DeveloperWorks provides a platform to learn and share tech know-how on a wide range of topics

This Facebook-like platform for software developers has it all — status updates, space to share gyaan on technology and code, pictures, videos, how-to articles and reams of resources and codes related to various technologies. Centred around open source technology, DeveloperWorks is a geek-friendly marriage between social networking sites and a large Wikipedia-like knowledge repository, hosted by global open source firm IBM.

Not restricting itself to IBM's developer products or other technological offerings, it provides developers with a platform to interact, learn and share tech know-how on a wide range of topics. So developers round the world log on, share what they know and learn from the community, or let's say benefit from the wisdom of the ‘crowd'.

The topics discussed range from basic industry-standard technologies such as XML, Linux, Wireless or Grid, to newer and ever-evolving technologies such as cloud-based technologies or mobile app development. As far as IBM is concerned, the idea is to increase technological awareness in the community, and provide a forum for individual developers to step up and upgrade their skill-sets to meet the ever-evolving demands of the technological industry.

Indian users

Indian IT professionals, who are in dire need of such platforms, comprise 17 per cent of the eight million user profiles on DeveloperWorks. They account for around 10 per cent of the traffic in terms of unique visitors to this platform.

IBM's Country Manager, Career Education, Academic Initiative, DeveloperWorks and Globalisation, Himanshu Goyal, says that there are an estimated 2.1 million-odd developers in India. “This is a social-technical collaborative network for like-minded individuals.”

Last year, IBM gave it a makeover and relaunched it in its new Web 2.0 avatar. This captured the imagination of young developers. Goyal explains that the average user profile is that of a seasoned professional with more than three to seven years experience. “Those are the people who find this network useful. For, they need to know about system integration and heterogeneous environment configuration.”

For instance, one of the tech topics on which IBM has consciously sought to build a repository is the emerging ‘cloud' and related infrastructure, technology and application development. Goyal points out that being an evolving field there is little know-how on ‘cloud' among the larger tech community. “What we wanted to do is to put a lot of content out there, sourced both from IBM and outside. Right from the basic definition of a ‘cloud' to how to go about building applications, we and the community built content from the scratch. This is immensely helpful for professionals.”

And to gauge the response of the community, the company conducts periodical surveys. The latest DeveloperWorks survey (conducted from July to September 2010) found that 91 per cent of IT professionals on their network believe that cloud computing will overtake on-premise computing as the primary way organisations acquire IT over the next five years. Mobile and cloud computing are followed by social media, business analytics and industry-specific technologies as the hottest IT career opportunities beginning in 2011, developers felt. Goyal explains that based on this survey, DeveloperWorks repositions its content to be able to cater to the evolving needs of this community. The survey also found that the community believes that the demand for developers to create applications for handheld devices like the iPhone and Android, and tablet PCs such as iPad and PlayBook (rather than traditional computers that power businesses today) will soar.

Entrepreneurs are quickly building mobile-based businesses in their garages, and the VC community is now investing more money into the mobile space. The stakes are high for both the IT industry and the future workforce, and as the economy rebounds, the opportunities will be out there for those who get ready to take advantage of it, Goyal believes.

Online/offline

In India, IBM's approach has been slightly different. Given that online groups are not as all-pervasive here, even amongst the tech community, in the way it is abroad, the firm organises several offline events. “We do a lot of ground events in metros and tier-II cities across the country. We call it an ‘unconference' where we declare a topic to developers in the city and we go there with our experts and get them to share their thoughts and know-how in a collaborative manner.”