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Cover image for Why Dev.to is winning over Hashnode?

Why Dev.to is winning over Hashnode?

sarthology profile image Sarthak Sharma ・5 min read

So as some of you might already be familiar with, Dev.to and Hashnode both are online communities for developers, or at least that's how they represent themselves.

Hashnode:
hashnode

Dev.to:
Dev.to

But Dev.to is quickly gaining a lead over Hashnode as we can clearly see in the following stats.

Dev.to
Hashnode

I thought this would make for an interesting case study to understand why this is happening. So I tried to dig deeper and this lead me to discover some crucial points that can help young entrepreneurs in making great products and make them work. Let's get started.

It's not about making a lot of features, it's about making a few key features work.

My friend introduced Hashnode to me stating that it's a platform with the best design ever made for any community. Of course, that couldn't be the sole reason for me to leave dev.to, but I signed up just for the sake of curiosity to actually check out their product. The platform has got a great UI, no doubt in that; but after spending a little more time on that, you will find the problem.

The design of Dev.to is very simple. They've got Blog, Discussions, AMAs and challenges, everything that Hashnode has got, but the starting point for all of them is the same - "WRITE A POST" - and everything is separated by tags. That's how they've made things simpler for the users. On the other hand, on Hashnode, the user gets overwhelmed by a lot of options during the sign-up process itself. There is a separate page to add everything, and a slightly different design also.

Communities are built on interaction, and you will always be the first one to start it.

I am a huge fan of this article "Product Hunt’s Rise" by Ben Gelsey. This explains how RYAN HOOVER actually made the Product Hunt community work. If you observe carefully, you will notice that Ben Halpern is doing something similar.

What's the first thing you see when you surf Hashnode? "ZERO INTERACTIONS". Most of the top posts have either 1 or no upvotes, people rarely comment on each other's posts. They just drop by to promote their stuff and then leave.


When you start your community, obviously the interaction won't start by itself. You have to start it so that people can join in, too. See how many comments and posts Ben has published so far.

"Develop an app like you yourself are the first and last user."

Ben lives that mantra. I see him posting comments on almost every great discussion or blog. Sometimes he is the first one to comment, even when there is nobody else there.

Hashnode's founder, meanwhile, has posted only 15 articles in a span of 4 years, and he doesn't even answer direct questions asked to him on his profile.

(I'm sure he's a busy man and has better things to do.)

But you can clearly see the difference.

Another trick that Dev.to have up their sleeves is these cool buttons. I don't know if you know this or not but each user can click all three buttons and that will count as 3 upvotes/likes/hearts. I think it's a pretty cool trick to seed the initial interaction with the post as an author himself can click all the three buttons. That means no matter what, each post can always have 3 likes on it. So "NO DEAD POSTS"!

Show ❤️ to initial users and make them feel special

Dev.to have this awesome weekly top series. They post weekly articles dedicated specifically to last week's top posts and comments. Yes, you read it right - COMMENTS.

They never forget to tweet daily about top posts from each category. This not only helps authors reach more readers but also helps them in getting more followers and interaction on their posts. Now that's how you empower your users.

They keep coming up with new ways to make their users feel special. For example, last week, because of my post "Are we Developers helping Google to build an unstoppable monopoly?", I discovered that Dev.to two hardcore fans have created a podcast where they discuss posts from Dev.to itself 😱. It's awesome, check it out.

These might seem like small things to some of you, but these are the very things that create true fans - not just users, but true fans. These true fans are your free marketing army. You can see a clear difference when you visit Hashnode's twitter page. You will find no interaction with their userbase there either. No surprise that there is a huge difference between the number of followers of both platforms.

Offer more than you take

The habit of over-delivering is the key to success. If you are a regular user, you may have noticed there are various posts by Dev.to team that can help you find people that you need.

You can find contributors:

You can hire people:

And these are just additional benefits besides the amazing community. I have myself found some new friends in posts like these. Hashnode used to charge for posting jobs on their platform, by the way, and they only recently made that feature free.

If your platform does what it promises to do, it's a useful platform, but these small features are the real gems that make people love your platform.

Be Open, Be Modest

We all know that Dev.to is open source, but another interesting fact is that they are a very open company as well. I mean posting-about-their-own-weaknesses kinda open. This not only gives them contributors but also users that don't hesitate to point out bugs in the comment section.

