We have services like GitHub to help us grab the framework once we make a decision. Sites like Stack Overflow for when we run into an issue using it. But before we head over to GitHub, before we need Stack Overflow, there’s the all important question of “what should I use?"
And right now, trying to get an answer to that question online is pretty hit-or-miss. Ask Google and you'll see whichever framework has better SEO. Search HackerNews, you'll see lively discussions, likely from when the frameworks first launched. If you're lucky, you have a friend who has used one, maybe two of the frameworks. They’ll likely recommend the one they prefer. You trust your friend so you go with that. And that works great, until you ask your friend about Rails profilers and they look at you with a blank stare.
I started Leanstack in May of last year because I wished there was a site where I could see all the best options for dev tools with feedback from other developers. We've made some great progress towards that vision with Leanstack.
Today, I’m happy to announce we're taking the next major step and relaunching as StackShare, the best place to learn about app development and cloud infrastructure tools and services.
After spending a lot of time listening to feedback from developers who used Leanstack, talking to software providers, and analyzing our metrics, one thing is still very clear: we have a long way to go before software truly eats software development.
Many people are still confused about the difference between IaaS and PaaS; and it's not their fault. This stuff is confusing and choosing the wrong solution can have serious financial implications.
Leanstack was a great directory, and it did one thing very well: organized all the tools and services you should know about. It was highly-curated, updated weekly, and people loved it. If Leanstack was all about the tools and services, StackShare is all about giving these tools and services context.
Knowing about the latest app hosting service is pretty useless if you don’t know about what else is out there and how this new service fits into your current setup.
It’s no longer about the shiny new tools. Almost anything you can think of is either being offered as a service or as an open source project. The real challenge is figuring out which solutions to use and how to stitch them all together to help you build better apps, infrastructure, and improve workflows. It's more about the combinations of tools you use than any one single piece.
The best source of knowledge on how to combine these pieces is other people who are doing the same thing. When it comes to software, the best thing you can do to help someone (assuming they have similar needs and constraints), is tell them what you use and why. When they do the same, you both learn from each other. Maybe you agree with their decisions, maybe not. But more often than not, you learn something new. And that's the experience we want to create on StackShare.
Our goal is to create the world's best medium for developers to learn about software tools and services from each other. Our grand vision is to change the way all developers discover and decide on software.
And now, for the good stuff!
Our number one priority with the new site was to improve the experience for you, our users. We focused on the most requested features first and foremost, and then added a few things we think you’ll like.
Create a stack
This was the single most requested feature. You can now create a stack page for your company, personal apps, or anything else you want.
A stack is just a collection of tools and services. Some of our freelance beta testers have been using stacks as a list to send their clients options for services that they should consider. It’s an easy way to help someone get up to speed on a tool or service without having to explain anything. Just send them a link to a stack page and you're done.
Similar to GitHub, any stack that is not a Company stack, lives at your /username URL, while company stacks live at /company_name/stack_name. Individuals and companies can have as many stacks as they'd like.
We also got requests from developers who built a lot of one-off projects and got tired of explaining what they used every time someone asked. They wanted a GitHub badge they could add to their README, that linked to a stack page. So we’ve added that; create a stack page and you’ll see a big GitHub button that reveals a cool little Tech Stack badge.
Also, since a lot of people were curious, we’ve now listed our stack: StackShare’s Stack.
P.S. Large startups/companies and software vendors, you can now claim your stack or service and get a nifty little "Verified” badge.
This is the core of what we believe StackShare will become: the place for you to talk about how you built a specific application, piece of infrastructure, or workflow. There’s a description field for every tool/service you add to your stack (Markdown supported). This gives you one place to explain why or how you used a tool for that stack. People can then comment and ask you questions about a specific tool you’re using for your stack (more on that later).
