Glad I could be of service.

Collapse
drhyde profile image
David Cantrell • Edited

Don't just put the brakes on the perpetual flow of beginner Javascript. Put the brakes on Javascript content full stop. There's hardly any variety to it which makes most of it uninteresting even to those who do Javascript, never mind those of us who don't. By all means let people write the three hundred and forty second article about how to turn text pink using Reactular, just don't promote it.

The masses of Javascript is off-putting to people who have interesting things to write about using other technologies. For a long time I didn't bother creating an account here because it was basically a Javascript fanboy site.

I might even go so far as to say don't promote anything that is wildly popular. Instead promote the interesting things lurking in the shadows. A good article that gets upvoted a hundred times will be promoted by its readers without any help.

Thread Thread
ssimontis profile image
Scott Simontis

This * a number I cannot even fathom. It's super frustrating writing a deep technical article that doesn't get promoted while drowning underneath regurgitations of popular JavaScript tutorials and top-5 lists, not to mention corporate spam.

I know I should be writing strictly for my own benefit, but I'd honestly rather just stick with my lab journal because it feels really demoralizing when stuff gets obliterated by a poor signal-to-noise ratio.

Collapse
andreidascalu profile image
Andrei Dascalu

The one thing that it could be up for the platform to do would be to provide categorised suggestions (eg: top new posts in a sort of different layer categories, per language, per development type backed/frontend/ops, etc)
Beyond that, it's more of a human responsibility: there is no reason to not do personal branding with quality articles.

Collapse
sebastienlorber profile image
Sebastien Lorber

What about making the "level" system more relevant.

If I set my tech level to 10 I'd like to not receive any listicle, even in top posts in emails 😅

Collapse
mrlopis profile image
Joao L.

That makes some sense, but some posts are more general, i.e. you don't need knowledge is a specific stack to be able to take something from it. E.g. soft engineering topics, people topics, etc. I think a simple slider is too naive.

Collapse
robcannon profile image
Rob Cannon

I am waiting to see a top 10 list of top 10 lists of vs code extensions.

Collapse
jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

You'll love my upcoming piece on "My Dog's Favourite VSCode Theme"

Collapse
afif profile image
Temani Afif

why your dog is using VSCode? check my article "15 New tools that your Dog will love and will change its life". You will love it! (I mean your dog will do)

Collapse
stephanie profile image
Stephanie Handsteiner

Only to be topped by my article about my cat's favourite neovim setup for web dev in 2021!

Collapse
moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

This is all a bit of a grey area.

Collapse
moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Someone's probably written a VS Code extension to highlight the top ten lists of top ten VS Code extensions in the corner of your VS Code. Yo, dawg.

Collapse
alvaromontoro profile image
Alvaro Montoro

Just give me a little time... :P

Collapse
jayjeckel profile image
Jay Jeckel

It would be nice if they would do something about the obvious corporate spam. Just today I check the latest articles feed and some company has posted nearly a dozen articles in a row that all read as templated advertisements with maybe a paragraph or two of semi-coherent text before the same spiel of advertising their company. And the kicker is, they aren't a software dev company and the articles have nothing to do with software development.

Not to mention the countless articles with no content other than a link to some website. It's one thing to have a low bar of entry so as to foster new devs, but there seems to be no bar at all.

There are five 'share' buttons on every article, but no 'report spam' button. That suggests to me that they don't really care how spammy the content is.

So my suggestions are:

  1. Add a Report Spam button.
  2. Flat out ban link only articles.
  3. Flat out ban obvious advertising articles.

The internet isn't new, we have over a decade of experience showing that for-profit entities WILL abuse any and every system they can if it has the slightest chance of earning them a fraction of a penny, even to the detriment of the system. Either we put a stop to it now or we'll have to add devto to the long list of well intentioned projects that devolve into nothing more than a feed for ad spam.

Collapse
samuelfaure profile image
Samuel FAURE Author

Some subreddit have a pretty hard stance on self-promotion. Maybe that could inspire some necessary change here.

There was recently an 'okayish' article about "how to get stars on github" and, lo-and-behold, all the examples were from the author's own github page. Writing about "how to get github stars" to get github stars: how meta!

