In a previous article, I've been complaining about the sheer lack of quality on Dev.to, or at the very least about the incredibly low signal-to-noise ratio.
As I was explaining, the incentives of the platform and readers are at odds with the incentives of (most of) the authors.
The readers on Dev.to want good quality content which can easily be found.
The authors on Dev.to want recognition, personal branding, and sometimes just good old link building (linking to their personal product/pages for SEO).
Sidenote: Not all authors. Some do seem to enjoy writing and sharing knowledge. But looking at what's published, this seems to be an extreme minority.
Now, I personally think it's great that authors get personal benefits for sharing their knowledge online. I love writing, but I also love being read, and if a future recruiter love what I wrote, that's a good motivation booster.
But there are two ways to go for that. You either spend a long time carefully crafting an interesting, insightful article... or you just spam whatever.
Since my last article complaining about the state of affairs (Published on the 6 of July, 2021), we lived through an AI revolution. And now, I would say that the robot invasion have begun, but that's not true. The robots have already invaded, and they won. Dev.to belongs to the Robots.
Searching for interesting articles on the "relevant" section, a tremendous amount are GPT-generated. Almost all of them via ChatGPT: you can recognize the subtle flavor inherent to ChatGPT's training, such as its tendency to reply in 5 to 10 bullet points.
We do live in an age where you can't be sure that something was AI-generated, or is just poorly-written human content. Thankfully, we have tools such as zeroGPT to detect if something is AI-generated.
I even suspect the process to be automatized. It would be trivial to write a list of 20 prompts somewhere, then write a script to regularly copy-paste directly from ChatGPT to Dev.to. There you go, 20 "interesting" articles for your personal branding.
It's all generated. Sometimes it is clear the author took less than a minute modifying a few words and adding titles or even an introduction. But the articles are completely AI-generated.
Very few posts are actually "chat-assisted", meaning GPT was used to write parts of the article, but a human wrote big pieces of the article themselves. Most of them are entirely, completely, copy-pasted from ChatGPT.
I checked more than 100 AI-generated articles, only 1 or 2 were detected as "AI-assisted". I'm not a fan of AI-assisting for writing, but this isn't the problem here. The problem is AI-generation and extreme laziness leading to terrible content.
Our AI technology is impressive. Revolutionary, even. But we still haven't breached the AGI milestone where an AI can actually produce new, interesting, insightful content.
So this is only amplifying the biggest issue on Dev.to: the lack of good, interesting content, and the drowning of such content in a sea of mediocrity.
This is my personal interpretation of Dev.to's Guidelines for AI-assisted content..
I mention this is a personal interpretation of the guidelines, because I personally find them unclear and a tad confusing.
It seems that Dev.to authorizes AI-generated content, under the conditions that the post discloses that the content was AI-generated.
On the 100+ posts I detected were AI-generated (not AI-assisted, but 100% generated), absolutely none disclosed that information.
The guidelines also mention that AI-assisted and AI-generated articles should not:
Be published with the main purpose of building a personal brand, building a social media presence, or gaining clout.
While this rule is great in spirit, it is absolutely unenforceable and therefore useless. Without the ability to read minds, you cannot know the main intentions of an author.
Here are some acting suggestions:
Hardening & clarifying the guidelines: My personal opinion is that AI-generated content, and maybe even AI-enhanced content, have absolutely no place on Dev.to or any publishing website that strives for a modicum of quality. Any breaking of this rule should be cause for a ban.
Hiring extra moderators to enforce those rules. As much as I love to report guidelines-breaking articles in an effort to increase Dev.to's overall quality, it feels not only like removing a drop of water from the ocean, but instead passing that drop of water to another person who might or might not decide it belongs in the ocean.
I did not find any way to become a moderator myself, just a "trusted user", which doesn't seem to confer extra moderation power.
- The lowest hanging fruit: Implementing auto-detection for GPT-generated text on each new publication. The technology exists and is already reliable and robust.
I love writing on Dev.to. I love publishing on a platform full of enthusiast developers. I love the sense of community, and I love the efforts from the team to curate content. My last two articles made it to 'Top 7 weekly', and I'm infinitely grateful to the team for choosing me.
But I don't love reading on Dev.to. It's just so hard to find insightful, interesting content in the sea of robots all yelling for your attention.
I do hope it gets better in the future, but it won't happen by itself. We need to do something about the robots.