Last week in a discussion on my post, Ben stated something that really represents the core value of Dev.to - "Modesty is key". I think that's why Dev.to is open source. It shows that they are very open about their goals, i.e. they want to build a COMMUNITY for DEVELOPERS.

Conclusion

I'm not saying that Hashnode is dead. I'm sure they can learn something from their talented competitors and improve. Because in the end, developers will benefit from it too.

Thanks for reading this, guys. I hope this can be a good learning experience for you like it was for me. Building products is easy; building meaningful products, on the other hand, is where things get interesting.

If I missed something, feel free to share that in the comment section. If you liked my post, share it with your friends and hit that ❤️ or all three 😂.

Btw I'm on Medium as well. Check it out here.

Posted on by:

sarthology profile

Sarthak Sharma

@sarthology

JavaScript Nerd👨🏻‍💻| Philosopher🧘🏻‍♂️ | Life Hacker🔧 | Health enthusiast🏋🏻‍♂️

Discussion

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Hey Sarthak! I completely agree with all the points here.

Finding a community where you feel like you can give back can be really hard - it definitely was for me. When I first started off my programming career I tried taking part in communities like:

  • FreeCodeCamp
  • Reactiflux
  • Reddit r/webdev
  • Reddit r/javascript
  • Hackernoon

And so on....

But then one day last year, my current roommate told me about a Twitter account called The Practical Dev, and how they were planning to make a site as a community for developers. I immediately made an account after seeing the huge following on Twitter to see what the hype was about.

One thing I'd like to note is that none of the sites I mentioned before were as accepting as dev.to.

This is the only online code community where I actually feel a strong desire to be an active member.

This is the only online code community that has led me to make MANY online and IRL friends.

This is the only online code community where I felt the desire to meet the founders in person.

This site is freakin' awesome.

Also one other thing, while I really appreciate you mentioning our podcast, I want to clarify that Dan and I are not part of the dev.to team.

We're just members of the community that liked it so much we decided to take time to make a podcast about it! We're some of those true fans in the dev.to army you were talking about ;)

 

*salutes*

We've got the true OG squad here. You da real MVP.

 

Oh, I didn't know that you guys are independent. But I still love what you guys are doing.

 

+infinite on this one :D Couldn't agree more

 

Hi Sarthak! The founder of Hashnode here. I am sure you have put a great amount of effort into writing this article. So, thanks for that.

First of all, you need to understand that we are a platform for Q&A and are not geared so much towards articles. I understand dev.to also lets you ask questions, but I think there are more articles/stories than questions. But from the perspective of Hashnode this is going to change soon.

You have raised some valid questions and concerns. So, kudos for that. But some of your points are incorrect.

  • Most of the questions on Hashnode enjoy healthy debate and interactions. Some questions get 200+ answers. So, I don't agree with the "Zero Interaction" part. But yes, news pieces and articles have less interactions and upvotes. So, we are going to work on that.

  • To understand the primary value proposition of Hashnode, please visit this old discussion thread.

  • Also, we never charged money for job postings. You might have missed the "Launch Offer" part.

However, I agree with the rest of your points. We did a series of mistakes over the last 1 year. Instead of focusing on community building and growth, we prioritised something else (I am going to blog about that separately). That's why the engagement level is not that high. But hey, we are humans! I can promise that we are going to work on this and fix it.

We are going to work on improving the platform and plan to stay in the dev space for a while. :)

I appreciate the kind of work dev.to founders have done here and therefore kudos to them. They are doing a great job and we are happy that developers are going to benefit from both the platforms.

We never consider dev.to to be our competitor. We're not comparing ourselves to anyone - we're being ourselves, and we'll grow in our own direction.

Thanks for putting this piece together. :) Stay tuned for our upcoming plans and announcements.

 

Hey Sandeep, highly appreciate that you came to join the discussion that's what we need. We need this kind of openness and collaborative growth in our community. As you rightly said in the end developers should be benefited from both the platforms.
But because you're here and for the sake of discussion there are few things I want to mention.

  • I'm not a daily user on Hashnode.
  • Most of the things I mentioned above were the first impression I had about Hashnode.
  • Also when I joined the platform I didn't get a feel that it's a QA focused platform like Stackoverflow is. But it was giving me a Dev.to kind of a feeling.
  • So as you were saying you guys developing some new features, are you planning to be a different than dev.to or better. (Trick question)😉

Thanks love to hear more from you.

 

I really enjoyed reading this article. Thanks! It makes me feel better about the world knowing that in the midst of all the problems and issues, there is a community of developers out there helping each other out.

