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
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
    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
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
, 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
Incidentally, this year’s

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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