The best online communities for developers
An online tech community is the most exciting place for a software developer to spend their time. It not only offers the chance to work and interact remotely, but also helps in honing one’s own skills and becoming a well-rounded programmer. Whether you are a budding software developer or simply passionate about technology, here are the best online software development communities you can join. They help refine your technical skills and aid in growing your knowledge towards becoming a truly talented geek!
Stack Overflow is an internet platform founded in August 2008, which now has 8 million members. Registered users can ask questions on software development and receive answers from other users. Both questions as well as answers are visible to anyone, even without registration. All content generated by the users is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute-Share Alike license. Stack Overflow is not only the source, but also the flagship site of the Stack Exchange network, which currently consists of many question and answer pages.
Users can evaluate the given answers and view them sorted by their rating. In addition, the questioners can mark the respective answers as the „best solution“ for their issue. Users whose answer was rated as good, get reputation points.
As a network of question sites, Stack Exchange covers different subject areas. Similar to Stack Overflow, users of the community can ask questions about specific issues, which are then, ideally, solved satisfactorily by other users. The most popular site within Stack Exchange is the community Stack Overflow discussed above.
Stack Exchange was founded in 2008 by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky. A year later, they launched the Stack Exchange 1.0 platform, a tool which allowed third parties to create pages similar to Stack Overflow. At first, this form of white label did not really appeal to the audience. Only when Stack Exchange 2.0 was published in November 2010 – the topics for the new pages were collected by means of algorithms and user contact –, the platform gradually gained success. At first, Stack Exchange tested the concept on the pages writing, physics and maths and finally went online with 33 different websites.
Stack Exchange is particularly characterized by its reward system. Users who ask questions, solve issues and get good reviews from other users, receive internal rewards, which also increase their reputation in the community. But their position is far from being secured, since they can lose reputation anytime due to negative assessments. If the user reaches a certain number of points, they receive awards and privileges. While an “award” is more of a cosmetic honor on their profile, the user benefits from additional side rights when they are awarded the „privileges“. They acquire additional editing, protection, comment rights, etc.
GitHub is an online service that provides software development projects on its servers. GitHub was developed by Scott Chacon, PJ Hyett, Chris Wanstrath and Tom Preston-Werner, who used Erlang and Ruby on Rails. The project started in February 2008.
In 2018, Microsoft bought GitHub for the equivalent of 6.4 billion euros. The acquisition was highly criticized by software developers, as they feared a similar negative development to the network LinkedIn, which was taken over by Microsoft at the end of 2016. By contrast, the EU Commission approved the takeover without any conditions.
On GitHub, the user and their source code databases (repositories) play a major role, not the project as a source code collection. This distinguishes GitHub from other service providers, such as SourceForge. The creation and merging of the „forks“, i.e. splits, is especially propagated. The latter simplify co-development for third-party projects: In order to be contributed, the repository must first be split off. After that, the changes are added and the original owner is requested to apply the changes (pull request). Since all steps can also be carried out via web interface, the handling of GitHub is quite simple, especially for beginners, compared to other development platforms.
After free registration, publicly viewable as well as private or non-public repositories can be created.
The design of GitHub remained the same for years, until it changed in June 2013. In the new interface, the software source code comes to the fore. Among the important innovations is also a visualized statistics, which depicts the various programming languages used and their share in the project.
In terms of the number of commits or write accesses, GitHub was the most popular service for Open Source software in 2011. GitHub has more than 10 million registered users and manages as many as 26.3 million repositories. Since mid-2012, GitHub has also been able to provide complete websites.
Formerly known as Google Code, Google Developers is a bundle of multiple online services provided by Google LLC for programming interfaces, software development tools and technical resources. The community also contains documentaries on Google development tools and API as well as blogs for Google Developer products and groups, where users can interact.
Google offers developers programming interfaces for most end-user products, such as YouTube, G Suite, or Google Maps. In addition, the platform also offers the following products directly to developers:
Google App Engine is a service that hosts web applications. It supports a variety of programming languages and has a Java runtime environment for the creation of applications using known Java technologies such as Java servlets, JVM, the Java programming language, and any other language which uses a JVM-based interpreter or compiler. Moreover, a dedicated Python runtime environment including standard library and interpreter is provided.
The versioning for open source applications is done via Google Code. The service can be used for all OSI-approved open source projects. Up to 25 projects can be created by one person. Furthermore, there are limitations on the number of projects that can be created in a day, the project size is limited by default to 200 MB, but can be increased to a maximum of 5 GB.
Google Plugin for Eclipse, or GPE for short, includes a set of developer tools for Java developers to build and distribute cloud applications. GPE helps developers create complex AJAX applications using the Google Web Toolkit. The speed is optimized by the Speed Tracer. There is also a direct interface to the App Engine.
Developers who are interested in Google’s development techniques, can join Google Developer Groups (GDGs). A GDG can consist of several classes: that may be a few developers who meet up, or even so-called „tech talks“ as well as big hackathons. Now there are over 600 GDGs worldwide.
This platform resembles Google Developers. Developers Facebook allows the construction of apps using the platform’s own API and even allows the implementation of these apps on Facebook. The software developers can work together, which of course can significantly improve their own software development skills.
Developers Facebook offers many tools to the developers: Among them the Graph API Explorer, with which API calls can be tested, created and authenticated and answers debugged. Or the Sharing Debugger, which allows you to see how the content will look like when shared on Facebook. The Access Token Debugger can be used to view detailed information about an access key. Furthermore, developer tools such as the API Upgrade Tool, Comments Moderation Tool, App Ads Helper, Object Browser, App Security Check, Certificate Transparency Monitoring, and many more are offered.
The organization was founded in October 2014 and is part of Free Code Camp Inc. The originator of the platform is Quincy Larson, a software developer, who started programming right after high school and created FreeCodeCamp with the ulterior motive of helping students evolve into professional software developers.
The original curriculum included MongoDB, AngularJS, Node.is and Express.is and took approximately 800 hours to complete. Many of the lessons simply consisted of links to free material on other platforms, such as Stanford, Code School, or Codecademy. The students received certificates for completing the course. In January 2016, the curriculum was amended and expanded. The use of external sources has been restricted and the course extended to an estimated 2,080 hours.
Currently, the Freecodecamp platform is used monthly by approximately 350,000 developers from over 160 countries. The community also offers the possibility of face-to-face meetings. Time and again, Freecodecamp is featured in the media as a way of introduction to programming and as a preparation for a job as a programmer.