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Are Hackathons Losing their Luster?

April 18, 2018

For the last several years, companies who want to attract software developers have been betting big on hackathons.  Set up a little coding event in a school or clubhouse – or better yet your own facility if you have something that can be used –  publicize it, buy some pizza and sodas as motivational refreshments, and just sit back and wait for the developers to stream through the doors, start coding and become so enamored with your company and products that they’ll not only thoroughly adopt your APIs or platforms but they’ll also tell all their friends to do that too.  Right?

Well, maybe or maybe not.

The world has become totally interconnected which means that more and more companies outside of the usual realm of platform and tool companies are aware of the need to connect with developers.  To connect with those developers companies are opening up APIs.  Open APIs are proliferating everywhere and if you’ve got an API you’ve got a platform, and if you’ve got a platform you need developers to adopt and support that platform.

We’ve seen numerous companies trying to adapt to this new reality by putting together a small team and charging them with populating their platform.  For many that has meant putting on a hackathon, or maybe a whole series of them and that’s about it.  As Evans Data continued to measure developer sentiment, actions and technology adoption we watched the number of hackathons that developers attend rise each year and saw our clients devoting quite a lot of resources to them.

But now the tide seems to be turning. The number of developers who attended a hackathon declined significantly in 2017 according to the newly released Evans Data Developer Marketing 2018 survey report. The survey showed that 70% of developers in 2017 had gone to at least one hackathon, which is a significant 19% decrease from the 83% that went to at least one in 2016. At the same time, those who went to only a small number of hackathons increased while those attending many hackathons showed a marked decrease.

And it wasn’t just vendors who were putting these on. Of those who attended hackathons, 46% said they went to one sponsored by a commercial vendor while 42% attended one sponsored by a local developer organization, and 37% went to one sponsored by a school or university.

It’s not entirely a surprise.  One had to wonder how long the hackathon phenomenon would go on in its current state. Hackathons have become a crutch for many developer marketing professionals who don’t really understand what to do, but while they are good for getting limited grass roots support for platforms or tools, they are also labor intensive for marketers, they involve cost, and by their very nature are extremely parochial and thus limited in reach.  When one considers the amount of resources it takes to reach probably less than 100 developers it really doesn’t add up.

So what’s next?  Online contests deliver far more bang for the buck, but for in-person events, try meetups. Last year almost three quarters of developers went to at least one meet up.

The new Developer Marketing 2018 survey is exclusively focused on tactical marketing outreach efforts and understanding developers. The 221 page reference covers topics such as: Demographics, Firmographics, Psychographics, Purchasing Authority, Outreach Vehicles, Motivations, Using Social Media for Recruitment, Training, Conferences and Hackathons, Encouraging Participation in an Online Community, Using Search Engines for Marketing and more. Margin of error is 4.2%.

More on developers……..

Proving Worth at Evans Data’s 14th Annual Developer Relations Conference

March 29, 2018

This past Monday and Tuesday we celebrated the 14th year of bringing top developer relations professionals, evangelists, and strategists together in a one of a kind event.  The conference highlights the methods and insights of professionals in the largest software companies in the world, and allows free and easy discussion amongst peers.  While some little shows have sprung up lately geared for program managers in small companies and startups, the Evans Data conference is designed for the biggest and the best.  Some of our speakers and keynotes included executives from Intel, Amazon, IBM, Google, Facebook, HP, Ford Motor Company, Salesforce, General Electric and more!  We also featured Guy Kawasaki, legendary trail blazer in the developer relations space.

The conference was packed – sold out, and we think we’ll need a new venue next year. Plenty of  great insights being shared.  Throughout the two days attendees were able to benefit from stimulating conversations, workshops and sessions addressing the hottest issues in this area.

One of the biggest concerns of professional at even these large companies was how do developer relations professionals prove their worth to the other departments/ management of the company.  Of course some companies are more enlightened about this than others, but it’s nonetheless a concern everywhere.  Another way of putting it is how do developer relations professionals demonstrate an ROI on their developer programs?

