How Software Developers Use Social Collaboration in the Agile Age
When talking about social media and development work, "I think it depends on how you categorize your social media sites," said Robert Treat, CEO of OmniTI, a Fulton, Md.-based development and consulting shop. "For things like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, those sites have replaced other sources as a traditional place to find out new information on industry trends, new papers being published, or new software releases. Occasionally, folks will also use those methods to post specific questions, but it is less common than you might think, primarily due to other, better options," Treat said. However, Treat told eWEEK, "The real darlings of social media and collaborative development for developers, especially in the context of those leveraging open-source code, are GitHub and Stack Overflow." "GitHub provides a means for collaborative code exchange, and Stack Overflow provides Q&A support around technical topics, and has a large archive of questions for people to search. I've definitely had developers mention that they will often turn to Google to search for answers to a problem, and many times they find that answer by way of Stack Overflow."Meanwhile, major vendors are applying social both to their products and incorporating it into their internal development environments. "The key in all of this is collaboration," Aaron Bjork, principal group manager of cloud development services at Microsoft, told eWEEK. "We make sure developers are connected to the people they need to be connected to to make good decisions, to write great code and continue to get their jobs done. We're spending a lot of time in the IDE as well as in our ALM toolset to make sure we're creating those collaboration points for developers very naturally." One of the social tools Microsoft's development organization uses is UserVoice, which provides organizations with insight into what their customers are saying about their product. "We use tools like UserVoice to really get a sense for what we need to go do next and what customers are telling us their pain points are," Bjork said. "UserVoice gives me this place where I can at-a-glance focus on what should be at the top of my backlog. That has become a really important channel."
Yet this should not be seen as a knock on the traditional means of collaborative development such as email lists and Internet Relay Chat rooms, Treat said. "These are still wildly popular, and for focused topical discussion I think they still beat other forms of communication. The conversational nature of both forms and the ability to easily include code examples really helps foster development."