✍️ ‘Writing’ their legacy - How did Hashnode give a voice to the developer community

Through organic word of mouth and the reputation Hashnode had already in the community, it witnessed a growth curve that skyrocketed, literally.
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Priyanshu Anand
March 8, 2022

What’s better than one writer? Two writers!

We often underestimate the power of language. Language is a social necessity and human connections would simply perish without it. What’s even more mesmerizing is the ability to use language to its utmost deliverability. Why are we drawn towards eloquence? What is so undeniably unique about being articulate that just cannot be left unnoticed? We have an inexplicable attraction towards something that’s well-formulated and yet only a handful of us really go the distance to hone this craft. Conveying a message with elegance is an art that’s surreal and sublime at the same time.

Co-founders Sandeep Panda (left) and Syed Fazle Rahman (right) - source Inc42

This flair for writing is what drove the founders Sandeep Panda and Syed Fazle Rahman to start Devmag (now Hashnode) in 2015. Having graduated from IIT, both Sandeep and Fazle had an interest in educating and writing. They were active contributors to SitePoint - a website for publishing courses, articles, books, and tutorials for developers. In the process of getting involved more with their passion for writing, they realized that there wasn’t really a platform that was exclusively for the programming community.

“We graduated in 2013 and joined software development firms. We worked there for a couple of years before quitting and started pursuing our passion for technical writing and teaching developers new techniques, best practices, and so on. Both of us are published authors as well.” - Sandeep Panda (source)

Yes, there was Stackoverflow but that was way too specific for solving errors and target problems. Then there was Quora which was way too ‘generic’ in terms of answering subjective questions that developers might have. This led to the development of Devmag the early version of which was released in January 2015 to good reviews and responses from the developer community. They later launched it on ProductHunt in September 2015 and it went on to become the #4 Product of the day.

Launch of Devmag on ProductHunt

“When we say ‘Community for Developers’ people instantly imagine a Q&A platform. But in reality, developers don't want just Q&A. They like to gather, connect and share knowledge like everybody else,” said Sandeep in the Product launch, “Our goal is to create a friendly place for software developers where they can come, hang out and talk about programming.”

Communities come and go but theirs was here to stay

It wasn’t long before the founders understood that though Devmag was good, there was so much more they could do with this idea. Good things happen when you listen to your community. They got good feedback from some of their active users about what this idea stands for and how it can be improved. Devmag was rebranded to Hashnode in early 2016 and was launched as a platform not restricted to Q&As and something that can serve as a community helping developers connect and share knowledge.

Hashnode was relaunched on ProductHunt in February 2016, and as history would have it, it became the #4 Product of the Day again.

Launching Hashnode on ProductHunt

Over the course of the next year and a half, they continued growing the developer community. Hosting AMAs, writing articles, and maintaining an overall quality of discussions. Their art and storytelling were able to generate more than 10 million reads in 2017. But they didn’t want to lose themselves and the essence of what they started. Given the amount of traffic Hashnode was attracting, after mid-2017, their aim shifted towards retaining users instead of just acquiring them. After a lot of experiments and a whole lot of experiences later, the community was further innovated to offer content creators something more than just a discussion portal.

Communities will come and go. But I can assure you that this one is built to last forever - no matter what happens. This is because we thoroughly enjoy talking to you people and glad that we are able to contribute something to developers' lives. - Sandeep in a Q&A thread.

From epiphany to evolution

The founders learned a lot throughout 2018 and 2019 when they decided that Hashnode can be re-established as a blogging platform for content-driven developers. Hashnode was officially founded in June 2020 with all that it now stood for, while maintaining the assets that made Hashnode what it was at that point.

The premise? The founders saw that at the time there weren’t any services offering the developers enough legroom to tell the stories how they wanted to. There was Medium which was a globally recognized blogging platform but it wasn’t customizable and compromised SEO to offer better social media reach. And then there were customizable mediums with the element of SEO intact like WordPress or Ghost but they lacked the essence of an active community. Hashnode wanted to be something different, something that was meant only for the developer community.

Given how robust the idea was, the impact it had on the developers dire to have a platform dedicated for their niche was immediate. Through organic word of mouth and the reputation Hashnode had already in the community, it witnessed a growth curve that skyrocketed, literally.

What differentiated Hashnode was that it brings out the best in blogging by helping writers focus on writing however they want without losing SEO benefits while also offering customization features including custom domain names. Some of the standout features include:

  • Detailed analytics of your blogs.
  • Web monetization support to help writers earn a buck from their articles.
  • Bulk import feature that allows you to import articles from other platforms like Medium, Devto, and more.
  • Custom CSS to customize your blogs.
  • Ambassador program for those who invited developers to the Hashnode blog to get perks and privileges.