This half-hidden self-promotion bothers me and maybe should be against the rules. A discreet link to your own blog or github page is fine, of course.

Collapse
drhyde profile image
David Cantrell

Reminds me of the old truism in the 90s that the only way to make money from the internet was to write a book on how to make money from the internet.

Collapse
terabytetiger profile image
Tyler V. (he/him)

Under the "..." menu there is a "Report Abuse" option (which should be available to everyone, not just community mods - but let me know if that's not the case).

Spam and link only articles fall under the "Abuse" umbrella since they are against the terms of use for DEV :)

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

Thanks for these insights and suggestions! We completely agree with you that outright advertising doesn't belong in articles. We even have the Listings section for ads of all kinds as a way for people to promote to/recruit from the DEV Community, and try to direct people to this as often as possible.

As @terabytetiger mentions, all users can report spam on any article by clicking the ... beneath the reaction icons. We encourage you to make full use of this tool to bring spam to the attention of the site admins.

We remove as much spam as we can each day, thanks to the watchful eyes of our community (and volunteer mods in particular), but the more reports we get the faster the clean-up is. Please feel free to report anything you're unsure about: even if we don't agree it's a valid report after review, there's no penalty to the OP or reporter. We genuinely welcome your spam reports!

Collapse
turnerj profile image
James Turner

I've personally had similar thoughts about the content on the site. I'd love to see more variation in content and especially content that dives deeper into technical topics - like one of the most interesting articles I read was someone working on a bootloader and VGA driver. I have anti-follow tags across a variety of topics but that only works on well-tagged articles.

Regarding the experience level of content, I know in the settings there is a value to "nudge" the content you see to a particular experience level. Perhaps that needs to be more aggressive and maybe automatically detecting content experience level. Content of all experience levels should be welcome, just the audience for that content should be in control of what they see.

With low quality listicles - it is hard because on one hand, there likely are people that love to know about the best 5 VS Code extensions in 2021. I know DEV is aware of this type of stuff and are looking into ways to improve the feed. Again it is probably more a case to allow the content but give control to who wants to see it.

I think with measures that give control to the reader of what content they see, there might end up being less incentive to produce lower quality articles or just rehashing the same concept for the 100th time (less views, less reactions etc).

For me the home feed quality has gotten so bad that I don't even use it. I've kinda just ended up only using DEV to share my own content than browse the content of others. I only find out about new articles on DEV when they're shared by people I follow on Twitter.

Collapse
stephanie profile image
Stephanie Handsteiner • Edited

Perhaps that needs to be more aggressive and maybe automatically detecting content experience level.

It's not automatic, but community mods can actually set that for newly written articles, as well flagging them high quality or low quality, both of which are functions which I use regularly, trying to make the experience better for everyone. :)

I don't know the internal's about the algorithm in that sense, but yeah, maybe that needs to be more aggressive, maybe push up/down articles further, if community mods are in the same boat about the skill level and/or the overall quality of the article.

Collapse
turnerj profile image
James Turner

Yeah, I've seen the option when I've moderated a post. Unfortunately I don't think it is something that can scale very well - community moderators would need to effectively read every article to appropriately mark its experience level.

I think some basic automation could tackle some low hanging fruit like if the beginner tag is on an article, the experience level can be determined. Even some basic phrases like "101", phrases typically used to describe certain levels of difficulty.

Beyond automation, maybe the author could actually set the experience level themselves (not sure if they can already)? If the experience level ties into what content people see, the author has an intrinsic need to set the appropriate value to maximise the audience enjoyment. Setting it wrong could mean the wrong people see it and thus might get less views/reactions/shares etc.

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

Beyond automation, maybe the author could actually set the experience level themselves (not sure if they can already)?

They can! Append /manage to the end of any of your posts to set the experience level.

We would love to see more authors make use of this additional feature. As you say, it really is in their best interests to target their audience the best they can:

If the experience level ties into what content people see, the author has an intrinsic need to set the appropriate value to maximise the audience enjoyment. Setting it wrong could mean the wrong people see it and thus might get less views/reactions/shares etc.

