TLDR: Eight years is a very long time to dedicate to something volunteer-based. Though it wasn't a constant 24/7 thing, I've been actively involved in maintaining and monitoring a single chatroom on the internet since 2015, and I'm tired. I think it's time to open the space to new voices and concepts, so I'm shutting Denver Devs down on March 31st.
Denver Devs has made it through three presidents.
React was on v0.13 when we started.
Slack was (publicly) two years old when I booted up a server on it.
Honestly, I've been riding the peaks and valleys of Denver Devs burnout for a few years, probably closer to four years. In that time, I've entered strong phases of "I can't anymore" to "Heck yeah, let's keep pushing through" — each time, the peaks don't rise up quite as high as there's a gradual energy decay. The ball has stopped bouncing.
Naturally, priorities shift over eight years. I was new to development and Denver when I started Denver Devs - bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and full of energy. My main priority was chatting online with my friends and having fun!
At the time, we had a great group of people excited to get together over drinks or at meetups and conferences. As the years passed, that same group shifted their priorities, too. Starting families, moving away, and going further up in their jobs where chatting about the latest framework isn't as important anymore. I've felt that shift in my life.
I don't have as much fun as I used to in Denver Devs. I don't want to spend what free time I do have during the day monitoring a chat room. I totally understand some people do, but it's not for me anymore. My lack of enthusiasm and spirit has also started seeping into my decisions in Denver Devs, and I don't think that's a good thing.
Managing an almost-entirely online community is... rough. It's not as rewarding as a meetup or conference, where you get to see people's faces and interact on that same in-person level. Instead, you get an avatar, a nickname, and an online persona. Some days it can be downright exhausting and borderline dehumanizing. Being threatened for kicking someone out of Discord or berated by adults for banning them is just... not worth it.
I know I could put in the effort to make Denver Devs more of a hybrid community again: bridging the gap between online and in-person. But truthfully: I don't feel that aligns with what Denver Devs is to most people now. It's a space to watch a job board. A space to chat with a handful of regulars. A space to lurk and wonder, "what are these folks going on about?" I've tried over the years to inject new life into it, through events, through moving to Discord, and I can still see the energy slowly drifting off of it. Maybe that's my own lack of enthusiasm tinting my view, but the numbers are also there. We've been slowly declining in various activity metrics since around 2018, but it's still weird to watch.
Will I hand over the reins or shut it down?
This question alone has probably been what's kept me from taking any action for years. I think I've finally reached a resolution I feel comfortable with, one that might not sit well with too many folks, but it's time to shut it down.
Why? It's a decision that definitely has some selfish undertones. I've spent eight years making a thing, and to hand it over to someone and say, "go ahead and do what you want with it," feels... incredibly weird. It's not like a company where I knew an exit like that would be the end goal. I'm afraid if I handed it over to someone else, it'd take me a really long time to feel actually detached. I'd worry and wonder about it. I don't want to wonder and worry about it anymore. Like I said before: I'm tired.
Additionally, possibly more importantly, I can't think of anyone I'd feel comfortable handing it over to. I've met many great folks over the years, but none I would want to burden with this.
Lastly, I'd love to see other spaces pop up in the void left by Denver Devs—ones with different vibes and different leaders. I'm not saying Denver Devs is the penultimate community for developers in Denver, but it's been such a mainstay that folks might think, "why should I start something of my own when that already exists?"
There needs to be new energy injected into the developer community of Denver. I know it's out there. Feel free to reach out if you're interested and want to talk shop about my experiences.
What about Denver Tech Social Club? Why is that different?
Of course, as I'm writing this little blog, I think of my latest endeavor in community building for Denver, the Denver Tech Social Club.
Creating Denver Tech Social Club (a little idea I had bouncing around in my head for a few years now) may have been that final siphon of energy that pulled my spirit away from Denver Devs. Maybe it's a "the grass is greener" scenario, but I don't think so.
It shares similarities: it exists in Discord and is related to technology in Denver. But the differences are enough to make it feel like something else: it's also on Meetup, and the core ethos isn't giving developers a place to chat about the latest framework. The core ethos is to provide the tools and space to encourage folks to get together in person. I've also focused on approaching conversations there with as much positivity and understanding as possible, a behavior that's hard to do on Denver Devs sometimes.
Maybe you've reached this point, and now you're thinking, "Hey, wait a second, this was just a sneaky plug for his new thing!" sure, it is a little bit, but I'm not viewing DTSC as a liferaft for the sinking ship of Denver Devs. Maybe a few folks will pop over to it, but I hope something else comes up — or multiple somethings.
Maybe some regulars will boot up their own server on Discord, or some lurkers will get excited and make their version of Denver Devs or the social club. Maybe folks will spread out to the other fantastic communities that exist out there in the space and inject some new life into them.
I'll let Denver Devs wind down over the course of March; in that time, I'll unlock auto-mod so that folks can promote their new servers and things in the General channel. The Denver Devs website will remain a holding page directing folks to other spaces.
It's been fun, Denver Devs, but I'd like to go offline now. I'll still have a Discord for Denver Tech Social club, so feel free to add me there. Or email me at [email protected] (or hell, let's exchange numbers and text each other, maybe go grab a beer sometime?)
(steady breaths, Dan, you can hit publish on this one...)