Every year, GitHub publishes a “State of the Octoverse” report. Every year, the report yields fresh and important insights about where developers are, what they care about, how they work, and where the developer trends are going. This year’s report is no exception.

In an increasingly technology-driven world, developers are the most important people (or persona) to understand, because they are the builders and kingmakers of technology. That’s why I wrote a four-part series last year on these developers’ Global by Nature characteristics. That’s also why I dove deep into the 2020 State of the Octoverse report earlier this year to see “Where Will the Next 50 Million Developers Come From?

This post is a continuation of this developer-focused exploration, where I share my top 3 takeaways from the 2021 State of the Octoverse report.

(Disclaimer: views expressed in this post and elsewhere on Interconnected are all personal opinions. They do not represent GitHub, which happens to be my employer at the time of this writing. I also did not participate in the research or production of the 2021 State of the Octoverse report.)

The Million-Plus Developers Club

The big headline of Octoverse 2021 is GitHub reaching 73 million developers on its platform worldwide. The more interesting number is the market-by-market, location-by-location breakdown of where these developers are coming from. It is the first time this report published these raw user numbers. (In last year’s report, the comparison was a ranking based on percentages of open source contribution, e.g. by the year 2020, the percentage of open source contribution from the US was 22.7%, followed by China’s 9.76% and India’s 5.2%.)

From these raw numbers emerge what I call the “Million-Plus Developers Club”, i.e. countries that have produced more than 1 million developers who are using GitHub. Here’s a list of the “club members” and their developer numbers:

  1. United States: 13,551,846
  2. People’s Republic of China: 7,555,311
  3. India: 7,210,455
  4. Brazil: 2,369,096
  5. United Kingdom: 2,276,780
  6. Russia Federation: 1,981,853
  7. Germany: 1,929,413
  8. Japan: 1,747,877
  9. Canada: 1,636,278
  10. Indonesia: 1,629,831
  11. France: 1,541,090
  12. South Korea: 1,239,541

Below is the Octoverse 2021 graphic (can be easily mistaken for a piece of abstract art)  illustrating this global distribution of developers with the apt anchor tag “#future”.

Source: https://octoverse.github.com/#future

There are a couple of points worth unpacking from this list. First, there is a large separation of developer numbers between the top 3 countries -- the US, China, India -- and the other countries. They are the “Elite 3”.

Second, while we can interpret most of the “club members” as simply having large populations, some of them are punching above their demographic weight. South Korea is one example, ranking #28 in total population worldwide but has more than 1.2 million developers. Canada is even more so, ranking #39 in total population but has more than 1.6 million developers. On the other hand, Indonesia, whose presence on this list may surprise some readers, already ranks #4 in total population.

P0: Innovation and Global Collaboration

Interconnected with the increasingly global distribution of developers is these developers’ desire to innovate via global-scale collaboration -- a hallmark of the open source development model. This insight may feel intuitive, but Octoverse 2021 backed it up with survey data that included 38,000 developers. More than 25,000 of the surveyed developers essentially indicated the “ability to innovate and tinker” and “global collaboration” as both top priorities, thus the “P0” designation.

(For readers who don’t work in the enterprise software industry, P0 is an often-used notation that signifies “top priority”, whether it's a technical issue, customer request, or user feedback. In computer science, counting begins with 0, not 1.)

Source: https://octoverse.github.com/policy/

Putting the best minds around the world together to collaborate and innovate may seem like a no-brainer, especially given the maturing model of open source, but geopolitics can get in the way. For developers who live in countries that have an uneasy relationship with the West, not being able to access open source technology and collaborate with other developers is a common fear and concern. Thus, surfacing the issue of wanting more “global collaboration” is both a desire for the future and reaction to the present.

One of the top five issues surfaced in this survey is:

Government investment in and contribution to open source projects.

Implicit in this issue is a call to governments and policymakers around the world to better understand and participate in open source, not stand in its way, either intentionally or inadvertently. Frustrating the organic global scale of open source collaboration will only frustrate the most productive and innovative people of these countries -- their developers.

Documentation (Finally) Elevated

Good documentation in technology is often undervalued, and the technical writers who write them are usually underappreciated. Octoverse 2021 is finally highlighting the value of documentation front and center.

The fastest way to accelerate innovation and progress is to build on top of the work of others. Based on the data gathered in Octoverse 2021, developers see a 50% productivity boost when they have easy-to-source documentation to work with. This takeaway is applicable whether we are talking about open source work or proprietary work within a company or a research lab. That’s because just sharing the code is not enough, not even close. Code is unusable if there's nothing to explain how and why it works, as well as what larger purpose it is supposed to serve. That’s where good documentation comes in.

Well-written and well-structured documentation also scales well globally. Regardless of where a developer comes from, her first stop is the documentation page. If the page is clear enough for her to learn and try your technology, you’ve won. If the page is terribly written or constructed, she will bounce and you’ve likely lost her forever. That’s why the most common advice I give to early-stage startup teams is to focus on building your documentation just as much as your codebase. (If you need a 101 on how to write good documentation, see my previous writing on opensource.com.)

