Developer relations is the combination of activities, programs and tactics to get developers using or developing for your organization’s product or ecosystem. The goal of a good developer relations team is often to make your organization’s product or ecosystem the first choice for developers. (You may be doing this just to sell more of your product or you may be doing this because you believe your product’s mission helps make the world a better place. You are still trying to get more developers using your product.)
What’s the goal of a good developer relations plan?
Your developer relations plan needs a goal that you can focus on. You need to be able to measure the results of your activities so that you know what you should do more of and what you can do less of.
Some potential goals for a good developer relations plan might include: (Some of these by Patrick Chanezon.)
Increasing the adoption of your organization’s product. Example: more people using Firefox.
Providing an opportunity for developers to profit. Example: an app store for developers to list their applications.
Growing the number of people that benefit. Example: training companies, consultants, app providers.
Reducing the cost and risk of using your product.
Increasing the percentage of developers that are developing only or mostly for your product.
Increasing the network effects in your ecosystem.
Decreasing the cost of adopting your platform or increasing the cost of leaving your platform.
Creating an environment where developers just assume they’ll use your platform.
Encouraging third party tools, trainers and consultants for your platform.
Creating a community of volunteer advocates.
Some developer relations groups also act against the competition. I don’t think that’s a long term strategy. Your product and ecosystem have to be good.
What are the stages of a developer relations audience?
You can move from one stage to the other using many different techniques. Breaking down the stages a bit further, you can map how specific evangelism activities like blogging or talking, might take you from one to the other.
Who should you have on your developer relations team?
While we usually talk about developer relations as teams, we also need to look at their functions. While each team has a primary function, functions are often shared between teams. Mozilla has outreach and content teams. Google is also organized this way, as presented in a talk by Patrick Chanezon.
Outreach. Creating awareness of the product or ecosystem among developers. Most outreach efforts include evangelists. These are people that go out and speak, engage with others, teach enough to get people started, write blog posts, let large numbers of people involved. They are typically most involved in the outreach and awareness part of the program.
Content. This includes tutorials, documentation and examples. Making sure that developers that are interested in the platform have the materials they need to learn it. This team should include technical writers, educational experts and programmers. These are the people that are most involved in the online training part of your program. They write documentation that lets people learn how to use the technology. Sometimes they write the examples. Sometimes they create training or online tutorials.
Support. When developers start using your product, they will need people to help answer their technical questions or help resolve the bugs they find. This team usually consists of support engineers. They are around to answer questions, help people get going, create code examples. Often when bootstrapping, this function comes from the evangelists but it’s really a different type of personality and role. This team is most likely to provide valuable feedback to the product teams.
There’s another couple of roles worth calling out.
Program managers. A successful developer relations program often relies on programs. These might be things like a world wide community run, simultaneous events or a “free phones for apps” program.
Key stories/participants/case studies. These are people that have a story that successfully highlight what you are trying to do. And, while they might not be evangelists, they are competent spokespeople. You talk about them, point people at them, highlight them, enable them to tell their story and help them spread it.
Event managers/coordinators. Smaller groups might have several volunteers. Larger organizations might have lots of volunteer meetup or hackathon organizers and maybe even a paid staff team to support them.
Community management. Whether or not you have an official community manager, there are probably numerous people helping out with “community management” whether it’s onboarding new contributors, reviewing patches or answering questions on the mailing list.
What are the key components? What types of tools and projects are useful?
It’s useful to first look at your project’s strengths. Do you have a large community? Strong contributors? A highly followed blog? A strong culture of global meetups? A clear brand?
Some of the projects and tools you might consider are:
Programs that support your goals. For example, Mozilla ran Phones for Apps.
Messages/materials. Developer relations can either include product marketing and press or work closely with those teams to develop messaging and materials that support the goals and the audience.
Events. Events can include everything from monthly meetups to hackfests to large annual conferences. Many teams often divide events into the organization’s events, sponsoring others events and sending speakers to events.
Training. As people join your ecosystem or start using your product, they are more likely to stay if they can get the training they want. Cloud Foundry has “dojos” – a place at several member organizations where interested developers can go train with a more experienced member for six weeks.
Examples. A key component of learning is being able to see how something is done and copy it. At Mozilla we created Demo Studio to allow people to share and build on others work on the web.
Documentation. Documentation is key to a project for two key reasons. One is discoverability and the other is learning and support.