Thread Thread
turnerj profile image
James Turner

Awesome that it is possible though how obvious is that to users? I know there is a "manage" link once a post is created but it seems like it would be worth having on the actual post creation page.

Thread Thread
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

This is good feedback for sure.

I think that this is pretty hidden in the UI as well as the ability to anti-follow tags that you mentioned previously.

In future UI updates, we should consider making these features more easily discoverable.

Thread Thread
shalvah profile image
Shalvah

Just want to add: checked out the /manage functionality, and a scale of 1-10 is wayyy too intimidating. A simple scale of "beginner, mid-level, advanced, expert" would probably be fine. I spent a couple minutes trying to decide, hmmm, is this post better suited for level 6 or level 7? Am I sacrificing views if I choose a higher level?

Thread Thread
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

Oooo I like this idea. Simplifying the scale here makes a lotta sense.

Thread Thread
killshot13 profile image
Michael R.

Agreed. I've literally sat for a minute trying to decide 4? or 5?... or 4?

Collapse
kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

I have to agree, and I think this was a really good, insightful writeup. I've found myself less engaged with this community over time, and I think a lot of it has been because I'm finding less and less genuinely useful / informative articles on here. The solution is, unfortunately, far less easy to define than the problem.

I wonder if there could be benefit in some kind of "Blog Writing 101" type resource that dev.to could offer? I know when I was just starting out, I wanted to write, but a lot of what I was seeing were those kinds of low-effort listicle type articles. Many people learn by emulating what's around them, and I definitely wrote a lot of that kind of stuff, too, just trying to figure out how this whole "blog writing" thing worked. It took me some time to move past that stage and into finding my own voice and style. I wonder if there's some guidance we could offer folks who fall into that "junior fullstack javascript developer fresh out of bootcamp" category that could help them identify good opportunities for content and generally level up their writing. I think a lot of them are genuinely trying to create good content, but simply don't have the knowledge / resources and are just imitating the other articles that they're seeing here – and reinforcing that kind of loop even more.

In writing circles, there's a strong community of "beta readers" who work with authors to help offer feedback and review their writing before a story gets shared. Maybe dev.to could offer some kind of author / beta reader pairing system for new folks looking to get another set of eyes on their work before it's posted? Like being able to open a PR on your blog article, haha :)

Collapse
seangwright profile image
Sean G. Wright

👍👍

Great ideas, Kathryn. A "Blog Writing 101" post (or many posts) would be great for the community, especially if the DEV team promoted them to new accounts.

I had some thoughts inspired by your comment dev.to/seangwright/comment/1g4bm

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

The DEV team would love to have content like this to share with new accounts and/or people who contact us asking why their content isn't gaining traction. If you write or run across any articles like this, please bring them to our attention by @-mentioning me, @michaeltharrington , or @itscasey , or forwarding the link to yo@dev.to 🙌

Collapse
ludamillion profile image
Luke Inglis

In writing circles, there's a strong community of "beta readers" who work with authors to help offer feedback and review their writing before a story gets shared. Maybe dev.to could offer some kind of author / beta reader pairing system for new folks looking to get another set of eyes on their work before it's posted? Like being able to open a PR on your blog article, haha :)

I’ve often thought that a beta reader feature would be great or having the opportunity to have your content ‘edited’ or proof read would be awesome. I think this could be an opportunity for some level of mentorship as well.

I would love to write more but I don’t have a ton of time to do so right now. However, it would be great to be able to contribute by offering feedback and suggesting edits to other’s content.

I think prepublish review and editing is something sadly lacking from a lot of ‘user generated content’ platforms. Having features to enable this would be a big plus for Dev and Forem in my mind.

Collapse
link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

I think what this really boils down to is working out what content you, as the user, wants to see and how Dev can better filter out things of no interest.

As you've mentioned there are lots of top 10 lists, which don't really interest me either but are really popular, so some people out there must like them. We'd be remiss to blanket ban people from writing articles like that.

