Sacha Greif: It’s very motivating to work on something that people care about, and the surveys are also a chance to have a (hopefully positive) impact on web development and work with a whole range of web technologies in the process. But beyond that, I do hope I can build a sustainable business around the surveys at some point in the future.
Tyson: Would you ever think of expanding to other languages and platforms for a State of Programming survey?
Greif: Yes, that’s definitely something we could do one day. Before that, State of React is probably the next one up on our list
Tyson: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much more effort has this project turned out to be than you thought?
Tyson: What about your team? How many people contribute to the “State of …” surveys? How can people get involved?
Greif: Today, the main team is myself and Eric Burel, and we then have contributors such as Lea Verou this year for the State of CSS survey design, Sarah Fossheim last year for accessibility work, Raphael Benitte for data visualization, etc. I wrote more about how people can contribute here.
Tyson: What do you like the best about working with the developer community?
Greif: The developer community may be huge, but doing these surveys gives me an excuse to interact with a lot of the people I look up to and learn from, which ends up making it feel pretty tight-knit. And conversely, the surveys also motivate others to reach out to me, which I always appreciate, as well.
Tyson: I’d like to ask about something you may or may not have an opinion on: What do you think about machine learning and AI code generation? Will these technologies make developers obsolete?
Greif: Regarding AI code generation, I don’t really have a strong opinion. It’s probably going to become one more reference tool like Stack Overflow. I don’t see how it could make developers obsolete because 1) you still need someone to write the original code the AI is using for its model, and 2) you still need someone to check that the code that the AI wrote works and does what you expect it to. At best you could argue that developers are going to become more like reviewers and be writing less of the code themselves. But, as someone who does a lot of open source, I can tell you that reviewing someone else’s code is actually often more work than writing your own from scratch.
Greif: Doing the surveys as one-off projects was already a big task, but what really required a huge effort was developing a reusable infrastructure to enable us to scale horizontally to more survey topics. Today we have two Next.js apps, two Node.js GraphQL APIs, a Gatsby codebase, and an Astro codebase, and they all have a specific role to play. So as you can imagine maintaining all that code can take up a lot of time.
But hopefully we can eventually reach a point where launching a new survey only requires work in terms of designing the survey and working on the data visualizations, and everything else—data collection, processing, etc.—just runs smoothly based off the work we’ve already done in the past. (Here’s more about how the State of JS/CSS surveys are run.)
Tyson: Yeah, it sounds like a lot of work in terms of both code and infrastructure. Can you talk a bit more about how things are architected?
Greif: The big differentiator between the “State of…” surveys and other more traditional surveys, at least technically speaking, is that all our data is made available through a live API instead of being compiled through one-off scripts.
This makes it possible for us to create things like the new Data Explorer or Chart Filters, where end users can dynamically pick which variables they want to compare and tweak existing charts to create new data visualizations, and hopefully generate new insights from our data.
Tyson: Are you using any edge or serverless deployments like Vercel? Any thoughts there?
Greif: We do use Vercel to host our survey-taking app but haven’t explored much beyond that.
Greif: I think there’s always an appetite for new projects that can learn from what previous frameworks have done and start fresh, taking all these lessons into account from the start. It happens all the time on the front end, so it makes sense that runtimes would eventually see the same kind of shakeup.
Tyson: What do you see happening in front-end development in 2023? Any major trends?
Tyson: I notice you studied Mandarin and now live in Japan. What’s it like living there?
Greif: I love Japan, and in terms of quality of life and environment, it’s a hard place to beat! But I do sometimes get a little bit jealous of the developer community that my peers in other parts of the world seem to enjoy, as it can get a bit lonely here. Still, I have more than enough work to keep me busy!
Tyson: Xie Xie, thanks so much, Sacha. Keep up the great work!
Greif: Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit more about my work! We definitely have a lot of exciting stuff planned for 2023. I encourage people to sign up for our mailing list so they don’t miss upcoming surveys and events!
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