By the way, I didn't know that you could hit the three buttons at once. I always thought the maximum was two: one bookmark and either aor a 🦄.

 

Haha, So that's a lifehack of the day then 😂

 

I think there are some small adjustments we need to make in reaction land.

One thing: I want unicorns to be more rare and special. I think so far we’ve been sort of living in an awkward in-between phase with this component of the site.

and here goes the lifehack 😃

@ben perhaps implementing some sort of post reaction, similar to Facebook, would make them more exclusive. A simple tap would be a heart press or hover, to see the reaction panel where you can choose the unicorn.

Yeah I think something like that might be the approach. I also like how Slack does reactions.

There's also more we can do to provide ways to search and sort through past reactions, to give them more personal use. Though that could complicate things.

Either way, we've left the "reaction" concept pretty abstract at the data layer and there's definitely some interesting things we could do in the long run. We used to also have the 🤔 and 🙌 reactions but got rid of them to make room for some other functionality. Eventually we'll settle on the best approach for all of this.

 

The fact that this is a PWA means I can use it on my phone with ease. Here are the chrome audits for both sites.

stats

dev.to clearly has a little work to do with accessability but having so many of these near maxed out makes the experience good for lots of people with lots of different sorts of web access.

 

Yeah, our accessibility score has been a bit of whack-a-mole. We've been up and down at different times. I think we're trending in the right direction, but we've had some missteps. Over the next while I think we'll be able to hack away and get closer to a consistent 90-100 in this area.

 

I'll try and make raise issues to help the upwards trend 😁

 

This is a really thoughtful post Sarthak!

I want to add more thoughts later once I get back to my desktop machine. 😄

 

I know, what I mentioned is not even 10% of the efforts you guys are putting in the community. Would love to hear your thoughts eagerly 😊

 

Okay, here goes brain-dump time. If I tried to offer a cohesive response I'd be here all day trying to get it right. But thanks a lot for the platform to wax philosophical a bit about what's working and what's not.

  • We are truly built to solve problems for members and make people better developers. Community is a means to an ends for us in a lot of ways. Inclusion is a critical core focus, but mostly because we want people included in something that matters. We reject gatekeeping in our space but gatekeeping wouldn't matter if there was nothing worthwhile behind the gate.
  • With this utilitarianism at the core of our offering, we really feel like we're trying to offer better solutions to the stuff developers have consistently needed to do since the beginning of time: Publish their work, send signals out about what's going on, and collectively help each other get stuff done. In our craft, community is a tool.
  • We've always piggy-backed off of existing platforms and concepts. When I was starting this place, I noticed the concept of posting to Medium and then sharing on Twitter as a thing that was gaining popularity. But Medium and Twitter, while huge and important due to their scale, are simply lacking in some of the ideals of software communities. These types of platforms serve a purpose, but are not going to improve at directly serving the software community as quickly as we will. I don't see Hashnode as necessarily building on top of these concepts. If anything, they are now, but I don't think they were founded on these principles the way we were.
  • Ironically, we pair the utilitarianism of publishing information on software that people need to do their jobs, with the randomness of unicorn buttons which don't really serve a real purpose. I think that's an idiosyncrasy that speaks to my own personality. I don't really like things that are purely useful, or purely useless. I think the nuance here is where the beauty lies.
  • Our whole team, now six people, tend to worry about different sorts of things. I didn't find a bunch of people that see the world just like me. There's just enough alignment for us to get along. Many important elements of running this operation are things I'm personally terrible at dealing with or completely ill-equipped. @jess , @peter and the team are great about fussing over completely different types of things so we end up coming up with decent stuff in the end.
  • I think we do a decent job at balancing what's good enough now and what could be awesome in the long run. We sometimes launch good enough features and let them sit around half-built for a year before getting around to it. We wouldn't do this if we had all the resources in the world, but in practical terms, I think we've done a pretty good job of this so far. It doesn't always result in the perfect experience or unified design, but it helps us keep plugging away and solving problems. If we were too perfectionist about what we put out there, we wouldn't be doing a lot of shipping. We have a fairly hardcore continuous-deployment approach and I hope we only get faster with this stuff.
  • We have a product that is getting better and better, but we definitely got here primarily through "marketing", though I don't think we strictly differentiate our divisions or anything like that. We put our personalities, intentions, and goals out there and try to make it all work cohesively.
  • For quite a while this was a one-person personal project which gave me a lot of time to think about what this could be and not rush things early on. I think we established a pretty great foundation before trying to make this thing too big.
  • Online communities have been an important thing for me my whole life, so I feel like I have a lot of reference points for what has worked in the past and had been forgotten by social media. But these new platforms also have delivered a lot of interesting ideas. Product-wise, we're mostly a mishmash of interesting ideas.
  • We have a really nice growth mechanism due to the usefulness of what people put out there on DEV. Other places likely do to, but this is really core to what we do.
  • We really strive to be patient and accept that it's hard to convince people to do anything. They sort of have to figure it out on their own. So we do much more nudging than demanding or selling.