Contributors. Depending on the type of product or organization you are supporting, you may want programs in place to specifically support contributors. This may be as simple as swag or as involved as official titles and budget for programs and travel for them.
Feedback mechanisms. An important part of many developer relations teams is providing feedback mechanisms for users to give feedback to the product teams. It helps to put into place objective tools and mechanisms for this.
QA forums. Question and answer forums like StackOverflow have become critical to how developers expect to find help when they are working. Having a standard place where your experts will be will help.
Membership. Often membership can support the different groups you want to grow. You can have users groups, contributor groups, advocacy. You can use titles, mailing list membership, swag and travel funds to distinguish and reward them.
Discussion. A place where people can come and chat and “hang out” with your community is important. Q&A forums often give them answers but not a sense of belonging. Also discussion groups are often an easier way for really new users to get started.
Advocates. Recognize our key advocates and give them a megaphone. Connect them with the press and speaking opportunities.
What does your Developer Relations plan and group look like? What would you add to create your ideal plan?
The best jobs in life are not the easiest ones. The best jobs are the most meaningful ones. They challenge you – and make the most of your skills. The best jobs give you a chance to make a difference in the world. (And often great jobs also involve working with awesome people that also motivated by making a difference.)
Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.
– Harvard Business Review
I’ve seen a trend in how people talk about vacations. Actually, maybe it’s not a trend as I’ve heard it for the past 20 years. People want to go on vacation and sit at the beach. Lie at the beach. In the sun. Doing nothing but reading. Relaxing.
Now, I love reading. Not in the sun, but I do love reading. I could probably spend a whole vacation, a week, several weeks, maybe even months, just reading.
But the best vacations I’ve had are the ones in which you try new things, are challenged in new ways and succeed. Sailing in the BVI, as the person in charge for the first time, was way more fun than any day I ever spent at the beach. (And, to be sure, I’ve found plenty of friends willing to go on these fun and challenging vacations!)
Same goes with work. You could probably pay me a lot of money to do nothing very challenging. Every time I see what someone pays to sit in business class, I think you could pay me that amount to not sit in business class! Just think, you pay $5,000 for business class on a 10 hour flight. For $500/hour, I’d happily sit in an economy seat! I can’t sleep, but I could read my book or talk to my neighbor. Things I’m happy to do for $500/hour. But it wouldn’t be a very rewarding job. I wouldn’t feel like I had accomplished anything (other than earning $5,000!) I wouldn’t feel like I had used any special skills or learned any new talents or made a difference in the world.
Now imagine a job where you had a meaningful challenge. A purpose like making sure the next billion people coming online have the ability to create their own content. Or a purpose like making sure people creating the apps of the future could focus on their apps instead of the infrastructure. That would be a meaningful challenge. And if you were doing it well – especially if you were doing it well with people that were equally motivated and fun to work with – you’d be having fun.
So next time you see someone having fun at work and you feel a little jealous, ask yourself:
Have you ever suffered from impostor syndrome? Most of us can relate to it. And it’s more prone during certain times of your life, like new jobs.
Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. – From Wikipedia
Having recently started a new job, I thought I’d make a list of the signs that you are suffering from impostor syndrome:
Not accepting praise. Usually when someone says you did a great job, you should say “thank you” not “but I goofed here and I could have done better here.” My performance in my OSCON talk was not as good as my CiviCRM keynote, but I should still accept the nice comments people say. And my OSCON talk was better in many ways – like working with someone else.
Announcing your mistakes or shortcomings. Telling everyone what you don’t know. There’s a lot of technologies in Cloud Foundry! I’m learning them. Just please don’t ask me any detailed questions about exactly how scheduling works.
Being afraid of making mistakes. Everyone is afraid of making mistakes but you find yourself going out of your way to avoid situations that might put you on the spot. You hesitate just a moment before stepping up – a moment you don’t normally hesitate in.
Feeling stupid. Not asking questions you have for fear of looking stupid. I’ve got lots of questions. I’ve asked about 90% of them. I’ve also asked some of them twice – the key is just to ask the same question of different people in hopes that somebody will answer it in a way you understand. That’s a trick I learned in karate. We would take turns pairing up with everyone in class. Eventually someone would explain the move to me in a way that just clicked with me.
Writing lots, publishing nothing. Because nothing is good enough to you. I’ve got a book’s worth of blog posts at this point. Should make life easier later.