Something I imagine could be done is making it more clear at the time of posting that people can set an experience level for their post and also have experience level more heavily impact what is seen.

content filter


On the topic of junior devs making lots of posts. Before I was a dev I was writing posts on Dev and without them I wouldn't be a dev now. Honestly they weren't that interesting but they gave me purpose. The few people that came back and read them each week and left comments gave me the confidence I needed to change career.

The way I see it Dev is a resource, a way to share information. You can share that information by posting a post or by helping someone who's learning in the comments of their post and I don't mind doing that.


That all being said I would agree that post quality is dipping, as you rightly say, this because there are now lots of people on the platform but I'm not really sure raising the bar of entry is the solution.

As I said earlier better feed curation would be my preference, maybe things like this

  • a see less like this option
  • enforced experience level
  • filter by like rate (views to likes ratio)

Another solution that might work, this is a half baked idea that came to me as I typed so it might not go anywhere. There could be a "following only" feed which only shows posts from people you follow (just like a twitter feed). Users could then endorse posts, when they endorse a post it would be like a retweet, you see who endorsed it and it would be on your feed.

This would be a new sort of feed and the old feeds could still exist as "Discover" feeds. I imagine if you don't follow very many people it could show you posts from people that are similar (with a message saying similar to Tom Jones).

Collapse
moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I agree that we shouldn't try to "raise the bar". When people are starting out, it's great for them to have a place they can post and find their voice, and as far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter if what they're saying has already been said.

However, we do need a way to filter things so that's not dominating people's feeds. And while meta-articles and lists can have value, most of the ones here are just churn.

Collapse
seangwright profile image
Sean G. Wright

I like what Kathryn had to say about providing resources to teach authors how to write better content

dev.to/kathryngrayson/comment/1g423

Here's the first technical blog post I ever wrote, way back in 2012
seangwright.me/blog/development/ob...

It's not very good at all!

There were two problems with that post:

  1. I was a junior developer and didn't understand what I was writing about.
  2. I was an inexperienced author and didn't understand how to write an informative blog post.

However, I'm still glad I wrote something because it set me down the path to where I am now, writing dozens of blog posts a year, speaking at conferences, and representing a developer community.

We definitely do not want to institute any gatekeeping here!

For many developers writing on DEV, English might be their second or third language. They are, as has been noted, junior developers, and maybe just don't know how to author a well written post about software development.

Instead, if we want to improve the quality of the content, let's do something foster writing talents!

Maybe those in the community with more writing experience could create some videos that walk others through the writing and editing process. They could explain what types of contributions bring value to the community.

I've noticed a lot of posts that have trouble formatting their content with code fencing, structuring paragraphs, and really just telling a coherent story.

These are things that can be taught and I feel many would be receptive to this type of content.

I'd love anyone's thoughts or feedback on these ideas.

Collapse
jerzakm profile image
Martin J

I've been regularly browsing dev.to for the last two years and everything you've said rings true. It used to be that most of the articles in my feed were pretty interesting and well written, right now I often struggle to find ones that provide value.

Collapse
0916dhkim profile image
Donghyeon Kim

This article has my compassion. I love the platform, but it is really hard to discover articles which I would like to read. A solid recommendation system is what this platform is lacking: everything else is just perfect. I do not care how many low-quality posts are out there if I don't get to see them in my feed.

Collapse
miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot

I think the problem as an author is that to produce some actually interesting content takes a long time, but your content is buried under a pile of repetitive content very quickly - even if it is significantly rated. Addressing the home page sorting and including algorithm might help with that.

It would need to address highly rated content per tag not per post I'd guess as commentary pieces have immediate appeal and tend to garner very high votes whereas technical content tends to have a slower burn but potentially higher value.

I know I feel lucky when I drop in and get to read something that makes me say "aha". You have to be here often for that to happen though given the sheer volume of the aforementioned content.

Collapse
unfor19 profile image
Meir Gabay

This hit the spot. How about semi-adopting Stackoverflow's suggestion mechanism?
For example- blogger wants to create a post about "How to use Docker", and while typing the title, DEV.to can suggest:

"There are 237648327642876 posts about how to get started with Docker, are you sure you want to add another one?"

