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I used to work in an office surrounded by a large team of programmers where we all used the same languages and had different expertises. Now that I am on my own forming a startup at home, my productivity is suffering because I miss having people I can talk to for specific help, inspiration and reality checks when working on a coding problem. I don't have access to business incubators or shared (co-working) office spaces for startups so I need to chat with people virtually.

Where can I go for real-time chat with other programmers and developers (currently I'm looking for people developing for the web, javascript and python) for live debugging and problem-solving of the tasks I am working on? And what other resources can I use to get fellow programmer support?

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Have you looked at StackOverflow's chat system, by chance? – Mason Wheeler Nov 18 '11 at 1:16

There are a variety of places you can go:

Stack Overflow

If you're looking for help with specific coding issues, there's no better place than our sister site, Stack Overflow. For most programming issues, and provided your question is clear enough, you'll generally receive an answer or get put on the right track within a few minutes. After an hour or so, you should have the correct answer.

Programmers.SE (here!)

If you're looking for help with designing a program, getting help with programmer-specific issues, and other, non-code type questions, Programmers.SE might be a great place to do that. While not as rapid as Stack Overflow, provided your question is on-topic you'll receive a number of responses within a day or so.

Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange chat

If a few minutes is too slow for you, or you want a bit of a back-and-forth with other programmers, you ought to tack a look at Stack Overflow's chat network and Programmers.SE's chat room. This is especially a good option if you like the Stack Exchange community, but you don't have a question that fits the Stack Exchange model.

Stack Overflow's rooms are generally pretty active; Programmers.SE's chat room is less active, but Stack Exchange designed a chat system in such a way that it's semi-realtime: you don't have to be in the room to get replies or read the transcript.

Quora and Slashdot

If you still have questions, but those questions aren't the best fit for the Stack Exchange model, you ought to consider Quora. It's a pretty decent alternative, especially for "quick hit"-type questions where you want to build lists of things or have other programmers opine about the general trends in the industry.

Additionally, Slashdot apparently allows poll-type questions via its "Ask Slashdot" feature (example). That might be a good way to find out what a guaranteed-technical audience thinks about a subject.

Reddit and Hacker News

If you're not really into the whole "I need to have a question to get other programmers to talk to me" thing, consider Reddit's Programming subreddit or Hacker News. Both are centered around news and programming stories instead of questions, and are much more casual places to get into off-topic comment threads.

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unfortunately Quora is by invitation only so as a loner it might be hard to get into – stijn Nov 22 '11 at 10:13

Look for a co-working environment in your area. These are typically small office setups where you rent desk space on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. They are setup typically for creative independent workers. It allows you to get that interaction with others that you would normally get in an office/team arrangement.

Here is a directory of co-working areas:

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Some ideas:

  • Look for local groups of specific languages (e.g., Python, Java, Ruby). Usually you can find those online (i.e., Google for "Python group NY"), and they tend to have regular meetings.
  • Look for local groups that do coding dojos and programming challenges. Again online is probably the easiest way to find some.
  • Attend some conferences related to the areas you are interested in, and keep the contact of people who live your city, so that you can plan a get together.
  • Check the local universities for groups of students working on related stuff.
  • Consider getting an internship/part-time job with a company related to your field (e.g., web development). This shouldn't take much of your time and it will allow you to get in touch with other programmers.
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If you're working with open-source products, many times the development teams will hang out in IRC channels. Check the "about" pages on the products you use. You could also browse the list of chat rooms on freenode (try irc:// Lots of open-source projects have chat rooms there.

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Would you recommend IRC for chatting about how to approach programming a certain task using a specific language in general rather than chatting about how to do something using a particular product or library? – Ryan Jarvis Nov 18 '11 at 17:56
Sure. I don't use IRC a whole lot, but I'm sure if you look a bit you'll find channels/rooms for discussing development in general. Just log on to a freenode server and see if there's a channel for your language of choice. – TMN Nov 18 '11 at 18:32 for help with specific coding problems or to check if you're heading in the right direction with your code, and for help with the bigger picture, such as design patterns, algorithms, development methodologies, etc

The chat system on both is also great for when you want to talk with someone about a subjective question

I use both sites frequently :)

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Hackerbuddy appears to be a network and help center with the goal of connecting developers with other like-minded developers who are willing to spend their free time helping you with either a problem or a project you are working on. Seems like a good way to get introduced to people who you then can talk to in real-time when the need arises.

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Twitter is a great tool for this sort of thing, if one can stand the crowds and the noise.

The main advantage is the scale -- you get a question out with the right hashtag on twitter and you've easily got tens of thousands of potential answers. The platform really shines for the "does anything exist to solve problem X" or "I need a library for Y" or "has anyone ever got error Z."

I would not argue it is good for specific help and advice on sensitive stuff, it is a bit public for that.

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I'm confused. Would you use Twitter to carry out a conversation or just as a way to broadcast your question to attract people who will then converse with you in some other medium (email, IM, etc.)? – Ryan Jarvis Nov 18 '11 at 17:41
Depends on question I'd think -- twitter definitely covers the broadcast angle, how you follow up really depends on how you want to handle it. You can work it both ways. – Wyatt Barnett Nov 18 '11 at 19:18
+1 this really depends on the community / platform you are reaching to. If you ask a generic jQuery question you will probably get tons of replies and lots of exposure. However, in my case, #zf or #symfony2 (both PHP frameworks) have a very active and quite responsible twitter following. You may get a few replies, and it's up to you whether or not you want to follow up either via replies or taking it elsewhere. It's good for getting a quick reply for a directional step. – Adrian Schneider Nov 18 '11 at 22:56

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