This was originally going to be a post about dev.to's strengths and weaknesses. It turns out I just wanted to talk about things I like. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The editor is great.
It's way more useful than the basic Markdown you get on places like Github, and it's way less error-prone than the hybrids you get on systems like Confluence. It's actually a pleasure to use. It's also very similar to the Markdown-with-front-matter interfaces used for static site generators like Jekyll or Grav which a lot of us probably already use in our daily grind.
I suppose you could say it wasn't overly user-friendly because it doesn't have buttons for making things italic and you have to paste in picture URLs yourself, but, come on, we're developers. We like that sort of level of control.
Or if we don't, we get alternative editors in the mix because it's, you know, open source.
It's a place to get answers
Over the last couple of years there's been a growing dissatisfaction with Stack Overflow, the de-facto Q&A resource because of the way it's seen as inflexible and unwelcoming: comments are not the place for extended discussion. Here, nobody's getting downvoted for simply asking a question. This is partly a problem of scale, and it's hard to understand how something could get to be as big and, well, useful as SO without some hard rules and attitudes. But it's clear to see people want the human experience along with their code fix.
It's a place to share knowledge and experiences
Dev.to is still small enough to be an actual community, but it has enough clout to feel like a big thing. People seem to be open to using it to tell their stories as well as discuss technical details.
So it's a discussion but it's not a discussion forum
I've hung around enough programming places over the years, from bulletin-boards to threaded forums to IRC and subreddits to realise that most of them don't work, or if they do, then they only stay stable with a small active community.
It's not a competition
Probably my favourite thing about the whole site is that it's not gamified. There's no peer-pressure. If you look at my profile page you'll see some basic stats, sure, but you won't see how many people follow me. Even I can't see that unless I click farther down the rabbit hole. People don't have little popularity indicators when you hover over their pictures. Nobody is "better" than anyone else, and if you're just starting out you're on an equal footing.
The people are nice
People stop and take time to say things like this:
Since I've been here I've seen maybe one or two interactions that weren't friendly. That's pretty good going, right? I mean, you've seen what it's like on the Internet before?
The people behind it are accessible
In chat, in posts, and in generally responding to the site as it evolves.
The people who use it are really on board with the whole social community thing...
... But it's still developer-focused
We're all fine with the polish and the rough edges
We're developers. We like something that's a work in progress more than we like something finalised, because if it's final than every flaw becomes a reason to grumble rather than an opportunity to fix it.
What do you like about it?
There are a lot of people who love both JS and UX/CSS. If we stop labeling people just as “JS developers” or “UX developers”, we can achieve a ceasefire in the current “JS vs. CSS” war and achieve a mutually benefiting peace.