@ben - what do you think? :)

Collapse
afif profile image
Temani Afif

This will not stop them from writing the articles. That never worked on Stack Overflow. I close a lot of duplicates each day on Stack Overflow and in 70% of the cases the duplicate I use is the first one suggested by the site when writing the title.

Collapse
unfor19 profile image
Meir Gabay

Super sad, that usually what stops me from asking a question in SO :/

Collapse
wadecodez profile image
Wade Zimmerman

Even if it doesn't stop low-quality posts, this would help serious writers produce better content.

Collapse
bdwakefield profile image
Benjamin D Wakefield

I would say that I agree with this 100%. I get the email digests and for a while, probably at least all of 2021 so far, I haven't opened but maybe a handful of links to articles -- this being one of them.

The content isn't all that pertinent to me unfortunately. I recognize that I could contribute some -- and have intended to for a long time. I haven't had as much time to read as I would like -- and unfortunately for writing, reading is better for me in terms of where I am professionally.

For a long time now "listicles" and similar style content has been quite frankly, mostly just garbage akin to blogspam. It would probably would be best of they were banned -- or relegated to a corner somewhere.

@afif / @ellativity Given you two are moderators, maybe this suggestion is best directed toward you instead of the ether -- maybe you can share it somewhere it would gain traction.

I think I agree with @samuelfaure 'successful' content needs to be de-emphasized. Or at a minimum limit how much JavaScript gets focus. There is much more to development than JavaScript, et al. The only way to encourage different content is going to be to promote it.

I think human curation and multiple "interest topics" subscription options -- have an entry level focused digest and more for other/advanced topics.

Dev.to desperately needs categorization and taxonomy. If it had this then you could create newsletters with more curated content. That of course has more limited use if all of the content is primarily for "Junior Bootcamp Dev" level.

I'll do my part by trying to work up some "higher level" content to share -- but as of yet I haven't been inspired :D

Collapse
afif profile image
Temani Afif

as a moderator we already have a tool to "downvote" posts so they are less visbile but unfortunately it's not enough because the algorithm also consider the reactions so it's hard to fight the bad listicles getting a ton of reactions that's why I suggested in the above a "nuclear button" that is immune to reactions and can allow us to remove an articles, not from the site, but at least from the feed.

Collapse
bdwakefield profile image
Benjamin D Wakefield

Yeah, You definitely need better tools. It is like a lot of other places though... low effort, 'click bait', low quality things tend to do better... and why wouldn't you spend time on that if you can do barely anything instead of creating something actually profound? Valuable content is more difficult to produce.

Collapse
thomasbnt profile image
Thomas Bnt

From my point of view

Okay, some points is true and I have the same feeling as @samuelfaure .

Precisely, the "Junior fullstack javascript developer fresh out of bootcamp".

I see most of DEV posts around JS/React and HTML/CSS, I'm into that but I appreciate read/learn others stuffs like languages, culture of devs or wathever with good content. No links to 'Read more at' or just a embed with the code source and nothing more...

Even the little contents of people who start to learn a language I'm happy to read, so maybe it's not the most interesting topic of my comment, but if you who read this start to learn something and you want to share it, do so! Don't be afraid! It's a great way to learn more, to get feedback which is always nice, and nobody eats here (Si?)

The proof, my very first post here was when I started learning Ruby, it's still online and my very first comments are golden nuggets.

Second part, I'm agreed :

5 Top VSCode extensions"

I totally agree with that, I see most of the time on the homepage this kind of posts, and for some people they like it, but after a while it becomes boring and it makes you less interested in reading the articles on the homepage

StackOverflow and DEV

Why did you add StackOverflow as a shortcut? Usually people don't take the time to write down their problem and just copy and paste as many tags as possible. I find that it stains the platform. Help should always be part of it, but just throwing in a StackOverflow link and putting the same title again... might as well write "Read me more at [link]".

If you don't know what I mean, when you share on StackOverflow, you can create a post here, very easily.


I was speaking to you as a DEV member. What follows is about the moderation part.

It's almost the same, I moderate some tags and I see from time to time empty posts, here just to signal and mark its presence on DEV. I'm often wondering if I should downvote the post to make it less prominent or just report it as spam/nothing to do here.