Counting active users, showing an increase in frequency of developer web site visitors, attendance at hackathons or other events were discussed, but these only measure changes in reach or effectiveness.  To demonstrate an ROI requires connecting the program’s activities to company revenue in some way. We talked about following a developer’s journey from awareness to evaluation to purchase or adoption and then measuring the difference between those who join a program and those who do not – a long and arduous process that may or may not show true indications.

It’s far easier to show the worth of a program to the developers themselves – ask them.  We’ve found that 69% of developers say they won’t adopt an API that isn’t supported by a program.  Sixty percent say a program helps improve the quality of their code or provides their personal productivity.  Forty percent say being in a program typically cuts their development time by 30% or more.

Into the Future

January 3, 2018

2017 is history and 2018 is officially underway, and that means it’s time for our annual look into the future and what the new year will bring for software development.  As most of you know, Evans Data is the top resource for market intelligence on software developers.  This month marks our 20th anniversary of focusing exclusively on software developers and continually surveying them to find out what technologies they’re adopting, what their issues and goals are and what they think is going to happen in the future of software.  We also have tremendous insight from our clients.  Each day we talk with them and we find out what they are interested in knowing and what technologies they are exploring and planning to develop.  So, we’re in a pretty good position to hoist a crystal ball and foretell what the big technology news will be in 2018.

BitCoin and BlockChain

Well, you don’t need to have much inside information to know that BitCoin has taken the investing world by storm.  During 2017 the price of the digital currency surged more than 1,900 percent and at one point almost touched $20K. But as stock traders will point out, there’s definitely a bubble when even people who have no idea what an asset is are talking about it and trying to buy in.  BitCoin is now what is called “highly frothy” and we, like most financial observers, think that 2018 will see that bubble pop.  BlockChain, on the other hand, is here to stay and will continue to quietly grow as we go into the year.  The basic architecture of blockchain creates a distributed ledger system which makes for secure transactions which can always be verified and traced (though in some cases with difficulty).  Thus it is very useful in the financial world.  But we think it will also see wide acceptance in other areas such as healthcare, energy, defense and more.

Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning

While BitCoin took the spotlight, the real surge in tech adoption came from the adoption of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.  This was spurred by an intense interest as well as a flood of new tools and libraries such as Tensorflow, Caffe, Watson and others that help developers easily incorporate machine learning into their apps.  By the end of 2017, more than 6.5M developers worldwide (29% of the world’s developer population) were integrating some machine learning techniques into their apps, while another 5.8M were planning to. While the largest group is within the APAC region, North American adoption is also hot.  Expect this to grow.

Augmented Reality

It’s easy enough to imagine augmented reality when it comes to games, as Pokemon Go so amply demonstrated, but that’s just a tiny fraction of what the technology can be used for.  We’re predicting a lot more implementations in the healthcare field, where doctors can now “look inside” a patient, or how about the remote specialist essentially projecting his hands into the display of a surgeon on site wearing Google Glass.  In manufacturing the uses are limited only by one’s imagination.  For example, service technicians and manufacturers can walk up to any item that has IoT technology and immediately have access to the object’s specs, inventory, location, and lead times.  In education, AR can replace outmoded and awkward learning tools.  The power and versatility of AR means its use is only limited by our imaginations and we foresee lots more AR use cases in the coming year.

Quantum Computing

This is the most nascent of the hot technologies for 2018, but one of the most far-reaching.  Simplistically, quantum computing veers away from our established bit based, on-off electrical circuit computing by allowing for superpositioning in which a state may be on or off or a combination of both.  Based on principles from quantum mechanics, this new technology is being pioneered by the likes of Google, IBM and Intel and while it may not command a lot of attention in 2018, the foundation that is created this year will be of utmost importance in the years to come.