Source: https://octoverse.github.com/creating-documentation/#docs-for-productivity-and-culture

As Octoverse 2021 succinctly summarized, high-quality documentation is a win-win proposition. That means innovation not only requires more developers who can write in computer languages, but also more technical writers who can write in human languages to explain what the developers are building -- globally.

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GitHub每年都会发布一份 "State of the Octoverse" 报告。每年,该报告都会分享与开发者有关的各种新信息和简介,如全球开发者的来源、他们关心的问题、他们的工作方式以及开发者趋势的走向。今年的报告也不例外。





Octoverse 2021的大头条是GitHub平台上的开发者人数达到7300万,但更耐人寻味的数字是每个市场、每个地点的具体开发者人数。这是该报告首次公布这些用户数字(在去年的报告中,比较的是基于开源贡献百分比的排名。例如,直到2020年,来自美国的开源贡献百分比为22.7%,其次是中国的9.76%和印度的5.2%)。

从这些开发者人数中,诞生了我个人命名的 "百万以上的开发者俱乐部",即那些产生了100万以上使用GitHub的开发者的国家。以下是 "俱乐部成员" 的名单和他们的开发者人数:

  1. 美国:13,551,846
  2. 中华人民共和国:7,555,311
  3. 印度:7,210,455
  4. 巴西:2,369,096
  5. 英国:2,276,780
  6. 俄罗斯: 1,981,853
  7. 德国:1,929,413
  8. 日本:1,747,877
  9. 加拿大: 1,636,278
  10. 印度尼西亚:1,629,831
  11. 法国:1,541,090
  12. 韩国:1,239,541

下面是Octoverse 2021用的图(很容易被误认为是一幅抽象派艺术品),来显示全球开发者的分布,并附有恰当的网站锚定标签 "#future"。

来源: https://octoverse.github.com/#future

从这份名单中,有两点值得解读。首先,前三名国家 —— 美国、中国、印度 —— 和其他国家之间的差距巨大,它们该被视为是 "顶级三国"。

第二,虽然可以把大多数 "俱乐部成员" 的上榜理由理解为拥有庞大的人口,但其中一些国家的发展速度超过了其人口规模。韩国就是一个例子,在总人口的全球排名是第28位,但拥有超过120万的开发者。加拿大更是如此,在总人口中排名第39位,但拥有超过160万的开发者。另外,印尼的上榜可能使一些读者惊讶,但它的总人口已经在全球排第4位了。


与开发者的全球化分布紧密相联的是,这些开发者对利用全球范围的合作来创新的期望 —— 这也是开源开发模式的一个标志。这一见解看似很显而易见,但Octoverse 2021通过一项包括了38000名开发者的调查,得到了数据,来支持这一观点。超过25000名接受调查的开发者表示 "创新与迭代的能力" 和 "全球合作" 都是他们最在乎的事项,因此被称为 "P0"。

(这边顺便帮不在 toB 企业软件行业工作的读者科普一下,P0是个行业内经常使用的符号,表示 "优先级最高",无论是技术问题、客户要求、还是用户反馈。在计算机科学中,计数从0开始,而不是1。)

来源: https://octoverse.github.com/policy/

将世界各地最优秀的人才聚集在一起合作和创新,似乎是个很顺理成章的事情,尤其考虑到开源模式已经很成熟。但是,地缘政治关系可能会变成一种阻碍。对于那些生活在与西方国家关系不和的国家的开发者来说,有一天无法访问开源技术、与其他开发者合作是一种常见的恐惧和担忧。因此,调查中开发者们对希望有更多 "全球合作" 的表态,既是对未来的期望,也是对现状的反应。



这个问题隐含着另一个呼吁,即是渴望全世界的各国政府和政策制定者们更好地理解和参与开源,而不是有意或无意地阻碍它。阻挠全球规模的开源合作模式,只会妨碍这些国家中最有生产力和创新力的人群 —— 它们的开发者。


好的技术文档往往被低估,而编写文档的technical writers通常不受重视。Octoverse 2021终于强调了文档的价值,将其升级到了中心关注点。

加快创新和进步的最快方式是建立在他人的成就之上。根据Octoverse 2021中收集的数据,当开发者能得到易用的文档时,他们的生产力会提高50%。无论是开源还是公司或实验室内部的闭源开发,都是如此。这是因为仅仅分享源代码是不够的,远远不够。如果没有任何东西来解释它是如何、又为什么能发挥作用,以及它的存在背后更大的目标和意义,那这代码是没法用的。这就是好文档的作用。


来源: https://octoverse.github.com/creating-documentation/#docs-for-productivity-and-culture

正如Octoverse 2021的简洁总结所说,高质量的文档是双赢的。这就意味着创新不仅需要更多能写计算机语言的开发者,还需要更多能写人类语言的技术写作人员,来解释全球开发者们正在构建、创新的东西。