I have forgotten some points, I am aware, but I would like to share some points that I think are right.

Collapse
samuelfaure profile image
Samuel FAURE Author

After multiple readings, I'm still not understanding your comment about StackOverflow. Can you clarify?

It seems like you're asking me "Why did you add StackOverflow as a shortcut?" but I did not link to SO in my post ?

Collapse
thomasbnt profile image
Thomas Bnt

No not you ^^
StackOverflow added "Share on DEV" on this platform.

When you share here from SO, it's prefilled to post on DEV.

Thread Thread
link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

Oh I didn't even know that was a thing

Collapse
buphmin profile image
buphmin

This article brings up some thoughts that have been nesting in my head for awhile. I joined in 2018 and back then I felt the community was much closer nit and a higher percentage of articles were of quality. This could just be confirmation bias of course. However, I think there are far too many redundant articles.

As far as solutions I have some loose ideas that could be refined. First and foremost do not add any negative user reactions: dislikes, mark as duplicate, etc. Humans have a tendency to focus on negative emotions so adding user moderation via negation focused tools would promote poor behavior. So we have the unicorn reaction, which I assume is for uniqueness, which we could allow users to sort by. Promoting people to mark articles as unique and interesting would be an excellent way user moderation. Another idea is to allow people to tag articles to help increase relevancy.

Just a bit of food for thought.

Collapse
ckarakoc profile image
Celal Karakoç

I like the idea of being able to mark a post unique. Good idea 👍
Tagging articles wouldn't help though. People would just tag every article with the most low-hanging fruit tags ('javascript', 'css', etc...).
An idea I had was being able to custom filter your feed based on presets. So perhaps you have a preset1 for your feed with beginner/javascript an other preset2 with more advanced and a preset3 with only java etc... So basically you get multiple "global" feeds which you can switch between.

Collapse
buphmin profile image
buphmin

I agree with having presets, that seems like it would definitely help finding articles that are relevant.

Collapse
claudiodavi profile image
Claudio Davi

I feel you Samuel, I myself have written some - not so beginner friendly - articles and feel very discouraged to keep writing because not only the lack of visibility it gets (I know my work can be very niche) but the overall content of the website.
I feel like there's not much space for me here.

Collapse
steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Tbh most of my articles are niche articles. Yes I do use the beginner tag for my articles. I think the mods for that tag has their work cut out for them. Which i appreciate their effort as I used it from time to time that they remove the tag 😅.

I think in terms of curator of the top articles. I believe it might be better for tag mods to recommend articles of their own respective tags. Where as the higher amount of non-affiliated mobs can vote for the best by taking turns each week.

I'm one of those non-tag affiliated mods so I kind of like the idea there is more discussion on and voting for the best top 7 articles.

Collapse
dhaiwat10 profile image
Dhaiwat Pandya

Totally with you on this. I am tired of seeing articles like "10 BEST React libraries" and "5 Github projects every developer MUST know!". It is frustrating. There is no quality there. These are just lists. Literally. Thank you for writing this post.

Collapse
phantas0s profile image
Matthieu Cneude • Edited

To me, the problems you describe are not necessarily related to dev.to, but more to the industry and the Internet at large.

  1. The over-representation of a type of development: there is a big "trend effect" in IT, leading people to admire and advocate some type of tools depending of the season.
  2. Low quality content: it's the problem on Internet in general. If everybody love low quality content, it's because people like easy stuff in general. If it's a list it's even better. Difficult to change that.
  3. Advertisement. Well, there is two sorts of them: the articles which really bring a lot of value with some plugs, and the ones which bring nothing but some plugs. These two are not on the same level I think.

You can moderate, remove, and ban, but the root problems will stay the same. Dev.to is not positioned on a "High quality platform where people speak about diverse tech without any ad", it's more the contrary to me actually. Everybody can speak about everything related to IT. And, to be honest, it's nice, especially when you see other platforms which try to sensor everything with nonsensical algorithms.

