Your choice of programming communities (know as discussion boards, forums, bulletin boards, etc.) will often determine the pace of your progression in your particular language that you’re learning. I don’t think there is an answer as to why, but real-time communities provide a one of a kind learning experience.
The problem lies in the fact that there is a vast choice of programming communities out there, and one out of five webmasters feel confident enough to start their own communities; which never leads to anything good. It creates the delusion that this new community is going to be better than the last one, supposedly because it is a new community, and it promises to help every newbie on the planet.
I’d rather have real programmers throw stones at me than to wait in line for an answer from the poor webmaster who’s already so caught up in his own projects, that he instantly regrets the idea of starting his own community in the first place. I’ve been there, I should know.
I have tried to display the programming communities that you’re going to find in this list by their popularity (in the chart above), and it is the order that I feel is the most appropriate, personal preferences will differ and please don’t let your opinion discourage you.
I can relate to such massive amount of online communities at once might seem like overkill, but try to browse these few websites at least a couple of times, in the worst case scenario it will engrave the history in your Google searches, and make it easier to find content (answers) that way.
Why Join a Programming Community?
You might be a member of a coding community already, but you just haven’t realized it yet. For example, those who’re learning Python, Java or Ruby (for example), might find that they’re often using sites that have – already – built a community around itself. The absolute best example of this would be Codecademy, and their learning to program platform.
Communities like the ones in our chart provide “room” for asking the right questions, and more often than not, people will be eager to help you, offer advice and different perspectives on how to tackle your bugs. The key element to these communities is to research your questions before you ask them!
- Up-to-date information and problem-solving.
- Insightful answers, new perspectives.
- Tips and tricks for all-level programmers.
- Links to resources, talks and research papers.
- Meeting new friends, code buddies, potential partners.
Trying to control all of these things by yourself is near impossible, and truly frustrating. Join a community of programmers, encourage yourself to be a participant and be grateful to people who do take the time to answer your questions. It will go a very long way.
What to Expect from a Community of Programmers?
You should expect professionalism and a lack of bullshit. It really does come down to being resourceful and straightforward with your questions and help queries. You can rest assured that the tutorial on how to build a web scraper in Python has been covered at least 1,000 times in the last year alone.
Take some time to study the terms above, you’ll come across them quite often, and it is important to know when someone is being serious vs. someone just poking your nerves. Elitists and ‘old souls’ tend to complain about new ways of doing things, a lot!
The Types of Programming Communities
The last thing I wanted to cover was the types of communities that we’re going to encounter, and which ones are for asking questions and which ones for direct learning, as well as those that provide access to resources and other interesting stuff.
Familiar with any of these?
- Bulletin Boards — Questions. Answers. Discussion.
- UGC (User-Generated Content) — Insights. Experiences. Resources.
- Socially Oriented — Discussion. Trial and error.
I’m sure you could name at least one community for each of the types. I really don’t want to hold you up for any longer, just remember – All of these communities function like a normal community would in the physical world.
Questions? Try the comment box.
In September, Stack Overflow will turn 6 years old. It is – without a doubt – the most popular community for programmers in the world, and I’m pretty sure it is also one of the largest in terms of variety of content available.
“It is by programmers, for programmers, with the ultimate intent of collectively increasing the sum total of good programming knowledge in the world.” – Jeff Atwood, Co-Founder
Building your reputation on this network of sites is not going to be easy, and you actually have to prove yourself as an entry-level programmer if you want to get access to things like upvoting, or even leaving your own comments. It’s a privilege that needs to be earned and adds a very special kind of flavor to the overall experience.
The mission of this project has remained intact over the years, and the massive growth and expansion of this community have led to increased quality of discussion and content.
Not the best website if your intention is to communicate casually with other developers, but if it comes to sharing your code with a select group of people, that’s where GitHub is often used for. This contributes to making this platform such an awesome place for developers. Also, if you want to come across other open source codes that might help you in your project.
You can also find people working on amazing projects on this platform, which can also inspire you to do the same.
If you are looking for some of the most talented developers who are well-adept, TopTal is the side you should head for. Whether you are looking for a professional tune-up or hire a freelancer, TopTal is one of the best communities for developers.
It has its presence in over 100 countries; it is an elite network of many remote freelancer developers, all of whom have passed through rigorous tests to prove that they are the best in the business. These people publish articles on TopTal Engineering Blog and topics vary from making a remote control car to the latest trends in technology.
If a developer has to prepare for an interview, there are resources on TopTal such as interview questions and hiring guides in many languages. The members hold meetups and events almost every day all across the globe. These help people meet other community members in person and have a conversation with them or gain some knowledge.
Reddit is one of those websites that has a character, and a very strong community to support that character. It has thousands of active ‘sub-reddits’ that provide people with the ability to – literally – discuss everything, about anything. The site averages 110,000,000 monthly visitors.
You can begin your journey by subscribing to all of the above sub-reddits, they’re programming related (some more than others) and will have additional sub-reddits listed in their sidebars. Share your own favorites in the comments down below.
WebDevelopers is a great recommendation, mainly for beginners. It is very easy to use and hosts a wide variety of forums on numerous topics such as Ruby and SQL to CS and HTML. It is highly convenient to navigate and covers a variety of questions from client-side development to server-side development and site management.
The Y Combinator powered news site ‘Hacker News’ has been engraved in many peoples minds, as the number one source for real-time data about what is happening in the world of hackers, and the actual world itself.
I doubt that you will find many code examples within the comment sections of the posts submitted on this site (hint, hint!), but the resources that people do submit are quite good, and provide you with real-time access to what is going on in the world of development, design, engineering, etc,.
