How one developer got the Internet to watch people code

Alexander Putilin is building a search engine from scratch, and you can watch.

While Twitch TV is generally used for livestreaming gameplay, Putilin has other plans for the platform. Putilin and his girlfriend are using Twitch to build a community of software developers and students who broadcast complex floating point operations and algorithm design to the rest of the world. The game these people are “playing”? Coding.

You might immediately be wondering: Who would want to watch someone write code in real time? Plenty of people, it turns out. Putilin set up a subreddit to rally support for his livestream-your-code community (WatchPeopleCode), and members chimed in with a host of helpful answers:

“[I’m] learning different languages through osmosis because I’m too lazy to study.”

“I like to see the tools they are using and how they use them.”

“I want to see what people do to write more efficiently.”

“[I] want to see what best practices, technologies people are using. [I] want to get better.”

The WatchPeopleCode subreddit.

The WatchPeopleCode subreddit.

Screenshot

“Three months ago, I started streaming my efforts to build a search engine,” Putilin told Daily Dot. “A month ago, I started the subreddit to get a community around the idea, and then my girlfriend developed software that shows all the current streams on one page and integrated it with the subreddit.”

Livestreaming is “a straightforward way to share knowledge and talk about work,” said Putilin. But the reasons people are using and watching WatchPeopleCode vary. Whatever the motivation, he says “it seems like they love it.” Since being featured on Product Hunt a few weeks ago, the site has gained major popularity and moved from subreddit project into the mainstream Internet. Stream views are climbing as more and more people log on to catch the action. 

WatchPeopleCode

The community is responding and growing alongside its newfound popularity. WatchPeopleCode is now facilitating live hackathons (there was one this weekend), enabling programmers to meet and collaborate with people that they’d otherwise never be able to. “I hope it’s going to be a fun event because viewers will get to see how a project unfolds from scratch,” said Putilin. There are plans for other events in the future, and even a community-sponsored podcast that users organically created, a pleasant surprise for Putilin.

While Putilin is thrilled by the success of WatchPeopleCode, he has other things to work on: Remember that search engine? The former Yandex employee says he wants to build something “that is able to search a moderately large subreddit (like /r/learnprogramming), and rank results non-trivially.” Then he wants to amp it up to outdo Reddit’s own search functionality: “Reddit search is far from being good, and people are often frustrated with it. So beating Reddit in search sounds like a fun challenge to me.”

Lucky for us, we can watch him do it. 

Photo via  Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Dylan Love

Dylan Love

Dylan Love is an editorial consultant and journalist whose reporting interests include emergent technology, digital media, and Russian language and culture. He is a former staff writer for the Daily Dot, and his work has been published by Business Insider, International Business Times, Men's Journal, and the Next Web.