New State Of Coldfusion Union Survey Disappoints Programmers

Michael Smith has blogged his thoughts about the state of the CF union survey results. As might be expected from Michael, it’s a bit of a “warm fuzzy” reading of the results and a couple of commenters there cautioned against reading too much into the results given the very small number of respondents (compared to the known size of the CF user base).

I’ve been watching the survey results with interest so I figured it was time to post my thoughts.

First off, the survey sample is very small. 730 respondents. That’s less than 0.1% of all CFers. Second, this represents primarily the CFers that could be reached by a conference organization and blogs / Twitter. That means that it is a distorted sample that by definition leans toward those folks most active and most likely to be either more experienced CFers or those trying to expand their skillset.

That all said, let’s take a look at the numbers…

Many people are using more than one engine or more than one version of CF. The vast majority are using CF8 and nearly half are already using CF9. Given our sample, that’s not surprising (nor that nearly a quarter of respondents are using Railo). We’d expect this group of respondents to be more leading edge than the vast majority of CFers. I would hazard a guess that a much larger percentage of the total CF population are still on earlier versions than the survey would indicate. Still, the numbers are encouraging.

Framework usage is still relatively low, even in this ‘leading edge’ sample with Fusebox out in front at 35% (not surprising – it’s been around the longest) and Model-Glue and ColdBox almost tied for second place at around 15%. I’m very pleased to see FW/1 at nearly 11% but, realistically, that just serves to underline how unrepresentative the survey results are (I’d love to be able to extrapolate that 70,000 CFers were using FW/1 but that would be somewhat at odds with the 2,000+ downloads from RIAForge! 🙂

The vast majority of respondents (nearly 80%) have been using CFML for over six years. Almost no one has been using it for less than two years. We could conclude that almost no one is picking up CFML as a new language (“OMG! ColdFusion is dead… again!”) or that, once again, the survey didn’t reach a useful segment of the CF population. After all, Evans Data Corporation’s (EDC) number indicate that the number of CFers has doubled over the last few years which means by definition about half of all CFers must have used CFML for less than two years!

Mind you, even amongst the bleeding edge, long-time CFers in the survey, still only 25% have used OO for six years or more. That’s very telling (and disappointing, in my opinion). Michael’s warm fuzzy take was “over 90% use object orientation”… get real, dude!

The multi-lingual aspect (another warm fuzzy from Michael) is also questionable. Yes, about a third of this small, leading edge group of CFers use Flex. That should not be a surprise. Nor that a third use Java and/or PHP (with about 20% using .NET). A small percentage claimed experience with other ‘hot’ web languages. I wouldn’t really call the majority of CFers multi-lingual, let alone “heavily multilingual” (per Michael).

No surprise on the DB question: SQL Server and MySQL were far and away the most popular (two thirds using MySQL was higher than I expected tho’).

Whilst SVN is popular (just over 60%), it was indeed a shock that nearly a quarter of users do not use a source code control tool (sorry, zipping up folders is not version control!). And this is amongst the top 0.1% of all CFers…

On User Groups, Michael again went for a warm fuzzy (“Two thirds of developer attend a local user group some of the time”) when the reality is that over a third never attend and over half attend at most once a year (no doubt when Ben or Adam roll through town). Less than a quarter of this leading edge sample of developers attend more than half a dozen times a year! Boy, are you folks missing out on great opportunities for networking and learning with almost no cost to yourselves!

Finally, on top challenges, I guess it’s no surprise that we’re all a bit overwhelmed with “too much work, too little time” as the #1 issue (nearly two thirds). Nearly half of us don’t like other people’s code(!) and almost a third find learning each new version of ColdFusion to be their biggest challenge. Nearly a quarter say their biggest challenges are crashing servers and/or security problems. That should definitely concern us.

So, overall, a fun and interesting set of results that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I do think a couple of the answers should ring alarm bells given the sample likely represents the leading edge of our community.

I’m very disappointed that the survey didn’t reach a larger audience and cover a lot more new-to-CFML developers but that seems to be a hard group to reach.

What do you think about the survey?


By Sean Corfield

Sean is currently Chief Technology Officer for Railo Technologies US. He has worked in IT for over twenty five years, starting out writing database systems and compilers then moving into mobile telecoms and finally into web development in 1997. Along the way, he worked on the ISO and ANSI C++ Standards committees for eight years and is a staunch advocate of software standards and best practice. Sean has championed and contributed to a number of CFML frameworks and was lead developer on Fusebox for two years.

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