Try out their amazing search engine, or browse through the sorted lists that will help you find popular and trending content. Generally, visit Hacker News once/twice a day (don’t get addicted..), and rely on the search function to find libraries, tools and other things to help your development process.
The search engine will also allow you to search through comments
The SitePoint forums have always been one of my favorite online communities for programmers and designers. It is quite populated with regular members, and also provides a wide spectrum of categories to choose from. The community runs itself, and content quality is way above acceptable.
Forums are focused on helping beginners and intermediate users to better understand their language of choice, while also providing help in the field of business and marketing. The main site is populated by articles on topics like web development, web design, copywriting, user experience and more.
They’ve also got their own bookstore, which is quite famous for its many resourceful publications. The project has been renamed to Learnable, and you can begin with a 14-day trial. Their quick-start guide to HTML5 has been read by tens of thousands of people. Look out for similar content on their website.
The slogan implies that the website is built ‘For those who code’, and so it rightfully is. The 10 million members (August 2013) have created and shared millions of lines of code examples, which are freely accessible through their forum system. Remember, the search function is your best friend.
Unlike many other communities, CodeProject is heavily focused on the software development side and offers insightful discussion for many popular programming languages like C, C#, C++, Java, Lisp, etc. The other notable features are their Articles section, populated by thousands of tutorials and guides on anything you could possibly imagine.
It holds up to its slogan, and you could be the next person to take that journey alongside those millions of other members. Will you?
Looking for an affordable way of learning programming? You could try signing up for a Treehouse subscription. It’s not expensive, and annual subscribers get mad discounts. Why is it that I have included Treehouse in this list?
Treehouse uses short videos, quizzes and badges to help subscribers learn web design, development and iOS development. The service is dual tier, at $29 to $49 dollars per month and Treehouse has already signed on blue chip clients like Estee Lauder, Disney and Zappos.
Well, it’s quite simple. The vibrant community over at Treehouse Forums never ceases to amaze me, and you can find answers to literally every entry-level programming question there is. It’s all sorted by categories and tags, and the design is cozy and easy on the eyes to actually spend time on the forum, and learn!
DZone Links is a place for our community members to discover and share the latest and most popular news from around the web. This community-driven portal is carefully moderated by our editorial staff to ensure the content remains interesting and relevant.
In a sense, it is similar to HN and a couple of others in this list, but because of the age of the platform and the number of frequent visitors, it becomes essential to anyone who’s looking for access to tutorials, guides, and resources in the web development sphere. Yes, quite a bit of content submitted here is ‘lousy’ (to say the least), but you can find some really great material to work with.
They’ve also got ‘The Zones’, which are individual parts of the platform for sharing articles and other material towards a specific language or software. Mobile and Java zones are very popular among those who work in those fields.
Bytes is a traditional community of novices and experts alike to engage in discussion about software development, database development, and administration of networks, systems, and databases alike. You could say it is a bit of a niche community, and we need those – in our catalog of communities to be a part of.
Databases, Networks, Systems are all part of the programming eco-system, and we need to have resources at our disposal to help us deal with the questions and bugs that arise in those areas. Bytes takes care of this beautifully, and although the answers might take time to ‘roll in’, they’re usually thoughtful and give you a better perspective on your problem.
They’ve also managed to stay out of the usual way of doing things. I remember when DaniWeb used to be more of a community for marketers and business people than – like now – for web developers and programmers of all ages.
I’ve been having a conversation with Dani (the site owner), and he has told me that they’ve been running a custom built forum platform since early 2012. The reason I didn’t spot this was that the design is very similar to what they’ve always been using, so I figured it was only a design change.
With over five million unique visitors every month, DaniWeb packs a strong punch when it comes to finding answers and resources related (but not limited to) to web & software development, hardware tinkering, marketing, and business ideas.
The community is slightly different than you’d expect from an average public community, because a large proportion of the forum users have been around for many years, and feel entitled to maintain the same quality of discussion as the site continues to grow and expand.
I’ve not seen major updates from this community in the past couple of years, and that can mean both good and bad. I’ll stick to the good. DIC is a community that consists of 600,000 members who’ve put together millions of posts, both in the form of questions and answers. The most talked about languages include Java, C++, VB.NET, etc,.
You should make note of their list of most active and insightful members, this list can be found on the About page, and perhaps should encourage you to ask questions and look for answers that seem so difficult at the time. I don’t encourage bombarding of peoples inbox’s, but those names in that list are there for a reason.
Overall, a reasonable quality community to be a part of.
This invite-by-user community is what I called the ‘socially oriented’ communities. You will find plenty of discussion about everything related to programming, engineer and development. Many of the submissions have 20+ comments, which can sometimes be nice for a change.
Content can also be tagged with appropriate keywords, making it easier to subscribe to discussions that you want to engage upon or share your ideas in. Overall, it is a great community for hackers, and with that in mind – we’ve also come to an end of our list of programming communities.
Growing a Community
I found it surprising that none of the large online programming communities are based on phpBB. And, not to mention that 80% are built using shareware software, I suppose those are the things we can afford to overlook, in exchange for instant satisfaction and gratification of our own needs.
Starting your own community is not a very easy thing to do (unless, you’ve got thousands of users at your disposal), and can prove to be frustrating (very much so, if you try to fund the project yourself) as you’re expecting results as quickly as possible, and after a while – lack of interaction from other members begin to sink in.
Just like a baby who needs time to learn how to speak, so does a community need time to find its own place in the world. Coincidentally, every community on this list is in some way special, different if that sounds better. I would love to take a look at your own community; share stories with us about its growth.