The weird and surprising Stack Overflow Survey

Every year, StackOverflow surveys its users in search of dying languages and future trends. And, every year, tons of developers find themselves annoyed, surprised, and horrified by the goldmine of odd results.

Over half of developers have a standing desk?



The 2018 edition is no different—let’s take a look!

Open source is surprisingly popular

43.6% of developers contribute to some open source project, which is surprisingly high. One clarification, which perhaps StackOverflow might introduce in a future survey, would be to ask whether open source contributions are part of their day job activities or as part of a hobby. It seems like certain kinds of developers are more open source-friendly, too.

Involvement in open source varies with language. Over 70% of developers who work with Rust, Julia, and Clojure contribute to open source, while less than 40% of developers who work with VBA, VB.NET, and C# do so.

Most people are new to coding

Most of the respondents have only been coding for 3-5 years, and a whopping 30.1% have only coded professionally for 0-2 years. Strong signals all around that the developer workforce is still surprisingly new, and that there’s plenty of opportunity for those who haven’t yet joined the fray.

Self-teaching is nearly universal

86.7% of the respondents answered in the affirmative to the prompt: “Taught yourself a new language, framework, or tool without taking a formal course.” That figure is nearly identical for those who identify as professional developers. For anyone out there who’s wondering about the value of teaching themselves a new language versus spending money on a course or a book, there’s some pretty solid evidence that the former will work out just fine.

Developers don’t like kids (or are, maybe, just too young for that kind of thing)

71.1% percent of survey respondents don’t have children or other dependents, and, unsurprisingly, the older they get, the more like they are to have some kiddos around.

Web technologies are most popular

JavaScript, HTML, and CSS take the top “Programming, Scripting, and Markup Languages” positions at 69.8%, 68.5%, and 65.1%, respectively. StackOverflow says that’s the sixth year of JS reigning supreme.

Things could be changing, however, in the years to come:

For the sixth year in a row, JavaScript is the most commonly used programming language. Python has risen in the ranks, surpassing C# this year, much like it surpassed PHP last year. Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language.

Developers love Rust, hate Visual Basic, and crave Python

Much of the desire for Python is driven by the wider machine learning and artificial trends, plus specific libraries like TensorFlow. Rust, the “safe, concurrent, practical language” sponsored by Mozilla, is surprisingly well-loved by those who use it regularly. Does that mean that you should flock toward it? Well, average salaries for Rust developers in the U.S. comes in at $105,000, well behind Erlang at $115,000, and taking a very middle-of-the-road spot overall.

44.3% of those who use HTML regularly also feel dread when moving around divs all day, but that’s far better than CoffeeScript (82.7%). Remember CoffeeScript? I’ve tried to block it from my memory.

Not sure which code editor to use? Just join the Visual Studio Code bandwagon

You can spend years finding just the right code editor, or you can just go Visual Studio Code—that’s what most developers are doing right now, anyway. Notepad++ and Sublime Text are not far behind (34.2% and 28.9%, respectively, against 34.9%), but Visual Studio Code jumped from fifth to first place in a single year. That’s an impressive

I’ve been a pretty dedicated Sublime Text user over the last few years, with Atom taking some of my prose writing responsibilities, but, sarcasm aside, this result finally inspired me to give Visual Studio Code a try. I had no idea it could handle version control directly inside the app—that’s pretty awesome. It just might be enough to convince me to switch over. Being free and open source is always a plus.

Or, channel your inner sysadmin with vim

A whopping 40.1% of sysadmins/DevOps specialists use vim on the regular. Needing a text editor while SSH-ing into a remote server probably has something to do with it.

Developers have pretty good ethical boundaries!

When posed with a hypothetical situation where they are asked to write code for a product or purpose that they consider clearly unethical, over half of our respondents say that they would not write such code. Ethical situations can be complicated, and about another third say that it would depend on the situation.

Good job, everybody. Nearly 80% of respondents also said that, as developers, they have a responsibility to think objectively about the code they’re being asked to write. Given the volume of stories we hear about tech companies engaging in less-than-ethical activities, you have to wonder how this number translates to the real world.

In the end, don’t get too excited (or jealous, or upset, or annoyed, or offended)

Remember: StackOverflow is just one sliver of the developer community. Not everyone uses it regularly, and even fewer would be willing to fill out a survey.

Just because you see that your language is falling in both likeability and salary (sorry, PHP), it doesn’t mean you should jump ship, quit your job, and start hacking away in Kotlin. Development languages and tools come and go in highly-unpredictable waves—remember CoffeeScript?—so unless you’re still spending your workweek buried in Visual Basic 6 code, you’re probably doing just fine.

Instead, think about this survey as a place to gather ideas about where you could take your own development future. Maybe that means installing Visual Studio Code for the first time. Maybe that means finally diving into Python and TensorFlow. Or, just maybe, you’re finally feeling inspired to go out and buy that second monitor.

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