Blockchain Developer Community: How to Use GitHub to Gain Insights for Your Project

Blockchain Developer Community: How to Use GitHub to Gain Insights for Your Project

by Sebastian Schuhl

The importance of community for any crypto project is critical. A powerful response from token holders can turn even a poor idea into a blazing success. Likewise, the best ideas can wither away and die if they don’t attract a following. Thus, knowing where to find your audience is one of the first steps for captivating a thriving community. The next step is retaining them; and GitHub is a great place to do just that.

As it’s still very early days in the crypto scene, many early adopters are also often the very builders of the next wave of Internet products. Developers are often hanging out on Reddit, and a handful of Discord, Riot, or even Telegram channels. But more often than not, they are combing through a project’s code or following up on new releases at GitHub.

Getting on GitHub

In an earlier post characterizing the demographics of the ideal user, we looked into where exactly a project is likely to find their investors. Understanding how hobbyists are navigating the space, as well as venture capitalists, day traders, and developers play a huge role in how you plan to reach prospective users. In an ideal situation, these early investors will end up sticking with you through thick and thin. This groundwork is crucial from day one.

The world’s leading software development platform, GitHub, likely won’t attract day traders or hobbyists, however. Hedge funds, even those doing their homework, are sometimes found on the site, but certainly less likely to be actively contributing to a code base. For developers, however,  this is their bread and butter.

As of October 2018, GitHub boasted 31 million users with the greatest density of users in North America, Eastern Europe, and Australia. Since being acquired by Microsoft in October 2018, GitHub’s brand has entered the mainstream. Some shrugged at the move, but the overall impact was a net positive.

Those who left the platform citing the end of days mapped out a network of competitors for audiences to follow along. Sites like Bitbucket, GitLab, and SourceForge, for instance, may also yield results for gathering an audience around your project. Keeping tabs on all active Git repositories is an excellent way to get a feel for a project’s developer community.

A heat map of global users on GitHub.   ( Source :  Wikimedia )

A heat map of global users on GitHub.

(Source: Wikimedia)

Using GitHub to measure the viability of a project is helpful for a number of reasons. If the average cost of a blockchain developer in the United States is roughly $100,000, then their time is worth quite a bit. So, when a project has a lot of activity on GitHub, this means that a relatively expensive workforce is contributing to the project.

If this same workforce is actively contributing, then observers can also conclude that the project is unlikely to be an exit scam. This data indicates that the team is relatively well-organized, and at least a handful of clever developers believe deeply in the project’s merits.

For the uninitiated, activity on GitHub is defined by “commits” and the number of contributors. Commits are slight changes or revisions to code that are saved and can later be reviewed by other contributors. Having more contributors actively tinkering with a project’s code means the quality of the code will be much higher as there are more individuals scanning for errors. Plus, with multiple hands on deck, a project is far less likely to die off.

It goes without saying that a blockchain’s code needs to be strong before it will attract a knowledgeable developer community.

For a better example of how to think about this activity, CryptoMiso has designed a visualization of GitHub activity for crypto projects. The chart below represents the top ten blockchains based on developer commit history for the past 12 months. You’ll certainly recognize a few names, while others may be complete newcomers.

Developer Activity: What to Watch for

Number of commits over the course of 12 months.   (Source:  CryptoMiso )

Number of commits over the course of 12 months.

(Source: CryptoMiso)

The absence of Bitcoin and the inclusion of something called aelf should jump out immediately. Has the number one cryptocurrency finally been shoved aside for a decentralized cloud computing platform? Not exactly.

Closer inspection of the commit history, number of contributors, as well as the number of watchers explains everything. Also, the data only shows activity for the past 12 months, not the decade long journey that Bitcoin has endured.

For starters, aelf only has 22 contributors to the project. While the CryptoMiso visualization has a cap at +100 contributors for Bitcoin, GitHub reveals the exact figure to be a whopping 605. Second, in its two years of existence, aelf has had roughly 6,000 commits to its code. Bitcoin, on the other hand, boasts nearly 20,000 commits.

As a side note, projects that fork off from another project will also inherit all of its commits and contributors. This means that projects like Bitcoin Cash, for instance, will display a ton of developer activity over a longer time horizon simply because they used much of the code from Bitcoin.

These points are just cursory ways for separating the quality projects from the spam. Diving deep into the nature of contributions is the next logical, albeit more opaque, step. For now, consider the lifespan of a blockchain, how many contributors are working on it, and whether or not this work is highly concentrated over a series of weeks, months, or years.  

Developer Community

So why are we talking about all of this at UFOstart? It’s because we have learned that community is absolutely crucial from a Marketing perspective if you’re acting in a global, decentralized world. And the developer community plays a key role in establishing a healthy and loyal fan base of your project.

Concluding, it’s not difficult to look under the hood and figure out who is helping build your cryptocurrency vision. Information about developers and their contributions to your project can be distilled and analyzed with just a few simple pointers. From the CryptoMiso visualization, it may appear that projects like Insolar, aelf, or NULS have a much stronger developer community than either Bitcoin or Ethereum to the non-critical eye.

Thus taking seriously the activity on your GitHub page can be critical in grabbing other developers attention. With the right mix of technical interest and community support, you soon could be bringing on more contributors than investors, which in the beginning, will pay massive dividends down the road.

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