We chat with David Gibson, the data analyst who led this year's Developer Survey, to understand the techniques that went into crafting our results. He also breaks down some of the most interesting trends and insights derived from new questions and comparisons we haven't done before.
This year over 80,000 respondents took the time to share their feedback on the tools and trends that are shaping software development.
We learned a lot about the way developers learn. For the rising cohort of coders under the age of 18, online resources like videos and blogs are more popular than books and school combined, a statistic that doesn’t hold for any of our other age cohorts.
Roughly a third of respondents responded to our question on mental health. This is twice the percentage that offered feedback in 2020 and may reflect a growing awareness of the importance of mental health’s and the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
Another trend that may be linked to the pandemic is work status. We see a greater percentage of respondents working part-time or in school, while those indicating full time employment decreased. This may reflect the effects of the pandemic, which saw workers from all industries stepping back and reevaluating their relationship to a five day work week and in-person employment.
Check out the full results of the 2021 Dev Survey here.
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BP Hello, everybody. Welcome to the Stack Overflow Podcast, a place to talk about all things software and technology. I am Ben Popper, the Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. And I am joined today by two of my colleagues, Ryan Donovan, a content marketer on my team. And David Gibson, a senior data analyst, also part of the marketing squad. Ryan, David, welcome to you both.
Ryan Donovan Hey Ben.
DG Hey there, happy to be here.
BP So today is a big day. It's a fun week for us, we released the results of our annual developer survey, which this year was taken by what, around 80,000 people responded to David?
DG Yeah, just over 80,000.
BP So yeah, we love this. This is sort of a Stack Overflow tradition, something we feel can be pretty impactful in the industry, and also provides a lot of insights. So I guess before we dive into it, David, this was your first year sort of working on the data and analyzing it, like big picture, what do we do here? What were the tools we used? How do we make sure the data was good? How do we clean it and sort of like, you know, begin to break it down into its constituent parts?
DG Yeah, definitely. So this was my first year at Stack Overflow, and also my first year working on the Dev Survey. So we did things a little bit differently. But previously, it was handled by the data team. And they did most of the data cleaning using R, there's a lot of great Qualtrics packages for R for extracting the data and cleaning it. So they historically did in that and then they would pretty much spin up an API with the data endpoint. And then the front end would just query that API and visualize the results. So we took a similar approach. But instead of using an API, we just pushed all the flat files to like a GitHub repo. But the data cleaning was still done in R and we still use all those R packages. So very similar, but a little different this year for the processing side.
BP Nice. And then we've talked about this before. But yeah, what are some, like interesting ways that you know, data or development teams can share what they're working on with, like, for example, folks from marketing or sales before it's done and get feedback? So we're using this Netlify page, and I'm changing up copy, you know, and just a regular Google Sheet. Can you explain a little bit of how that works? And I think it's interesting from like, an interdepartmental perspective, you know, to be able to showcase stuff that's still in dev to be able to have folks who maybe aren't conversant in code or GitHub be able to make tweaks kind of live.
DG Yeah, definitely. So I have to give a big shout out to David Longworth, who I believe was recently on the show, he developed all the front end for it. And he made it very reactive as far as the data so every time I push to a GitHub repo, he was able to pull that data. And then also we were able to write all the copy in a Google Sheet. So myself and then other stakeholders, including Ben and Ryan would be able to write in there. So no one really had to learn a new tool. It was just, everything was very native. And every time we wanted to make a big update, David Longworth just had to run a few lines of code, and then it was live for everyone to see.
BP And so there's a couple questions I want to focus on this year that are new, you know, there's some old standbys, you know, we could talk about the horse race, you know, Python, maybe switch places with something. Node js, got promoted from a web framework to one of our most loved sort of technologies overall, but we'll leave that for people who want to dive in deep I don't think there was anything the trends there, you know, that they're kind of they move at that, you know, like a, like a big ship. You know, they don't they don't turn suddenly. You can sort of see them coming from a mile away.