You can still leave one-off reviews on any service or tool, if you'd like (and of course a one-liner). But telling people you love/hate GitHub is much more useful when they can see how you're using it and what else you're using along with it. "Are you using GitHub Issues? Why not? Did you know you can close Issues with commits?" Those are the tiny gems we want to help surface, that can ultimately help you work smarter.
You can now leave comments and comment replies on any review. You can also comment on stack detail items. So if you want to ask someone why they chose a specific analytics tool for their mobile app, go for it. You can also upvote comments. Oh, and they're Markdown supported of course. We'll be watching discussions closely and adding them to other parts of the site soon.
The Full Stack
Another repeated request was adding the full software tech stack. Leanstack was all-cloud everything and only listed hosted services for quite a while. You may have noticed we started adding open source tools a few months ago. We’ve now added all the major languages, frameworks, databases, and select libraries. We still have a lot to go, but we think what we've added so far is a good starting point. If there’s anything we haven’t added to the site that you are using, just add it as a new service when you create a stack and we’ll see it and approve it.
Your profile is now the center of the universe (for you). It has all the content you've ever contributed: a list of stacks, one-liners, votes, reviews, and favorites. What are favorites? Thought you'd never ask!
Every time someone said me they *think* they found out about a service through Leanstack, the conversation would usually end with them suggesting we add a favorites button so they could stop bookmarking all the stuff they see in Leanstack Weekly. So you can now favorite any service, or stack. It's saved to a list, viewable on your profile.
People love leaderboards. We've been reluctant to build anything like this because we didn't think it would be particularly useful in the context of dev tools. The new Trending page only came about once we realized that there was a ton of really useful content and knowledge scattered throughout the site, yet it was really hard to find. So this is really just a gateway to the rest of the site.
When it comes to tools, it's useful to see what's popular at the moment. The software industry moves really fast, it’s easy to fall behind. But it's just as important to see what has been popular over time. Those solutions tend to be battle-tested. So the new Trending page is our attempt to introduce some more balance.
Go to the Trending page if you want to see what other people have been viewing/favoriting/commenting on in the past day or see what's been added recently. We'll be tweaking the ranking algorithm as we learn what works and what doesn't. The rest of the site will continue to be ranked by popularity_all_time.
More Category Pages
We put a lot of thought into the taxonomy on Leanstack. We were pretty strict about which services or tools went into which group. Even though they had a one-to-many relationship, in practice we always kept it one-to-one so groups didn't end up being useless tags. We also believed you should only be comparing apples to apples. Up until now, each service was is one group and to see anything else you had to go back to one massive categories page. There are now three distinct levels of groups, with the big one being Layers: Application and Data, Utilities, DevOps, and Business Tools. To keep things simple, we defer to linking to the four Layers whenever possible so you know where in the stack you are. There's a floating "Stack Navigator” on almost every page of the site.
A lot of people asked how we knew what companies were using. So we've added two things: 1) Source Links and References - Wikipedia-style citations that link to engineering blog posts, slidedecks, and other material. 2) Verified Badges - founders, engineers, and product managers that joined Leanstack and added their stack are now referenced on their respective stack pages. We'll be adding a ton of verified stacks in the coming weeks as companies claim their pages and update their toolsets.
Leanstack was a pain to use on your mobile device, since there was only a desktop view. We’ve fixed that and made the entire site responsive. So StackShare looks great on desktop, tablet, or mobile phone!
Last, but not least there's the new StackShare Digest. Leanstack Weekly is now at 5k subscribers, and growing by the day. It's not going anywhere, but it is changing a bit.
First, it will now include the top Trending Stacks and Tools/Services. Second, anyone who is a StackShare user (or was a Leanstack user) will now get a special section in their weekly newsletter that includes some cool things specific to their account. You can think of it as a personalized Leanstack Weekly. It will still have all the stuff you're used to, so you won't miss anything.
We hope you like StackShare, please send any and all feedback my way: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to help change the way developers discover and decide on software tools, drop me a note, we’ll be hiring soon :)
Founder & CEO
P.S. New Tech Stack Interview next week!