The dev.to codebase will go open-source on August 8

Ben Halpern on July 11, 2018

After mentioning a vague roadmap to open-sourcing the dev.to codebase, we've finally decided on a date for the launch: August 8 (8/8). Ei... [Read Full]
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We've had the consultancies Stride and Planet Argon help us with this process and they have been really awesome. I'll be writing much more on that front in the coming weeks.

The Corgibytes also helped us in the past and we are so grateful.

Of course thousands of devs have chipped in with thoughts, ideas, advice, or code to this point as well. We can't wait to take this journey with y'all to great places.

 
 

Yeah, can't wait! We're still using way too much memory but Skylight has been crucial in getting to the bottom of those issues.

Just sent you a GH invite to the repo in case there's anything you'd like to see from poking around.

 
 

You actually skipped most interesting part. As for-business venture, how exactly did you justify open sourcing your web app? :) I'm asking, because as a CTO I struggled to explain that to a non-techie colleagues and investors.

 

I can't speak for Ben or the Dev.to team, but I think the key to justifying open source is to explain that the business value isn't in the code, but elsewhere. Take Dev.to for example: the value of their business is in the community they created. They have a bunch of users creating content, and other users coming here to view it. Because they have this community, they can go to tech companies and ask for sponsorship. Those companies will pay Dev.to to get their products/services featured in this large developer community.

None of this changes after Dev.to is open sourced. Someone could create a clone, but why would people leave the original for the clone? The clone wouldn't have an existing community or content creators. As long as people are happy with the way the original is being managed, they won't leave. The clone could try to offer new features or functionality, but under GPL they are obligated to publish those changes. The original could incorporate any killer features, and ensure that people don't leave for the clone.

I hope this is a helpful example about why open sourcing Dev.to isn't bad for their business. If you can explain why the value of your business isn't tied into the code, I think you can justify open source to people with a non-tech background. Caveat: if your business value is tied to your code, then you probably cannot justify open source.

 

If your closing your explanation with 'open sourcing isn't bad for business', sounds like you don't have a good argument for 'why is it good for business?' or 'why should we waste our time on this?'.

Good point. The biggest draws are probably:
1) Code contributions. This is an optional part of open source, as you can open source a codebase without allowing contributions. But if you institute a code review process, you can allow technically inclined users to fix bugs. Even if you choose not to allow code contributions, your users may still help you find bugs by looking through the codebase.
2) Community. This is derivative of the previous point. If you have users looking through your codebase, submitting bug fixes and involving themselves in feature design, you have a group of users invested in your project. They are more likely to do things like add documentation, or evangelize your project to other people. You might even find new employees through this process.
3) It inspires confidence in your users. This is the biggest one. When you open source a project, this lets developers know they can trust this project. If they have an issue, they can look through the codebase and try to solve it. If they want to change part of the application to suite their own needs, they have that option. They can audit the code to make sure there isn't anything nefarious going on.

Now all three of these points are all centered around developers. But the non-developer users will still benefit from the work done by tech savvy users. And while your non-developer users may not fully grasp the benefits of open source, you can still include it in your marketing. Take the telegram website for example, which includes a small blurb on openness in their list of "Why switch to Telegram". If you're trying to differentiate your product with similar competing products, it may be beneficial to say something about how your product is more transparent and open with your users.

 
 
 
 

Yeah, we're no geniuses, it's basically just another web app but we do think every open codebase is a great learning experience and eventually I feel like with enough eyes we truly could make this a fantastic technical project.

 

The fastest-loading, most optimized "just another app" out there. You beautiful geniuses.

 

Super excited about this :) I don't want to stand up my own blog, it's just so useful to be able to reference the code of tools I use often. And when there's bugs and missing features, closed source leaves you with no recourse except to report them (and often, even that is missing).

 

That’s great to hear, you’ve been such a great help from the first time you crossed our path Josh.

 

This is crazy! I'm happy that you're moving in this direction. Also to be one of those who influenced you to do this. 💯

 
 
 
 

Amazing ! This gonna be some good for newbies to explore an excellent project to learn, thanks for this ! We'll be waiting !

 
 

This is great!

What is the current architecture of the project?

I've seen that the Backend is Ruby on Rails, but I'm not sure about the rest.

 

It's Preact on the front-end, but doesn't act like a heavy-handed framework. Just sprinkles. We have a lot of vanilla JS too which we'd consider as legacy as we move things more to Webpack land and delete some of the old stuff.

 

If it is possible, could you publish the technical stack somewhere?

 

This is rad! Congrats Dev.to

(PS: just received my complimentary contributor sticker pack! you guys and gals rule)

 

Why? You are just going to make it easier for people to make clones of your site?

 

Yeah, but dev.to already has a mass of users on it, and it's run well enough that there's no real reason to try to fork it.

What makes a lot of sense, though, is running a "clone" of dev.to that isn't targeted at software developers. Most of dev's functionality is just a generic community blogging platform with an emphasis on performance.

 

Indeed. I guess it's the culture and the community that brings many people here. You would have to build that elsewhere, which is hard. But even if done, I don't think it would really affect dev.to. The major risks do not come from the outside but are internal to the community.

 

Great points. Still, I see the benefits of open source but I’d be reluctant to open source core parts of an application is my money maker.

It worked for Reddit. There are several forks of the site, but none of them have significantly put a dent in it because the audience is on reddit.com.

Unless Dev adds Mastadon-esque federation, nobody's going to choose a separate instance over the mothership unless they have no choice. For example, stuff that violates the CoC (voat.co) or their needs require them to do significant mods to the site (lesswrong.com) or they specifically want a different audience (news.ycombinator.com or lobste.rs).

The last two are really funny, since they truly prove that it doesn't matter if you open source your codebase or not. It's not that hard to code up a clone of Dev or Reddit.

note: You'll notice that the Reddit source code repo I linked to isn't updated any more. Reddit is no longer open source. I assume it has something to do with their proprietary ranking and anti-spam algos getting harder and harder to keep separate from their "core".

 
 

Woo hoo! My favorite website gets a little better each week :)

 

I am a bit late to the party, but this is awesome. I hope that I'll be able to add something that is practical

 
 

I expect this place to be a lot more active as reddit dwindles, and SO is throwing money at their culture problem.

Godspeed..

 

That’s a great and brave move 🤟🏻🤟🏻 Can’t wait to get hands dirty

 

Wow!!! Its my Birthday! :-) Thank you for such a great birthday-gift :-))))))

 
 

That's a wonderful news ! I hope this will benefit a lot to thé platform (:

 

Woah! Really looking forward to it Ben. I love it 👍

 

Congrats, folks. A bold move which will no doubt help both dev.to and its community learn and grow.

 
 
 

Good luck Ben. Awesome move! Looking forward to contribute in the future Dev-to-API :)

 
 
 

🔥🎉 I would love to create a dev.to clone for malagasy speaking developers!!

 
 
 

Good new to hear,I'm glad to be one of the devs!WOW

 

Awesome news !
Could you, in a near future, explain technically how it all went ?
I'm curious to know what was the issues and how you tackle them. Thanks

 

If you want early access right away to help us in the push, please fill out this form.

Hell yeah, I want early access :P

 

Are you going to be open to pull requests or this is rather going to be a source code that is open?

 

Yay! Hope the full codebase goes open source too cause I’d love to have my own platform like this. :)

 
 

This is some exciting news, I will look forward to contributing to dev.to in the future :D

 

That's amazing news. Looking forward to it. Thanks :)

 
 
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