RD Yeah, Rust wins again.
BP Rust wins again, shocker, shocker. [Ryan laughs] But yeah, you know, I think one thing that I did think was interesting was a new question we had, which is about how people learn to code. And we've had questions sort of similar to this in previous years. Last year, we ask people like, did they think you no formal education was important? Most people did. But you know, decent minority didn't. And this year, we were asking people, you know, when you were learning to code, what were the most important resources for you, essentially. And so what came out of that, that I thought was kind of fascinating was for the young cohort of folks who are, I guess, under the age of 18, the most important by far were videos and blogs, kind of non-traditional resources and not formalized, you know, they might pick up a blog here, or they might, you know, follow YouTube or a TikTok creator there. And that was the complete opposite of, you know, oh, and the least, you know, for them was traditional school and books. And then, with every sort of progressive generation going up to those 65 and older, which is where we top out, you saw that kind of reverse itself, too. Yeah. It'd be interesting, David, to hear you talk a little bit about this new question and the data. And then yeah, Ryan, would love to hear from you. I know, you know, obviously, we run a blog, but just yeah, based on what you've been seeing in the ecosystem, how this kind of tracks?
DG Yeah, this was definitely one of the new questions. And it was very interesting to me. Originally, I just had it faceted out by all respondents. And that was pretty obvious. So we saw that the most popular resources were just like online resources, school, and then followed by books. But then I kind of got thinking about what would be an interesting way to slice the data would would it be country, gender, and then I realized age would be very interesting. And when I did that, I immediately like you mentioned the under 18, they rely heavily on online resources. And so one, another thing that I found with the younger segment was they have the highest that are learning from friends or family members, which makes sense if they have an older sibling, or a parent or cousin who is a developer, they might be interested in it. So that'd be a great way to introduce them even before school or even they had a passion for it themselves.
BP Yeah, for sure.
RD I think it's interesting that, you know, you talk about the under 18. Going to online resources, I don't think there's much available formalized for people under 18. And then you look at that, along with, you know, 50% of people wrote their first line of code between 11 and 17. Of course, that's going to be on their own. These are folks that are highly motivated kids exploring things, and there's no class for them.
BP So yeah, a few places have tried to like push, you know, CS education down the pipeline to an earlier age, but but by and large, it's not standard, at least not here, in the US where most of our respondents are from.
RD I mean, we had a 15 year old pitch us something about a Stack Overflow bug, wanting to write about that. And I was like, that's great, that's huge technical thing, but he couldn't get his mom's permission. [Ben laughs] So we have missed out on the youth.
BP We'll have to use a pseudonym. I guess, you know, the sort of perspective that this gives me also is that it really feels like we're entering like a not a new age of the internet or anything, but like, the creator economy is increasingly becoming something that people understand from an early age and want to participate in. And so the idea of like, learning from your peers, and then teaching yourself, like you said, learning from friends and family makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of people understand that that's one of the best ways to sort of build up your personal reputation in your network is to say, like, I learned this, okay, I'm gonna do a quick video quick tutorial, a quick TikTok, you know, and just like, share, you know, this tip that I was able to pick up are able to master so that was really interesting. Another one that I wanted to focus on, was a new question, what do you do when you get stuck? So I feel like yeah, we've asked this question in different ways. Before last year, we noticed a lot of people would Google it and come back to the same link that they'd been on before from Stack Overflow. But Dave, you wanna talk a little about sort of like the creation of this question and some of the data you found?
DG Yeah, so this question, I've kind of interpreted it with a grain of salt, just because the majority of respondents are Stack Overflow users. So it's no surprise that the second thing that they do most is visit Stack Overflow. So I didn't dig too much into it. But googling it makes a lot of sense. And then also, in the freeform text, I saw a lot of people calling out DuckDuckGo. So I think next year we will phrase it as search and include Google and DuckDuckGo to keep everybody happy there.
BP That makes sense.