Collapse
sinewalker profile image
Mike Lockhart

I see some of what you mean - the relentless “Top X for Y” is prominent and always gets included in the roundup emails and front page... as if there was some kind of algorithm driving it. I know that there is not — there are people behind the decisions for which articles to feature, and their focus at present appears to be to uplift and promote the new starters. I applaud this, but it leads to the selection effect we're seeing.

On the other hand, I am mindful of the outrage in computer magazines of the 1990s when HyperCard became popular, and the developers then bemoaned the uprising of “cookie cutter spaghetti card stacks, cobbled together by amateurs&rdquo. That's totally the wrong mindset, and glaringly backwards-looking with the hindsight of the game Myst (made by non-programmers), and the Web, which exploded only a few years later.

So my take is really that:

  • More experienced developers, from fields other than the web platform, need to be encouraged as much as up-and-comers have been
  • There needs to be more variety in the kinds of content featured by the DEV.to team

The first drives the second, though. So we need to get cracking on posts.

I'm guilty too: I've been lurking here for a couple years with no posts and only the occasional comment.

Collapse
coffeestasia profile image
Anastasia 🏄🏻‍♀️ • Edited

I think there's no way to minimize listings and junior-level content. It's not about the platform: this kind of content gets more reactions on Twitter and other social media.

To me as a content writer and an online marketer the reason is crystal clear: junior and middle-level devs make up the most of the audience. They look for easy tips and solutions, they are the most active and engaging that's why this content has many reactions.

So I see the only solution here: platforms need to encourage advanced-level content and its writers. For example, dev.to could provide special sections for quality and advanced content, offer plaform achievements and rewards so that experienced devs could easily access the content and its writers could get their share of recognition from other experienced devs.

Collapse
leob profile image
leob

Very thoughtful article - I've had pretty much these same thoughts and feelings about dev.to for quite a long time, and now I see them put into words - this is spot on!

Been a dev.to reader/follower almost from the start (yes, I'm also a defector from Medium!), and I can say that in the beginning the site definitely had a different "feel" - there was a lot more quality over quantity, you hardly saw "listicles", a lot less self promotion ... more interesting content I would say, and also more of a community feeling.

I think this is the inevitable consequence of growth, you definitely can't blame dev.to - and the funny thing is that this is something only we "veterans" will notice - people who discovered the site recently will be blissfully unaware.

And yes, there's a heavy focus on junior devs, people entering the profession, but that's something that I can't take issue with - I acknowledge that it's important for the whole industry that we bring people on board, for a long time we've complained about shortages and about being unable to get good people, so I see this surge in bootcamps and all that as something that was long overdue, and inevitable.

The "solution", assuming that we need one, would probably be better categorization and filtering - people should be able to filter their feed more effectively. You wanna read more about Ruby, Rails, PHP and so on? Indicate it in your preferences. More advanced materials, fewer "listicles", fewer short and simple articles (React Hooks Intro anyone?) - check it in your filter settings.

I'm not really in favor of "curating" upfront too heavily, although outright "spam" (I've seen posts that had nothing to do with dev and were nothing more than company advertisements) should of course be nuked, and I think that already happens. But we probably shouldn't take this too far, I think the platform or the site should remain low barrier to entry.

So, better and more extensive categorization and filtering is what I would bet on.

Collapse
jazzinghen profile image
Michele Bianchi

This is a great post. Thank you!

I honestly don't have a solution either, but I just wanted to say that I joined dev.to thinking that it would have been a place where I could read some interesting posts about in-depth features of the languages I use the most (C++, Rust), meanwhile I keep on receiving top post about very shallow topics or "your first X in Y" tutorials.

I am hoping that this discussion will become big enough to reach the people behind Dev.to and push them to solve this issue.

Collapse
bennypowers profile image
Benny Powers 🇮🇱🇨🇦

At the risk of sounding extreme, perhaps what's needed here is a clean break.

  • dev.to for beginner content and listicles
  • a new, more moderated ('curated'?) site for niche/advanced/"artisanal" (ugh.. sorry) content. codeart.community is available
Collapse
yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

There is a beginner community using the same Forem software:
community.codenewbie.org/

It's established too late, so that all the bootcampers are already here.