AI – Threat or Not? Software Developers’ Take

July 28, 2017

Well of course AI is a hot topic in software development and in the software community in general.  Developers everywhere are finding ways to incorporate one or more of the varied forms of AI including machine learning, deep learning, pattern recognition, conversational systems, real-time data analysis and more. AI adoption is everywhere.  But you really know it’s a hot topic when software Silicon Valley titans like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg get into a public tiff about how AI is going to impact us.

Telling the future is an imprecise art and developers are not prescient; however, as practitioners, they may have some insight. In June we published the next edition of our ongoing Evans Data AI and Big Data Survey – a survey of developers actively working in these areas – and asked them not only what AI projects they’re working on now but how their projects are going to impact people and their jobs.

The majority of their current projects (51%) are seeking to replace IT activities. This was also the category most developers (47%) were seeking to supplement.  That’s right, traditional IT tasks are most directly in the bull’s eye, and that’s likely to be the first community to see the impact. Is that for better or worse?

It’s clear that artificial intelligence is going to displace workers. There’s been lots of talk about robots replacing unskilled workers – burger flippers and such – and this is already happening, but AI and robotics aren’t the same thing, and the jobs that AI will replace or supplement are jobs that require a lot of cognition. It’s logical that it would start within the computing arena itself, and there seems to be a lot of excitement about it in that area.

But it spreads out from there. Customer support was the second most targeted category, selected by 41% of developers, while operational decision making was the second most selected job category for supplementation. These are areas that most of us would agree could use some help.  The industries that are being addressed most frequently are, once again, the computer or software engineering industry, followed by telecommunications and manufacturing.

Obviously AI will change a lot of things, starting with the software industry itself, but that doesn’t call for doom and gloom.  When asked what the most exciting things they saw AI bringing, the developers said “Integration of machine learning with IoT” – the marriage of two new technology implementations that both hold significant promise, also “Real-time transactional databases”, which is hardly threatening, and “Predictive analytics”.  Of course it’s possible these could “turn bad”, but it’s most likely that these types of implementations will instead usher in new efficiencies and open up areas and opportunities that haven’t even been thought of before.

Throughout history people have been afraid of the future and of the technologies that shape that future, but so far those innovations have been a boon to mankind.  Developers are smart and they are passionately embracing AI, so if we had to make a call on whether AI developers would side with Elon or Mark, my bet would be that Mark would come out ahead.

The Changing Face of Software Developers

April 20, 2017

We all change as time goes by, but when we’re talking demographics sometimes those changes aren’t always what we might expect.  Take software developers, for example.  Developers are for the most part getting younger.

The median age of today’s software developers has decreased overall on a worldwide basis according our recently released Developer Marketing 2017 survey report. This report shows the median age of developers by region and trends in the four major regions going back ten years.

The overall age decline is largely due to an increase in younger Latin American developers, where the median age is now 35 as well as to the APAC region where the median age is 34. Developers in the EMEA region, typically the oldest developers have also gotten younger with a median age of 40 – down from 42 last year. The median age of developers in North America remained steady at 39.

However, the real change that has been occurring is the rise in number of women developers. That number has quadrupled in the last ten years, with sharp increases over the last few years. Today, more than a quarter of all developers are women when we look at the worldwide population. The largest area of growth for the number of women developers is occurring in the APAC region, and in emerging regions such as APAC and Latin America that growth is being driven by young women entering the profession.  In APAC the percent of developers under 30 years of age who are female is almost 40%.  North America has the smallest percentage of female developers of all regions, with just less than 18%, but that’s a lot of growth compared to ten years ago..

Many major technology vendors have gone out of their way to try to get women involved in STEM activities, and organization devoted to getting women into technology like “Girls Who Code” have been making significant progress towards evening out the gender basis in technology.  Looks like it’s working!

Top Developments for 2017

January 5, 2017

It’s that time of year again when we take out our crystal balls and predict the trends that will power and dominate software development in the coming year. In fact, most predictions that are worth their salt are actually projections based on trends that we’ve noticed in the past. So last year and the coming year are inextricably connected, and so are our 2017 predictions.