RD And Bing.
BP And Bing, yeah.
DG No one wrote Bing I don't think.
RD Somebody uses Bing. [Ben & Ryan laugh]
BP But yeah, this one also had a lot of watch help and tutorial videos, you know, call a co-worker or a friend. And I guess, you know, meditation and panic, were in there, maybe slightly equal measure. But you know, one of the other things that I guess is funny, from our perspective is, yeah, like that sort of almost instinctual response to jump to a search engine. And then yeah, where do you usually end up after that to visit Stack Overflow. So I guess those two things, that's kind of saying the same thing maybe in the end. And then yeah, a lot of, you know, a decent chunk of people also said they visited another developer community. So obviously like, yeah, there's lots of different developer communities out there. We're not the only one. And so people kind of can turn to their peers. They may not know them in real life, but they feel like they can go to them when they're looking for these kinds of answers.
DG That was actually another question that we expanded on this year was, what are those other development communities? So that's going to be in the community sections. So the top community was Reddit, followed by GitHub, and then in third place was actually Discord. So we wanted to get a sense of like, if they are going to those other communities, are they public? Are they private? And where they hosted? So that was an interesting question as well.
BP Yeah, that is cool. I've never been on a Discord. So I don't know what it's like. I'm a real OK Boomer. But like, can you just hop in there and use it like a Slack? Or do you have to talk?
DG I was kind of a lurker in one of the Python data science Discords for a few weeks, I wasn't very active, but I kind of just was curious about it. But yeah, it's exactly like Slack. You kind of just see who's online, you post a question. And then whoever's online who feels like they are capable of helping you they can jump on. Definitely a lot of collaboration there in real time, as opposed to like Stack Overflow, where you're waiting for an answer. So it's a new medium, for sure.
BP And you said that was, that stuff is from the community section?
DG Yes, it's in the community section. So it's the other communities public or private. So the first tab is going to be if it's a public or private community, majority are in these public communities with 84%. And then if you go to the other tab, which is top other communities, you can see them in descending order of where those communities are hosted.
DG So this is the work with vs want to work with you're referring to?
RD I mean, I think there's there's always been a corporate interest in programming language. Like c++, I believe was started at AT&T. There's always been some corporate development. It's just now it's with open source, it's much more participatory.
BP Yeah. You make a good point, I think, yeah. Like, in the past, let's use that as an example. Like, the development of a language. How did it happen? Did it happen organically? Like, was it pushed forward by people? Yeah, sort of forking it and using on their own? Or was it like, right, exactly whatever happened inside of AT&T that was like, you know, what you were going to get in terms of the upgrades that year.
BP Alright, everybody, well, thank you so much for listening. If you want to check out the Dev Survey, you can go on over to stackoverflow.blog, we'll have a post up there with some of the insights and a link to the whole thing. And yeah, as always, you can share out, you know, the different charts and different information. We'll have some cool social cards you can make. And yeah, thanks to everybody who participated, and to all the folks in the community and different communities who were willing to share with us. We are planning to do a couple of shorter surveys this year, we're calling them Pulse Surveys. We did one so far on the blockchain, think we have one coming up on cloud. So yeah, if you see those pop up on Stack Overflow, please do participate. You know, it helps us to learn and as we learn, we can sort of improve the ways we help to spread knowledge throughout the community. Alright, everybody, thanks for listening. I am Ben Popper, Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. You can always find me on Twitter @BenPopper. You can always email us email@example.com, and if you'd like to show do leave a rating and review. It really helps.
RD And I'm Ryan Donovan. I'm a lurker on Twitter @RThorDonovan. And if you have a excellent blog post idea, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DG And I'm David Gibson. Thanks for having me. I'm not really on social media that much but I am on LinkedIn quite a bit, just talking there. So if you have any questions about the Dev Survey, feel free to reach out.
BP Awesome. Thanks for coming on, David. And thanks, everybody, for listening. We'll talk to you soon.