Freenode Year-End Weather Review and 2013 Forecast

##c, ##c++, ##java, ##javascript and almost all other channels named after an Algol-descended language remained strong in n00b angst and help-vampire congestion (strong counter example is #bash, see below), rendering them useless for anything other than observing flame wars amongst programming newbies arguing over terms they’ve only just discovered on Wikipedia. Expect no change in temperature or inclination for 2013, and as always prepare for flurries of students hoping to get their homework done for them throughout August, October, December, March and May.

#bash took first place for overall 24-hour activity within its stated zone in 2012 — quite an achievement. This was enabled by nothing more than the militant purism of its main participants who happen to actually know (most of) what they are talking about. The intensity of discussion in #bash is likely in increase over 2013 as realization dawns on more new *nix admins and even OS X users that their systems represent a complete programming environment. A corresponding increase in the volume of beginner reference links in-channel is likely — with an associated increase in RTFM calls directed at those who don’t read links or delivered by the less patient/coddling of the regulars.

#fedora, #ubuntu, #centos, and other distribution-named channels fell into two categories in 2012:

  1. overrun with help-vampires asking the same 3 new-release migration questions
  2. overwhelmed with utter silence

The channels #ubuntu and #centos took the first-place poo cake for overall deafening off-topic, RTFM-worthy and amateur architectural astronautic clamor while #archlinux, #gentoo and #fedora managed to achieve a much better signal-to-noise ratio, mostly due to a greater percentage of knowledgeable participants. Expect very little change in 2013 with the exception of #ubuntu and #fedora. The former may grow even worse as the population of those who don’t know any better flock to Ubuntu as Steam picks up, er, steam and the latter may grow gradually quieter as new changes implemented in Fedora 18 cause a probable nose-dive in that distribution’s popularity across the year.

#django was one of the strongest on-topic, 24-hour hour activity channels focused around getting actual work done, with the vast majority of interaction involving at least marginally researched questions and a great deal more courtesy than usual this millennium. This indicates that the Django project has likely reached its Goldilocks point as a project where it is just enough below the radar that the “new thing” from 1~2 years past is still soaking up the n00bs, b00bs and help-vampires (in this case, #RubyOnRails) and enough srsly gentlemen have noticed it to make it a usefully mainstream place to work. If no unexpected storms of blockbuster “Lern da Web wit Djago in 10 Dais!!1!” tutorials or books occur across YouTube and bookstores expect #django to experience only a slight increase in temperature and no bumpkin brain blizzards or humility hurricanes. The status of Django on Python3 is the most likely leading indicator of trouble here (see below).

#django-dev was boring and dead for the most part, aside from the occasional thin mist of packager discussion and “why doesn’t the TLS setting for mail mean real TLS on the correct port?” talk (nonsense!). Some rumblings of the impending Python3 reckoning could be heard, but were still far enough in the distance as to avoid a full-blown #fedora style storm in 2012. Expect this to change in 2013, as Python3 will finally give Django devs enough to talk about to wake kick them off of the ML and into IRC activity. The action is likely to be a bit below storm-strength due to the project’s (general) adherence to its own release guidelines, but may from time to time bear watching.

#RubyOnRails and related channels were clogged with help-vampires and n00bs in similar fashion to the Algol-language and distro channels. This has remained fairly steady since 2009 or so, with the effect being bolstered by the presence of all those people who gave up on mobile programming just before they might have actually figured out how native applications work. Save a major drive to some other fascinating technical mistake (“Web 3.0?” “cloud vX”?) that goes viral, the Rails community will likely continue to experience idiot floods and hails of stupidity through 2013. For the serious who are in need of actual relevant discussion, forums, IRL meetings with Real People You Know and project-specific channels for projects that happen to be built around Rails will be the only places to find it.

#guile managed a slight edge over both #lisp and #scheme last year in Occasional Wizardry, but the overall volume of discussion was far lower than either #lisp or #scheme — giving #guile the best signal-to-noise ratio anywhere but also rendering it an incredibly boring place to hang out on an average day (as in, #guile remains a statistical outlier, though an interesting one). It is uncertain whether the effects of a new project, a new major version or a new implementation of Guile, Scheme or Common Lisp will have any effect or even be noticed by anyone, anywhere, so a prediction for 2013 is beyond me. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone might eventually catch on that guile2 includes a webserver ready-made for scripting in a functional language (among other features), but the population of paren-loving teens is so low at the moment and the current infatuation with the Web and the Java religion of Absolutely Everything Must Be An Object (Amen) still so strong with the sort of computer science faculty that thinks that every student should get a gold sticker for showing up that it is hard to see if anything short of a viral breakout video complete with tits, violence and gore would be noticed.

#haskell took first prize in 2012 for overall, unadulterated, near-constant uber geekness and Deep Black Magic. Three factors influenced this strongly: the near exclusive population of serious math nerds who like to flaunt their grokness, the tendency of such people to never admit they don’t grok a mind-melting snippet in channel and instead boil in silence until something makes sense to them, and the tendency for newcomers to either struggle unflaggingly until they earn their place among the immortals or simply give up and never, ever venture into #haskell again. In this, the uniqueness of Haskell as a language serves a positive filtration role in the community much the way that the old “be smart or go home” sort of freshman math classes did back when it was OK to admit that computer science wasn’t for everybody. Expect very little change to this trend in 2013, though by the end of the year commercial projects using Haskell may be revealed as actually using Haskell, and this may drive a slight, temporary increase in interest.

#erlang was a bit like #haskell, but more average in every aspect: less magic, more noise, fewer quitters, more eternal (but not really annoying) n00bs. This is mostly due to the revelation among high schoolers and college language hipsters that Facebook uses Erlang for a smattering of projects that can’t afford downtime and how Erlang can cope with such requirements in a novel way. Other functional language channels generally fell into the pattern of the lisps and Haskell and Erlang, but these last two deserved particular mention. In 2013 Erlang stands a very small chance of sucking brains away from other interesting languages such as Lua and anything matching .*ML.*. In that case expect Erlang to eventually grow more like #bash in nature over 2013, with a particular threshold being crossed if #erlang itself becomes a bothersome place to hang out due to an excess of help-vampires and alternative Erlang-based project channels becoming the alternative arteries of community brilliance. Saving such a spontaneous increase in notoriety, however, #erlang is likely to follow or return to the majority patterns of 2012.

This has been the Freenode Year-End Weather Review and 2013 Forecast. All other networks either suck or were set up with specific crowds in mind (such as botnets).

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