First and foremost, artificial intelligence in all its forms will continue to be the hottest topic in software development and will go from a curiosity to ubiquity as more and more developers incorporate AI libraries and functions into their apps. At the end of 2016 42% of developers said they were using some forms of cognitive computing or artificial intelligence in their development projects, up dramatically from the number of practitioners at the beginning of the year. Within the overall arc of AI, we see particular movement in the adoption of conversation systems (chatbots) plus machine learning in all types of apps, but especially those involved with Internet of Things. Deep learning is also an area of heavy interest that will grow over the next year but at a slower pace than other AI-related disciplines.

Next is the further penetration of the connected world into everything we do and everything we use. Internet of Things development became an even stronger force with over a third of developers either currently working on IoT projects or having worked on one in the past as of the end of 2016. The strongest IoT segment being targeted flipped from the first part of the year and is now business to consumer, although industrial and commercial implementations are still strong. The types of projects that are being worked on are diverse and no one type is dominating the area of focus for IoT reflecting the relative newness of the market. We see stronger presence in industry as well as commerce going forward.

Block chain development is another area that we believe will blossom during 2017. Already used in some form by almost one in five developers, this form of distributed database will become prevalent as developers marry it up with IoT to address security as well as ease of use. Over 60% of developers who use blockchain use it for a purpose other than cryptocurrency, and we expect the types of use cases that will proliferate during 2017 will be diverse and maybe sometimes surprising.

New user interfaces will round out the profile of our 2017 predictions. Virtual Reality will be more and more popular for gaming, but it’s Augmented Reality where we’re going to see explosive growth as the possible implementations transverse industries. Today 29% of developers are incorporating some type of AR into their applications, but an additional quarter plan to.

So 2017 looks to be full of exciting and significant developments. Hoping it’s a happy one for all of you.

The Future of Computing

November 10, 2016

The Churchill Club is the premier Silicon Valley organization designed to promote the exchange of ideas and networking amongst those in the industry and to “ignite” conversations. It describes itself as “one part business, one part technology and 7000 parts people”. Last night it hosted Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, at its annual dinner and she provided information and insights that truly ignited excitement and a whole realm of thoughts for the future of computing.

It’s “Digital Today, but Cognitive Tomorrow” she said as she described IBM’s vision of augmenting human intelligence with computer cognition. Having just been at the Innovation Hanger at World of Watson the previous week, she mentioned several of the innovative solutions the developers were working on there with machine learning and Watson. IBM provides tools and libraries to help developers implement machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence in their applications. And they’re not alone. Microsoft’s Machine Learning Studio, HPE’s Haven on Demand, Google’s Deep Mind are just a few of the tools that major vendors are providing for developers to add intelligence to their development. Our most recent Global Development Survey showed that almost 40% of developers worldwide are already working with some form of cognitive computing, with the APAC region leading the way. Cognitive computing in all its varied forms is without doubt the hottest technology trend amongst developers today.

Blockchain development was another important area that Ginni talked about. She predicted that blockchain “…will do for trusted transactions what the internet did for the transfer of information”. IBM has upped the security aspect of blockchain development by providing special security features in its blockchain product for developers on Bluemix with confidential transactions, monitors and more. Development of the distributed blockchain architecture is a current activity for just over 18% of developers worldwide, with another 29% planning for it in the future. And it’s not just about BitCoin. Over two-thirds of those using or planning to use blockchain will use it outside of cryptocurrency. The most popular implementations are for an information hub or the management of IoT devices.

The last subject was cyber security, and with that she brought it all together. Security is essential and becoming more so but it’s also becoming harder to implement. “As soon as you get somewhere in development you can assume the bad guys are already there”. So that’s where Cognitive Computing again comes in. With Watson for Cyber security, IBM is seeking to answer the old question of how to protect technological progress while ensuring that it continues to be secure going into the future.

Ginni was impressive with her quick thoughts and insights and IBM was impressive as well as it blazes a trail into the most important new worlds in the future of computing.