Anyway, that's a bunch of random thoughts. Not sure it's the important stuff, but it's stuff. We're still a pretty small operation, but we are growing and it's great that what we're doing is becoming so important for folks' lives/careers/interests.

Happy coding ❤️

we definitely got here primarily through "marketing"

I'll admit I first followed dev on twitter to get the free stickers and over time I starting being drawn into the community.

 

Funny to see my article in the GIF 😂

I'd like to note that although Sandeep doesn't actively post, he is constantly active on the community. As a member, he constantly recommends other people answer questions (rather than himself). He also actively edits my posts if I forget to add tags and adds them for me 😅 I'm sure he doesn't want to draw too much attention to himself vs other more public C-level execs.

Hashnode has been trying hard to adapt and grow with the changing web tides. They tried a program recently called Hashnode Elites or something where top users were invited to a private chat with founders/team members in order to offer feedback on the site growth. They closed the program recently (don't think it did well), and they've been making a lot of incremental changes to their UI to improve the UX for users. Over the course of a couple months they've made a significant number of minor tweaks that improve the aesthetics.

I think there are other key issues with Hashnode.

  • Logging in requires using social platforms, or if you use your email you're forced to login using an email link. If I'm ever logged out, or have to log in on the go, I'm much less likely since I have to click login, then login to my email, click the link there, and I'm finally on the site.
  • They dont cross-promote on social media / Twitter like Dev.to, or work on building a community outside of their own. The reason Dev.to is so popular is because the founders work hard on making the Twitter relevant. Dev.to had an easy job starting a Twitter community with memes and funny pics, and have grown it into a great place for design/dev discourse. So when Dev cross-posts articles to Twitter (AND tag the author's twitter!), people actually care -- vs Hashnode which gets no attention and doesn't post.
  • There was an issue for a while with a toxic community member that was spreading some hate on questions/answers. It got so bad - the hater talked smack about GatsbyJS, and the creator found the post on Hashnode, and proceeded to hate on Hashnode for allowing such a negative influence to antagonize people. The lack of moderation on this member, and the way it was handled, show that the Hashnode team don't know how to properly manage a positive prosperous community.
  • The community tends to lean towards very specific countries, despite being international. It can feel like they're not advertising or reaching certain audiences.

Dev.to overall seems better with their PR and marketing game, and Hashnode seems like the perfect example of the app with everything that doesn't know how to sell itself.

 

Thanks, Ryosuke! Great points. I just wrote my thoughts here: dev.to/sandeepgk/comment/77b2

Overall, I agree with your points. And the way we handled the "toxic community member" was definitely not optimal. But I can promise that we are working on the above-mentioned things and are going to fix the issues. :)

 

I was excepting this, a review from a real Hashnode user. 😊
Thanks for pointing out some other insightful points.

 

Lots of great thoughts Ryosuke. I think you hit the nail on the head with a lot of this stuff.

Nobody on our team has a CS degree or any formal web design training. (Of course, I hope as the team grows, we will have some folks with these types of educations!)

Our team mostly has done a lot of random kinds of work which really helps us do well what we do well. We have backgrounds in customer support, hospitality, marketing, inventory management, and lots of other random things. I think this is a big part of what we do well.

 

Great post! I haven't been a DEV user for long now but I am loving this community. Lots of great posts, respectful users, clean UI, ...
I have found 2 bugs since joining and after reporting them I got an answer very quickly and they immediately looked into it, it didn't even matter where I informed them about it.

  • First was reported in a Twitter DM (because I wasn't sure if it was a bug)
  • Last one was last week, I posted about it in a comment
 

Sarthak, you’re 2/2 for thought-provoking posts! I think the common thread I see here is a core set of values (maybe articulated, maybe more fluid) and a focus on sustainable community growth over “growing the user base.” Its anecdotal but my feeling is that the growth of this community has recently accelerated significantly, and seemingly organically, on the basis of a good experience.

