Trends on Hacker News: Programming Languages & Tools

This is the second of three articles on an analysis of Hacker News community, utilizing HNProfile.com – a demonstration of the Metacortex platform. The goal is to analyze the preferred programming languages and tools of the Hacker News community. The first article is Trends on Hacker News: Politics and is independent of this article.

This analysis on Hacker News was inspired by the StackOverflow Developer Survey. I always find it interesting what languages are discussed most on StackOverflow; often an indicator of career prospects. I thought it might be interesting to compare what we find with StackOverflow and what is discussed on Hacker News. Hacker News tends to be more “trendy” and as such, the results should be dramatically different.

Programming Languages

From Stack Overflows 2017 developer survey, it appears the top 10 most popular programming languages are:

This appears to generally match what Github has seen in their report on the top 10 programming languages (from Octoverse):

Now, if compare all of the above directly on HNProfile.com, we end up with the following:

Python is clearly the runaway winner for the Hacker News community. Javascript even falling below in Java in the discussion(s). What is even more interesting, is when we toss in some programming languages not listed by Stack Overflow or Github; such as Rust or Golang:

Python is still the clear winner, however, Rust and Lisp are both dramatically higher up the rankings than Stack Overflow or Github. I presume this is just the difference in the community. If your go-to language isn’t listed, feel free to run your own analysis on HNProfile.com/compare.

Frameworks

From here on out, we’ll focus specifically on HNProfile.com and leave Stack Overflow and Github out of this. For the first comparison of frameworks, let’s look at web frameworks:

I think it’s no surprise that Javascript frameworks are taking 1st place. However, it is surprising how high Rails is on the list given how little Ruby is discussed. My assumption is that Rails is often discussed in a separate context from ruby, likely in relation to web development. Also, note how low Flask and Django rank, even though python is the number one discussed language.

In terms of desktop frameworks, one of my favorites is Qt, which is C++ framework, turns out the most popular is definitely Electron: In terms of deep learning frameworks, I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone TensorFlow takes the cake:

Personally, I find it surprising how little MLlib is discussed. It definitely isn’t comparable from an ease of use or feature perspective. However, it does seem to have a relatively large industry backing.

Databases

In terms of databases, the Hacker News community definitely favors open source initiatives as opposed to some of the classic enterprise databases:

The leader of the pack is definitely PostgreSQL, which I do not find surprising at all. On the one hand, we have companies such as CitusDB, who are very active on Hacker News. On the other hand, PostgreSQL is a solid, scalable database with regular releases – today it’s even powering HNProfile.com. Personally, I highly recommend.

Cloud Providers

The last section I’d like to cover is Cloud Providers. In terms of Hacker News, there’s one clear winner, which no one would be surprised to know is Amazon Web Services (AWS):

What is interesting (to me, in any case), is how close Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are in terms of quantity of discussion(s). I personally suspected that Azure would be discussed less.

Further, the sentiment scores are also relatively close. AWS is the leader, but in general, it appears cloud providers are a commodity. Either of the big three will do.

Conclusions

What did we learn from the analysis? For one, the Hacker News community is vastly different from both Stack Overflow and Github. Notably, the Hacker News community appears much more interested in functional programming than either of the alternatives. In addition, frameworks such as TensorFlow and PyTorch have the majority of mind-share on Hacker News. Cloud providers are more-or-less commodities, with AWS taking the lead, but not a breakout winner by any means.

For those interested, it’s fairly easy to do this analysis yourself at hnprofile.com/compare and this comes as part of the base system for Metacortex – if you’re interested, reach out! We set this up for companies, self-hosted and just send the system your messages.

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