That same year in December, Hashnode raised their first round of seed funding of $2.1 million. Their recent funding was in August last year when they announced Series A for $6.7 million led by Accel ventures among other VCs while also including individual investors like AngelList’s Naval Ravikant.

By now Hashnode has grown 13x as compared to when it started out. At its foundation still was the idea that content ownership is paramount when it comes to sharing information on the internet. Top-notch developers from organizations like Netflix, Google, and Facebook (now Meta) not only used but trusted Hashnode as a platform for content creation. Oh, and did we mention the biggest catch? The blogging service is completely free for individual bloggers. So, not only do you get a completely customizable tool for hosting your blogs within minutes, but also it doesn’t cost you a penny.

When announcing their recent funding, Hashnode took to their blog to talk about their long-term vision. They believe that every developer-focused company should focus on three components: A tech blog, API documentation or knowledge base, and a developer community. As a broader part of their mission statement, they want to make the three components a lot more seamless and interconnected. They want to help companies run optimized developer communities on their custom domains. Hashnode aims to connect all these individual developer communities to a central community where anyone will be able to interact as long as they are a part of the platform.

Hashnode community dashboard

With all that being said, community isn’t just important for Hashnode but is fundamental to the identity of what Hashnode strives to achieve. Emphasis on the words ‘fundamental’ and ‘identity’ because the reason that it exists is built on the willingness to bring the developer community together.

Community is center-stage at Hashnode

I'll take this opportunity to thank our community members — without you, we wouldn’t even exist. You've proven that the tech community cares about content ownership and personal branding. Keep spreading the love. - Team Hashnode

Hashnode exemplifies community-led growth and poses a blueprint of how an organization should grow keeping communities at the forefront. Let’s see how they do it.

Dedicated Discord channel

A community of 6,500+ members engaging over anything and everything. There are channels for introductions, announcements, hackathons, bootcamps, and even memes. As a developer, you can get feedback about technical stuff, and as a writer, ask for feedback on your articles, and even brainstorm newer ideas in the community.

Co-founder Fazle’s announcement about an upgrade to Hashnode

Hashnode Townhall

Hashnode Townhall is the official blog of Hashnode. Everything from articles and product feature updates, to hackathons and news, are posted here.

Hashnode Townhall

Hashnode Sponsorship Program

Another cool thing is that Hashnode allows you to monetize your blogs without using ads. How? Hashnode Sponsor Program lets you get sponsored directly from your supporters who are willing to pay to see more of your content. This means that if you’re good enough, and if people appreciate you enough, you can get paid without having to sell half of your website to ads. 🤯

If you’re a reader and are want to help out or even encourage your favorite writers to keep doing what they’re doing, you can visit their profile and head over to the Sponsors tab to donate how much ever you want.

Help out a fellow author with the Sponsorship Program

Hackathons

These are huge within the Hashnode community. Each hackathon brings on new challenges, attractive prizes, and is often in collaboration with another platform which helps boost both brands’ reputations.

They recently had a hackathon in collaboration with the third web which is a web3 powered platform that helps users build apps. There were 5 grand prizes with $500 or worth gift card, an exclusive NFT and Hashnode Swag (T-shirts and mugs), and 10 runner-up prizes with $250 or worth gift cards, NFT, and Swag.

Eleftheria Batsou - Community Manager at Hashnode - announced the winners in their blog

Writing Bootcamps

Hashnode hosts technical writing Bootcamps which are crash courses to help you develop your skills as a writer in the tech space and start getting paid for it. And the best thing is that it’s free. During the two-week-long Bootcamp, you learn about the knowledge required to hone your technical writing skills.

The recent Bootcamp headlined 7 guest speakers who are critical members of the tech community, had 2500+ signups for the events, and hundreds who took on writing challenges to complete the Bootcamp.

Here’s the keynote kicking off the writing Bootcamp in September last year 👇

AMAs

Hashnode hosts Ask me anything sessions with industry leaders, seasoned entrepreneurs, and tech veterans who have dominated businesses in the long haul. These are Q&A-style AMAs hosted on Hashnode itself.

The recent one was with Arvind Kahl who was a founder of a tech start-up and also a published author of 2 books about bootstrapping a business and entrepreneurship. He was able to sell his business for a ‘life-changing’ amount of money and has ever since been an active advocate in the developer community.

If you start from scratch, you might want to start with a community. Not BUILDING a community, but participating in a community. The more specific you can get, the better. - Arvind during the AMA

Check out the AMA.

