DEV Community 👩‍💻👨‍💻

DEV Community 👩‍💻👨‍💻 is a community of 966,904 amazing developers

We're a place where coders share, stay up-to-date and grow their careers.

Create account Log in
Cover image for I created @ThePracticalDev and dev.to, ask me anything!
Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

Posted on

I created @ThePracticalDev and dev.to, ask me anything!

Ask away, I'd love to share! ❤️

Top comments (114)

Collapse
 
nitya profile image
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D

dev.to has been called the "Medium for Developers" by many people I know. Does that align with your vision or do you see dev.to as evolving to something more than a content platform?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

Step 0 has been to provide a lot of the value that people find with Medium, but I've always thought of this as a starting point of what it can be. Medium is constrained by its need to be all things to all publishers. I really think serving developers specifically allows us to be a "progressively enhanced" version of Medium.

I'm not the kind of person to try hard to correct people because it's not my platform, it's theirs. If they have a different thought about it, I take that description seriously and go back to the drawing board with the intel.

So that's a good way to describe it but it's not how I/we think of it because we're thinking towards the future where we've built on top of our core primitives to provide more value than just Medium for devs.

Collapse
 
nitya profile image
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D

Agree wholeheartedly. I think the "Medium" analogy is primarily in the sense that this encourages well-crafted long form narratives (vs. short tweets or social network posts). And in that sense it provides a basis for starting.

The biggest value/difference I have seen though is that dev.to seems driven more by conversation (2-way community interactions and collaboration) than publication (1-way content sharing). It fosters a better sense of "belonging" and a lot of credit for that goes to way all of you at TPD/dev.to have embraced experimentation and feedback. Thank you all.

Thread Thread
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

The biggest value proposition we can offer over Medium is that we really care about the experience for developers, and we have ideology specifically focused on improving the developer community. Any positive effects that Medium provides in this since are purely coincidental.

Medium has raised $132M and was founded by a publishing platform celebrity, so I won't be so bold as to say we're just better, but we have a lot of leverage in our capacity to go vertical and focus on this community.

As an aside, before I moved to the states to try this wacky tech-venturing thing I'm doing, I was working on a Medium-esque platform and consulting some investors to see if I should pursue this. This was before Medium had launched, but I was given the advice to not bother competing since they'd crush me. This was probably okay advice at the time, but I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about that, and I feel like I have my own private rivalry with Medium. I'm not one to care much about the "competition", but I go back to that conversation a lot for motivation.

Thread Thread
 
lovis profile image
Lovis • Edited on

And you have real markdown, not that weird crapthing medium does 💗

Thread Thread
 
aershov24 profile image
Alex 👨🏼‍💻FullStack.Cafe

Yeah man!

Collapse
 
ripfoghorn profile image
Igor Soares • Edited on

Whats the single, most important technical advice you would give to yourself if you managed to travel back in time right before starting dev.to?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

I can be pretty hard-headed when it comes to people giving me direct advice I didn't ask for, so there's a chance I'd ignore my own advice 😁

But if I were to...

A lot of my hypothesis along the way have been pretty good. While we've made a lot of detours along the way, no one thing strategically was bad enough to take us way off pace. I have some hypothetical separate directions which might have been way better than the current path, but no way to know if they'd be better.

But here's the one thing I'd do:

Open source the app from the beginning.

This is something that didn't even occur to me early on, but it's something I could have done. We're gradually working to open the app, but it would have been way easier to do that from the beginning.

Collapse
 
kayis profile image
K (he/him)

lol, I wanted to give this comment one like but it always counted down, now it shows -12?! xD

Collapse
 
georgeoffley profile image
George Offley

What do you look for in a software engineer? What do you see as some of the crucial languages for well rounded developers to know?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

I think a well-rounded developer should appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of different languages, but I wouldn't need or expect them to know all of them. I really think displaying well-rounded fascination is valuable, but you can develop an expertise.

I think the tee shaped skillset is a great model:

I also think it doesn't matter which area you choose to go deep in, because in going deep in anything you're going to incidentally learn a lot about other things. If you allow yourself to seriously go deep on a subject with purpose and a healthy amount of obsession, you are going to learn a lot about a lot of things. And the things you don't know, you'll have a lot more confidence in your capacity to develop an expertise that you could jump into that stuff later.

Collapse
 
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman

What is your philosophy on ads? I notice that Google Analytics is the only thing my ad blocker flags on this site. (I'm one of those people on whom ads are utterly wasted.)

How is dev.to funded since its apparently not ads? (And thank you for that.)

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

Revenue plans: Value add features: Job listings (as a tag users can follow when they are looking), courses, paid pitches by infra providers, and anywhere were we can provide strong value delivered to just those who want to hear about it. Some form of high quality ad has its place in this mindset as well. But I am extremely skeptical of anything that makes us money without simultaneously providing a lot of value to the users.

Right now we're being frugal with some funding for our current operations. We'll be launching the first rev-generating feature soon (hiring tag) and we're also scoping out some seed funding. We thought about approaching revenue earlier on but it was really hard to keep our eyes on the prize in terms of being skeptical of non-value-add revenue.

So basically we do have what we think is a solid business model but we're going to run on some seed capital while we patiently make good on it.

Here's the mental model for the value of the platform.

  • Intellectual exchanges
  • Emotional exchanges
  • Economic exchanges <- This is where we'll make money
Collapse
 
kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited on

As you consider ads, please be wary of 3rd party ad platforms. You never really know who is going to be advertising through these. They can be used as an attack vector to spread malware.