Collapse
saulburgos profile image
Saul Burgos Davila

I use feedly and if I passed 1 day without checking dev.to I have new 200 entries... WTF !!!

Lastly I am evaluating remove it because simply is not possible with that all noise.

Collapse
icawebdesign profile image
Ian.H

Totally agree on much of this.

I browse here from time to time, but more often than not, end up closing the tab due to the sheer number of clickbait "20 things you NEED to know/do/read/use to be a Javascript dev in $currentYear post titles.. kinda like all of the job ads I get emailed where seemingly every recruiter is working with an "industry-leading" or "industry-disrupting" client.. really?

Although I'm primarily a PHP dev (shoot me for it!)... I've coded in BASIC, ASM, C, C+, C#, Classic ASP, Perl, PHP, Python, Go, Bash, Javascript, HTML and (S)CSS over the years since I was 8 (I now no longer have to shave my head ;) ) and run my own servers both cloud-based and in a rack at my house.. I have a varied interest in technology.

This could be an awesome place, and the few interactions I've had here have been good, but I rarely comment on anything as 90% of it is Javascript related of which I actually have very little interest.

Now, yes, that's my preference, and I know I can go elsewhere (and I do).. but this certainly doesn't seem like a "general dev blog" where it's easy to read/learn/browse a variety of development posts like I assumed it would be.. and unfortunately, I haven't found a filter to not display posts with specific hash tags (this would be great, btw.. though I suspect I'd get done reading before I finished my first coffee =) ).

Don't get me wrong.. I appreciate what dev.to is as a platform, but content is unfortunately immensely single-minded and repetitive... but I do pop back in hopes that someone posts something of interest (which when I opened dev.to for the first time in a while, the top post was dev.to/hrishikesh1990/i-made-150-h... which is great! and was refreshing to see =)

Collapse
spirodonfl profile image
Spiro Floropoulos

I agree. I wrote a few articles near the beginning which garnered a lot of attention. I spoke from my own heart. I wasn't really trying to anything like advertise. Some of my posts got hazed because they were poor quality. I respected that. Some of my posts got lots of good feedback because I tried really hard.

I offered to help out with development and other things related to the site. Nothing but silence.

Now the site has become something different and I have zero interest in writing anything further here. It's shifted to something negative and I barely check here anymore.

I love what everyone has done with DEV and I think it had an awesome start. I think it can be that once more. It's just not that right now.

Collapse
bartjaskulski profile image
Bartek Jaskulski

@link2twenty mentioned

That all being said I would agree that post quality is dipping, as you rightly say, this because there are now lots of people on the platform but I'm not really sure raising the bar of entry is the solution.

Well, I need to agree, yet there's may be another solution to work on articles quality by motivating devs to write more ambitious pieces.

I guess, we could inspire from hashnode and introduce some challenges, which could embrace community (I think special events and what have you learned this week are great at this). The sense of competition and earning some kind of respect for bringing quality content to the platform would be rewarding and encouraging to write about more advanced topics.

This in conjunction with mentioned in comments setting the level of article advancement and user preferences could result in curated feed matching readers interests.


Additionaly, I think the best content is usally written on personal blogs because of full control over the platform. Maybe such challenges would encourage top technical writers to more often syndicate content to dev.to

Collapse
quii profile image
Chris James • Edited

A while ago I enjoyed this website, lots of interesting debate and some useful articles but I 100% agree with the sentiment of this post.

This will sound awful but I've written things recently that I know are more valuable than most of the very low quality crap that appears on the homepage, but what's the point?

Most people's articles won't get any traction fighting against the spam that plagues the homepage nowadays.

Collapse
sandorturanszky profile image
SandorTuranszky

I wrote three article on Redis and spent more than a week researching Redis and making quality and useful tutorials along with working examples.

Sadly, one of the articles got less than 150 views while the other almost 2k.
It's totally unclear to me how the algorithm works.

And making it to the newsletter is next to impossible. Looks like articles about creating Start Rating are very popular because the other days there was a DEV digest with 3 articles out of 6 dedicated to this topic ...