Building in public

Time and again it’s been proven that a ‘build in public’ approach to building businesses has worked wonders. When you’re building something for the people and then shaping it how the people want it, it helps build stronger bridges with them. Hashnode took a similar route and built their company's persona by crowdsourcing updates, ideas, and keeping a transparent roadmap.

Hashnode’s public roadmap
Feature requests from users

Hashnode Annual Tech Awards

To honor the community’s contribution to blogging and acknowledge those who have really gone the distance to write quality content, Hashnode hosts annual Tech awards. The aim is to reward some of the top-performing bloggers on the basis of views, proliferation, research, and even those who’ve read the most articles in the community. As a reward, they get custom Swag shipped directly to their doorstep. Now isn’t that cool.

Hashnode’s 2021 Tech awards

Occasional giveaways and spotlights

To keep the community engaged and happy, Hashnode does fun giveaways every now and then. These could be giveaways to top writers for a particular month, or for dedicated writers for a niche topic. They recently did a book giveaway for a book called the ‘Standout Developer’ which guides a developer looking to get hired for their dream job. Interestingly, the book is written by Randall Kanna, who is an active contributor to the dev community.

A recent giveaway in the developer community

Every week they have ‘Spotlight Tuesday’ which highlights the work of a writer in the community.

Building Hashnode for the people

As far as the future of Hashnode’s community is concerned, well, let’s just say that it’s the fuel that powers the company’s growth. Hashnode was built for the developer community so everything that it does is an ode to the community. Everything that it has accomplished has been for the betterment of the community, to give developers a well-needed platform to share their voice and be heard. Hashnode is an exquisite example of what communities can achieve if they’re nurtured in the right way. So much has been done and so much more yet to happen, but Hashnode seems to be handling themselves really well. Godspeed.

What the community has to say

When you start blogging, it's tough to bring readers to your blog. You might feel like you are blogging into a void because nobody reads your articles. With Hashnode, you have a tightly-knit community that reads and interacts with your articles,” says Catalin Pit, a software developer at Hashnode.

My experience with Hashnode has been excellent; The #2Articles1Week challenge motivated me to write consistently, I can customize the look of my blog, the community on discord is incredible, and the Hashnode team responds fast to complaints,” says Ayu Adiati, a self-taught programmer, “I use Hashnode because I can map my blog to my domain without worrying about security (SSH) and other things. All I need to do is write, and Hashnode takes care of the rest.”


To Summarize

What’s better than a writer? Two writers!

  • The founders’ penchant for writing and their contributions to developers through many publications.
  • Hopes to do something big, Sandeep and Fazle quit their corporate jobs to start Devmag, a Q&A platform for developers to share knowledge.
  • Launching an initial product on ProductHunt.

Communities come and go but theirs was here to stay

  • Building on the idea to further cover a wider aspect of the dev community.
  • Rebranding to Hashnode and relaunching on ProductHunt to good reviews.
  • The growth of Hashnode within the developer community, a lot of experiments, and a lot of experiences.

From epiphany to evolution

  • The realization that there wasn’t really a writing platform exactly appropriate for the developer community.
  • While there were platforms like Medium and WordPress, they still lacked certain factors that the developer community needed.
  • Hashnode was officially founded in 2020 as a blogging platform while keeping intact the essence of what they started with.
  • Raising seed funding of $2.1 million and then Series A for $6.7 million.
  • Seeing a 13x growth since inception.
  • Further development of the community.

Community is center-stage at Hashnode

  • A dedicated Discord channel - A space for everything Hashnode with 6,500+ members. Hackathons, Bootcamps, announcements, and just engagement with the developer community in terms of feedback and knowledge sharing.
  • Hashnode Townhall - The official blog of Hashnode.
  • Hashnode Sponsorship Program - A way to support the authors and keep them going.
  • Hackathons - Challenges for the community in collaboration with other platforms and attractive prizes.
  • Writing Bootcamps - Two-week-long technical writing Bootcamps to teach enthusiasts the skills necessary for becoming a technical writer.
  • AMAs - Ask me anything sessions with some of the more influential personas in the developers’ community.
  • Building in public - a public roadmap for feature requests and product updates.
  • Hashnode Annual Tech Awards - An yearly event that recognizes some of the biggest achievements of the writers within the community.
  • Occasional giveaways and spotlights - Swag giveaways and Twitter spotlight to outstanding writers.

Building Hashnode for the people

  • What has Hashnode accomplished in terms of community and what does the future hold?

What the community has to say

  • Developer communities take on what Hashnode is really like.

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