I think a key point in the next stage of growth might be like... “second order features”. In my mind, that’s members using basic features to get creative and put out things that are more firmly rooted in the community and in a more consistent voice, rather than isolated blog posts . That’s probably poorly articulated, I’m on my way to work haha, but hopefully the gist makes sense. I see “series” playing into this. It’s actually where @milkstarz and I got the idea for our conversations. We’re some of just some of those “true fans” you’re talking about.

 

Completely agree with you there. Also Ben is handling it very well. Rest on the job will be done by the true fans like you.

 

you had me at:

It's not about making a lot of features, it's about making a few key features work.

 

I'd never heard of hashnode. But I guess I don't get out much.

On the other hand: those graphs from Alexa mean nothing to me. One has the Y-axis inverted from the other and they don't use the same scale. Is that how Alexa usually presents data?

 

I had to do a double take, but the y-axis is the same in both images. The top of the y-axis represents being the #1 most popular site in the world, and the scales are different because of the site rankings in the time period shown.

 

Me neither; I don't feel alone now.

 

Opening the Hashnode home page alone in my Chrome leads to my laptop overheating with processes consuming 100% of my CPU power! Making the whole site effectively unusable.

What is it so important to it that needs so much computer power?

 
 

I agree to that. The day I came across dev.to I've stopped using hashnode. They also updated the UI to an extent that it looks a very different website than what it was before. Plus dev.to is blazing fast to load and has a great PWA. And as you said the strength lies in the community. I get so hooked reading the posts/comments on dev.to that I don't take notice of the time.

 

I was never a fan of Communitys. I found out about dev.to through a simple Github explore. I had a Github account and so it was an instant join and access of all the features.

Really well done plattform and community. I am completely hooked by the helpfull people that inspired me for severel improvments for my career.

 

This is really amazing research. I totally agree with you, especially how dev.to community is more interactive. This is very motivating even as a beginner learning how to code and posting their progress and what they have learnt in a post :)

 

Had never even heard of hashnode before this article..

 

To the point of the post, Hashnode really isn’t that popular despite having been around for a while now. So not surprising to have not heard of them.

I’d be curious to know what their sustainability model is.

 

Well here are my two cents on the matter. I didn't know Hashnode even existed before this post and I know dev.to for over 8 months already.

Can't really remember how I ended up finding dev.to (maybe it was through some articles on Medium or something...) but the tagline they had back then really resonated with me and I saw that the interface was really clean and streamlined and the registration process was very easy so I thought why not?

I was a ghost member just reading a couple articles for about 4 months until I found a post from (can't remember who xD) talking about all the benefits of being an active member and encouraging people to post or comment more frequently and I think that rekindled the fire I had about making community and putting myself out there even if others wouldn't.

And so this is one of the few communities (the only one ) that inspires me to post things, even if I'm a newbie in this industry or at writing posts for that matter.

This is the only place I'm able to meet such cool people with a lot of knowledge that have no problem sharing it and don't feel all high and mighty just 'cause they have "some" experience.

This is the only place where I'm actively looking for interesting things I can learn from and talk with the people who actually shared them, for those who don't know, I'm very detached (maybe careless?) to several things so I could join several forums, chat rooms and stuff but eventually forget about them and never come back only when I need something is that I would post something and then leave again.

Here I make a conscious effort to see what's going on and what's new even if I'm boggled down with things to do, I just find small windows of time to check the site (even when I can't login 'cause my employer ip blocked github hahaha)

Plus isn't it awesome that you can post comments or articles here while at the same time practice your Markdown skills??

 

I hit all the buttons because I love this post!

 

I am reading this article after this post has been published around six months. I get to know both of these site recently and almost all of the functionality is same in both web sites. Now hashnode also almost tend to write stories/articles. BTW, I think both platform provide nice experience to developers to publish their thought and idea on social media.

 

Wow, that’s nice. Seems like it’s time for part 2.

 

Having a set of most hunble and kind founders who do A LOT OF WORK is a key behind Dev.to's success. Also there's a serious crack down against online harassment here. 👌

Thank you @ben @jess @peter

 

Rome was not built in a day

 

I just organically ended up on dev.to from a medium or a self-hosted blog that crosposted here. And I love it.
I've never heard of Hashnode until this post.

 

Great comparision !!