Developers to begin with tend to be introverted. They would rather stay home and be behind the keyboard than behind a cocktail glass at some sort of mixer. There are tech sites like Stack Overflow and IRC chat channels that allow them to share tech knowledge without the necessity of human interaction. In the realm of the developer, World of Warcraft replaces the golf course and often it’s more about the game than the code.
As mentioned in the Ben Mezrich book The Accidental Billionaires, the role of the developer in the startup is marginalized. I explored some of this in the Guitarists with Mystique. Some developers don’t want the spotlight, others don’t know how to deal with it. Either way, if the developer does not believe that they would be properly compensated, why would they want to keep other programmers around to refer to other such poor positions.
There is also a level of competition between developers. In addition to competing for contracts and jobs, there is a matter of pride about number of lines coded (whether it’s if they wrote thousands of lines of code or they did something in the fewest lines of code), the speed of execution and other technical milestones that would only appeal to other coders. Competition for the most part does not breed camaraderie. It causes friction amongst developers and ultimately does not lead to long term relationships.
There are user groups around New York City for the different coding languages, but they do not draw many people. While the New York Tech Meetup sells over 700 seats each month, the PHP New York Meetup group hasn’t had a meeting since November 2009 and couldn’t bring in 50 people. The monthly iPhone Meetup group averages about 100 people signing up per meeting, but there are many more than 100 iPhone developers in New York City, and with mobile development in such high demand (which also draws headhunters to this meeting), they still are not all drawn to a communal place like a meeting like this.
There may be other reasons why developers do not network, but these have been the main ones from my experience. I’m sure their are others, from the developer’s fashion choices to culinary interests, and if there are other reasons that you think I’ve left out, please let me know below.