Every year, programming help site StackOverflow conducts a large-scale survey of its community, which includes just about every developer and code-user on the web. The 2019 survey, which got nearly 90,000 responses, asked a couple of questions about blockchain technology.
StackOverflow releases a summary with bar-graph breakdowns of answers to each question (here’s a link to the blockchain section). But StackOverflow has also released the raw survey results, giving us an opportunity to dig further into the data and do some analysis of the blockchain “camps” in the developer community.
One question is particularly interesting. Respondents were asked: Blockchain / cryptocurrency technology is primarily:
Useful across many domains and could change many aspects of our lives
Useful for decentralized currency (i.e., Bitcoin)
Useful for immutable record keeping outside of currency
A passing fad
An irresponsible use of resources
From these five answers, we can break respondents into two broad categories: people who primarily see blockchain positively (answers 1-3), and people who primarily see it negatively (answers 4 and 5). About 60,000 people in total answered this question, and 40,716 people fell into the “blockchain positive” group while 19,449 fell into the “blockchain negative” group.
Analyzing the other answers of these two groups, we found some notable differences. Of course, even though this survey had a huge sample size, some of these differences could still be the result of random chance. As you’ll see, many of these factors are interrelated so it’s difficult to say conclusively that any one answer is affected by another.
We found that blockchain-negative developers tended to be slightly older than other respondents. Both survey respondents overall and our blockchain-positive group had mean ages of 30 years old, but blockchain-negative devs had a mean age of 31.6. This difference was also reflected in other areas. For example, blockchain-negative devs were more likely to be employed full-time and more likely to hold postgraduate degrees than blockchain-positive devs. Blockchain-positive devs were almost twice as likely to answer that they were students.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the apparent age difference, the blockchain-negative group also reports making more money. They reported a median salary of US$71,166, compared to a median salary of US$56,110 for the blockchain-positive group.
Blockchain-positive devs had a slightly higher male-to-female ratio (93% male to 5.7% female) than blockchain-negative devs (90.8% to 7%), although the survey’s overall demographics are similarly skewed. Interestingly, though, blockchain-negative devs were much more likely to identify as ethnically white (80.1%) than blockchain-positive devs (63.4%) and survey respondents overall (66.4%).
This may be related to geography: Devs based in India made up 10.4% of the blockchain-positive group, but just 3.4% of the blockchain negative group. This difference is even more pronounced if we zoom in on the most blockchain-positive single answer: More than 14% of the devs who answered that blockchain is useful across many domains and could change many aspects of our lives are based in India.
Devs in India also made up roughly 10% of survey respondents overall, though, so this doesn’t necessarily mean than Indian devs are especially excited about blockchain. Rather, the data seems to suggest that fewer Indian devs than you might expect based on the overall survey demographics are pessimistic about blockchain.
While the StackOverflow survey didn’t focus on personality or psychology, it did ask one interesting question that touches on both: Do you think people born today will have a better life than their parents?
About 63% of survey respondents overall answered “yes,” but blockchain-positive devs were optimistic at a slightly higher rate: 68%. Devs who gave the most optimistic blockchain answer (“Useful across many domains and could change many aspects of our lives”) were even more optimistic, answering yes at a rate of 71%.
Blockchain-negative devs, on the other hand, were significantly more pessimistic, with only 55% answering yes. Devs who answered that they see blockchain as primarily irresponsible due to resource-consumption were even bleaker: Just 50% of them expect today’s children will have a better life than their parents.
In terms of their social habits, most everybody loves Reddit — that was the most popular social media platform among both groups. But after that, tastes diverge: blockchain-positive devs’ top three social platforms were Reddit, Youtube, and Whatsapp, while blockchain-negative devs chose Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook.
Who’s working on blockchain?
As you would expect, blockchain-positive devs are more likely to work at companies that are working on blockchain-related projects. 29.7% of them said that their companies were doing something related to blockchain or cryptocurrency, whereas just 11% of blockchain-negative devs work at companies engaged in blockchain projects.
Of course, that means that plenty of blockchain-negative devs are also working on blockchain projects. In fact, according to the StackOverflow data, 72 unlucky developers are blockchain-negative but working for companies engaged in developing their own cryptocurrencies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these folks were 2.3 times more likely than the average survey respondent to say they were "very dissatisfied" with their job.
Why should we care about how the developer community sees blockchain technology? The answer is simple: Developers and tech workers are the ones building today’s blockchain projects as well as other technologies that will intersect with these projects. So if, for example, India has a higher proportion of developers who are really enthusiastic about blockchain — which seems to be the case — that could affect how blockchain’s future plays out.