In general, I appreciate your thoughtful approach. Thank you!

Thread Thread
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

Way ahead of you on that. We're not going to be serving third party ads at all unless it's clearly the right choice, for the reasons you're describing and the general user experience. We want a fast website that delivers actual value.

We will potentially use other tracking pixels in addition to Google Analytics, where appropriate for analytics and cross-platform stuff. But the plan is to be reasonable about it. Users come first.

Collapse
 
tiffany profile image
Tiffany White

I saw you added a Billing tab to the Edit Profile tab. Do you have any idea of how much the premium features will cost? I definitely want to pay, I just am still looking for work right now. I find a lot of value in what you are doing here, and the job tag is important to me.

When will these features be rolling out? Any ETA?

Thanks for building this.

Collapse
 
kylestephens profile image
Kyle Stephens

Hi Ben, dev.to has a massive community (127K on twitter!) - congrats.

How did you generate the initial following and start to build a network? What was the seed that got it all growing and what has been your most successful growth tactic to date?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

My main key was to allow the project to take forever to grow. I said I'd be okay if it took 10 years and worked on it very gradually. I observed what worked and what did not and put myself into it.

Huge growth moments were the jokes and working hard to be myself. I'm a real weirdo and before I got into software, I thought I wanted to get into sitcom writing. I knew I had an interesting on a lot of things in this industry, so I didn't hold back!

These days, since I love writing code, I've been putting most of my effort into writing features that can augment the voices of the rest of the community, especially underrepresented groups.

Collapse
 
victoria profile image
Victoria Drake

What do you want for your birthday?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

On my birthday a couple days ago, I told folks they could share this post as a present. If they want to do it as a belated gift, it's super welcome.

Otherwise if you want to pledge to be an awesome member of the community by giving lots of ❤️ to people's posts they worked so hard on and giving loving comments. Those things are free and it means so much to those who put themselves out there with ideas.

Collapse
 
mohanarpit profile image
Arpit Mohan

Have recently joined the dev.to community and it's great! I just wanted to ask how you've gone about building such a community? What have your biggest challenges been in this process?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

For whatever reason, this is the sort of thing I've been building or taking part in my whole life. Online communities have been such a big part of my life but I think there's a lot missing from the current space. So I felt like I had a lot of insight and motivation, the rest was drumming up interest on the Internet.

A community is essentially a multi-sided marketplace with supply and demand economics and serious chicken and egg problems. So key was to start with an offering that didn't rely on the network effect and only lean on that once the overall demand was high enough. Things started out as only the @thepracticaldev Twitter account, and a lot of work in bringing value until it was time to move more in the community direction. We're still petal-to-the-metal on growing to avoid the tide of irrelevancy. There is no space for being complacent.

Collapse
 
nitya profile image
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D

How are you finding work-life balance with all the things that you do? And how do you stay grounded in a tech ecosystem that has highs and lows on a daily basis?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

I try to continually set expectations with those around me so they know burnout is a real thing, and that because I work so hard most of the time, sometimes I'm going to be out of commission altogether. And try to offer the same respect to them.

We try to proactively avoid "butt-in-seat syndrome" where you might be sitting in your chair not being productive, but unwilling to leave and go home because nobody else has. Everyone is expected to work hard, but be honest when they just need to go home and be humans.

Collapse
 
jgaskins profile image
Jamie Gaskins

Who designed the sweet logo?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

I did, and thanks!

I really like 70s computer aesthetic

So the design is sort of an homage to that. Sometimes we get busy just doing stuff, and don't have time and energy to stick to the the original vision for some stuff. @jess does a great job of keeping track of the vision in subtle ways we can lose track of when we're busy.

Collapse
 
maestromac profile image
Mac Siri

Do you plan to a release a "dev.to" font pack?

Collapse
 
kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

Apple cider of choice?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

I have a weird relationship with food/drink in that I never really settle on brands I like. I'm always like "I'll have whatever's good". It's an easy way to be, but I wish I could come to become more of a connoisseur about something.

Collapse
 
danieljsummers profile image
Daniel J. Summers

What motivated you to start this site?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

The motivations of the site became more concrete over time. Early on it really was "I want to make something I'd be happy to work on even if it took ten years". As certain things worked, it became clear I could solve problems more fundamental to my own life as a developer and the problems the community faces as a whole. I wouldn't say we've even scratched the service on providing a true solution, but that's certainly what motivates me every day.

Collapse
 
maestromac profile image
Mac Siri • Edited on

If you were to start dev.to from scratch again, how would you do it differently?

Collapse
 
wintermute21 profile image
John Best

How can we as the users make what you do easier?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

Lots of ❤️🙌 etc. on posts and comments and leave lots of good questions/comments on posts! People usually have more to say and good, positive, encouragement really brings the best out of them.

Collapse
 
wintermute21 profile image
John Best

Would you want us to get you anything as a belated birthday present? :D

Thread Thread
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

😁 No that's plenty!

Collapse
 
andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

How'd you get into programming?

Collapse
 
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Ask Me Anything

My first experience with programming was my friend Mike Wright making a website on Geocities for his band when we were in junior high. I didn't have a useful computer at the time so I came to his house to work on websites, like, every day.

After that, it was a windy path in and out of computering before I got into it for good after graduating college with a marketing degree.

Collapse
 
cassidoo profile image
Cassidy Williams

What are your goals for dev.to?

Some comments may only be visible to logged-in visitors. Sign in to view all comments.

🌚 Browsing with dark mode makes you a better developer by a factor of exactly 40.

It's a scientific fact.