Advent of Code: Most Popular Languages

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You might have heard of the Advent of Code, a 25-day challenge involving a programming puzzle a day, to be solved with the language of your choice. I’ve noted the popularity of this activity in my Twitter timeline but also in my GitHub timeline where I’ve seen the creation of a few advent-of-code or so repositories.

If I were to participate one year, I’d probably use R. Jenny Bryan’s tweet above inspired me to try and gauge the popularity of languages used in the Advent of Code. To do that, in this post, I shall use the search endpoint of GitHub V3 API to identify Advent of Code 2018 repos.

Searching repositories on GitHub

Study design 😉

GitHub’s V3 API offers a search endpoint, that however gives you less results than doing the same search via the web interface, even when using pagination right (or at least, when believing I use pagination right!). I’m however willing to use that sub-sample as basis for my study of language popularity. It’s actually a sub-sub-sample, since I’m only looking at Advent of code projects published on GitHub.

In order to circumvent the sub-sub-sampling a bit, I’ll do the search in two steps:

  • Searching for Advent of code 2018 in general among repos, and extracting the language of the repos.

  • Searching for Advent of code 2018 for each of these languages separately and extracting the total count of hits.

Note that I am not filtering the repos by activity, so some of them could very well have been created for a few days only. If they are empty though, they do not get assigned a language.

Regarding the language of repos, GitHub assigns a language to each repository. This information can be wrong, which is e.g. mentioned in rOpenSci’s development guide. Furthermore, my using this piece of information means I’m disregarding the fact that some people actually use a mix of technologies to solve the puzzles.

Actual queries

I first defined a function to search the API whilst respecting the rate limiting. I even erred on the side of caution and queried very slowly.

.search <- function(page){
  gh::gh("GET /search/repositories",
         q = "adventofcode 2018",
         page = page,
         fork = FALSE)

search <- ratelimitr::limit_rate(.search,
                                ratelimitr::rate(10, 60))

I then wrote two other functions to help me rectangle the API output for each repository.

empty_null <- function(x){

rectangle <- function(item){
  tibble::tibble(full_name = item$full_name,
                 language = empty_null(item$language))

I created a function putting these two pieces together.

get_page <- function(page){
  results <- try(search(page), silent = TRUE)

  # an early return
  if(inherits(results, "try-error")){


And I then ran the following pipeline.

total_count <- search(1)$total_count
pages <- 1:(ceiling(total_count/100))

results <- purrr::map_df(pages, get_page)
results <- unique(results)

languages <- unique(results$language)
languages <- languages[languages != ""]

This got me 814 repos, with 46 non empty languages. Repo names are quite varied: rdmueller/aoc-2018, petertseng/adventofcode-rb-2018, NiXXeD/adventofcode, Arxcis/adventofcode2018, Stupremee/adventofcode-2018, phaazon/advent-of-code-2k18.

With that information obtained, I was able to run a query by language.

.get_one_language_count <- function(language){
  gh::gh("GET /search/repositories",
         q = glue::glue("adventofcode 2018&language:{language}"),
         fork = FALSE)$total_count -> count
  tibble::tibble(language = language,
                 count = count)

get_one_language_count <- ratelimitr::limit_rate(.get_one_language_count,
                                 ratelimitr::rate(10, 60))

counts <- purrr::map_df(languages,

In total, the counts table contains information about 2080 repositories, a bit less than half the number of Advent of code 2018 repositories I’d find via the web interface.

Advent of Code’s languages popularity

I’ll concentrate on the 15 most popular languages in the sample, which automatically excludes R with… 8 repositories only.


counts %>%
  dplyr::arrange(- count) %>%
  head(n = 15) %>%
  dplyr::mutate(language = reorder(language, count))   %>%
  ggplot() +
  geom_lollipop(aes(language, count),
                size = 2, col = "salmon") +
  hrbrthemes::theme_ipsum(base_size = 16,
                          axis_title_size = 16) +
  coord_flip() +
  ggtitle("Advent of Code Languages",
          subtitle = "Among a sample of GitHub repositories, with language information from GitHub linguist")

popularity of languages

The results are not surprising after reading e.g. the insights from Stack Overflow’s 2018 survey, although the Python domination is crazy! I find interesting to reflect on the fact that Jenny Bryan says that the challenge is best for C or C++, that are not the most popular languages in these samples… but still more popular than R, ok.


In this post I used GitHub V3 API to get a glimpse at the popularity of languages used to solve the Advent of Code. Further work could include looking at the completion of the challenge by language, potentially using the GitHub activity of each repo as an (imperfect) proxy.

I do not take part in the challenge myself, my principal Advent’s specific activity being instead the lazy and delightful watching of the Swedish TV channel SVT Adventskalender for kids. Incidentally, this year’s storyline includes a Christmas competition, which however features competitive eating of saffron buns and gingerhouse building rather than programming puzzles… Do you participate to Advent of Code this year? If so, with which language and why?

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