Feeling uncertain in other parts of your life where you know you are competent but suddenly you are doubting yourself. Seriously, we’ve had a boat for over 10 years and I suddenly couldn’t get it started last weekend. Luckily for me and my 8yo, I did know how to use the trolling motor (or rather together we figured it out) so we weren’t stuck in the middle of the lake.
Researching and writing about the impostor syndrome.
How do you know when you are suffering from impostor syndrome?
When you hear that a 13 year old, black girl is giving a keynote at OSCON, what do you think?
Wow, she must be a child prodigy, what did she do?
Who are her parents?
She got that keynote because she’s a 13 year old, black, girl.
I’ve heard all three options and a few in between.
The truth is that Keila Banks is pretty awesome. She’s an accomplished blogger/technologist and her 10 minute keynote (to a 4,000 person audience!), “The Undefinable Me”, is well worth watching.
And Keila’s parents are pretty awesome too. They have given Keila lots of support and encouragement as she explores the opportunities around her. They are as inspirational to me as a parent as Keila is.
I was standing on stage last week when I realized that the words out of my mouth were in direct contradiction to advice I normally give. Nothing like having a couple hundred people and a video camera staring at you as you try to figure out what you really mean.
Just do it
In the past, I’ve pointed out that it’s really hard for people to make their first contribution. Think back to that very first time you posted to a mailing list or newsgroup. It was a bit intimidating. You don’t know how many people will read it. You don’t know how people will respond. And it will be public forever. That’s pretty intimidating.
So I urge that you just have to do it. And community managers and mentors need to help people to Just Do It.
Make it Count
And then last week, I said first impressions count. So make sure your first point is one you want people to remember you by. And in the context of my talk, I said you should especially pay attention to first impressions if you are in the minority. Do you want to be remembered for that crazy red shirt? Or for the great question you asked about the target audience that started an awesome debate?
When I first started at GNOME, they added me to Planet GNOME and my very first post was about traveling alone. I wish I could take that back. It’s not a bad post. It just has nothing to do with GNOME and it’s not what I wanted the whole community to know first about me.
You can recover from less than stellar first impressions. All the GNOME posts I’ve written since then about the GNOME Foundation and projects have surely made up for that first off topic post.
The balance between Just do it and Make it Count is even harder in some circumstances.
Representing multiple groups. If you feel like you are representing others, especially as a lone representative of a minority group (the only woman, the only American, the only Asian), you will feel like your actions have to be even better, and that your first impression has to be good.
More experience. I also think that more experience makes it harder to “just do it”. Once you are seen as an expert, posting to a mailing list is probably no longer scary. However, you might feel like your work is held to a higher standard and that more people are watching you. (And I think this ties directly to the Impostor Syndrome.)
Other disadvantages. I also think it’s hard to just do it if you have another disadvantage. For example, if you first language is not English, it’s much harder to make that first post.
What’s your balance?
How do you find balance between “Making it count” and “Just doing it”?
In March I read a bunch of science fiction and fantasy along with a few nonfiction books. I also discovered Kindle Unlimited. I had bought it for one of my kids, but I discovered this month that not only are there a lot of books that I like there but many of them come with Audible editions too.
I had a few long plane rides this month which led to lots of reading. I think I read 2.5 books on my way to Berlin after my laptop battery ran out. Multiple delays also added to my reading time.
Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles). I remember enjoying books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman way back when. I used to really crave the next one and wait anxiously for it to come out. I enjoyed the book but didn’t love it in the same way I remember. I didn’t rush out to get the next one. But maybe that’s because I had Patricia Brigg’s book waiting …
Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega Book 4) by Patricia Briggs. I’ll read anything by Patricia Briggs so I had pre-ordered this one. It was as good as I hoped and I spent a good part of a weekend reading it.
A Shade of Vampire. This was a Kindle Unlimited book (so free for me) with 4.5 stars with 4,000+ reviews and I was looking for some light reading. It was an easy, quick read but not what I was looking for. It’s well written but I had a hard time with how they portrayed the male and female stereotypes – whether or not they were human or vampires.
Quantum Lens. Another Kindle Unlimited book. Pretty good science fiction. Lots of explanation but some action and character development too. Basically about what might happen if a few people had almost super-hero powers.
The Curse Keepers. It wasn’t a book I necessarily would have continued reading, but I really enjoyed the free Audible book that came with it. Supposedly Amazon keeps the audio and text versions synced – the sync worked for me the first time, but not after that.
Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security. This book is most useful to people getting close to retirement. It’s written by a couple of people who also have software that will help you calculate the best way to collect your social security. By the time you finish reading the book, you will think their software is well worth the $40 it costs. I came away with the impression that social security is super complicated unless you are single and never married.
The End of Power. I made it through this book but it was a struggle. The author’s premise is that power is becoming more distributed (I agree) and that because of that nobody will be able to get anything done (I disagree). He thinks that if we don’t have a few powerful countries, the world will continue to see more and more terrorism. I think we need a new way to work that takes into account the distributed nature of power – both at the governmental and the corporate level. The author gives lots of data and examples and defines power in interesting ways. However, if he allowed distributed works, I think I could rewrite the book with 80% fewer words. I don’t think I’m the only one that had trouble with this book. After Mark Zuckerberg picked it as his first book of the year, it sold out. Now, 2 months later, it only has 102 reviews on Amazon, so most of those people must not have finished the book …
Book Group: General Fiction Books
My first book and last book in February were for my book group.
The Girl on the Train was an entertaining thriller. I’m not sure what to tell you about it without giving it away, but it does make you question whether you know the whole true story about anyone you meet. The book might also make you stop drinking. It wasn’t the kind of book to drink while reading a glass of wine as the main character loses large parts of her memory due to alcoholism.
I really enjoyed The Rosie Project. I don’t know how realistic it was (I’m curious to see what my friends who have more experience with Asperger’s think) but it was an entertaining read about a man who starts a Wife Project, a survey to find the perfect wife. Then he decides to help a woman with the Father Project, a project to find her biological father. During the process they form a friendship and share many misunderstandings and hilarious moments.
Science Fiction and Fantasy, a bit of every type
Inescapable. I almost quit reading on page 2 when I read “using my mirror to refresh my lip-gloss”. There was a lot of description of clothing and looks. And the way one of the main character’s accents was done was kind of annoying. And the way the mystery is revealed is pretty artificial. On the plus side, I think, the author took all those awkward high school relationships and bundled them all up and shoved them into this book. While not my kind of book, I did read the whole thing.
Third Shift – Pact (Part 8 of the Silo Series) by Hugh Howey. If it’s been a while since you read the previous books, I recommend a refresher. The author just continues the story right where it left off with no reminder of who the characters are or what’s going on. If you haven’t read the Wool Silo series, I highly recommend the books. I think they’d be good for people who haven’t read much science fiction too.
Soul Identity. I thought this would be science fiction but it wasn’t really. It’s about an organization that believes everyone has a unique soul that can be identified by their eyes. And after a person’s death souls comes back in a new person – without any memories. People can leave wealth and belongs to their future soul hosts. The story was good – a bit of a mystery – and I think it’d make a good movie. I found the dialogue to be rather awkward and it was 95% dialogue. I prefer a bit more narrative mixed in.
The Shattergrave Knights proved to be the fantasy book I was looking for. I’d have preferred more character development but I was in the mood for an easy read placed in some fantasy world that resembles the middle ages only very slightly with swords and magic and this book fit the bill. (It’s also only 99 cents on Amazon.)
Tried but didn’t make it …
The Briar King. It seemed like one of those epics where the author has the story they want to to tell and then makes up the people to tell it. The characters were well done but the book was about the epic tale. (And according to Amazon I bought this in 2009. Maybe it’s time to give up?)
The world lost a great math teacher this week. Mimi Geier not only loved math, she loved teaching math and delighted in watching kids discover solutions. If I had a picture to share here, it would be of Ms. Geier with a grin on her face, holding out a piece of chalk so that a student could teach.
My first day at BFIS, Ms. Geier asked me if I was in first or seventh period math. I wanted to ask which one was the advanced math class, but I didn’t. Instead I said I didn’t know. She told me to come to both and we’d figure it out.
I got worried during the first math class. I could solve any quadratic equation in the world with the quadratic formula but Ms. Geier didn’t think too much of that method. She wanted us to factor, to pull the problem apart and understand the pieces that solved it.
Walking up the stairs after lunch, a girl who later became my friend told me, “You don’t want to be in the seventh period math class.” So it was with trepidation that I entered seventh period. Is this where they sent the kids that had never learned to factor? To my surprise I found a much different class. It was a small classroom of relaxed students and a very different Ms. Geier. This was not the homeroom teacher Ms. Geier. This was not the Ms. Geier who could take forever to make a simple point. This was not the Ms. Geier who was always misplacing that paper that she’d just had. This Ms. Geier grinned a lot. She loved it when we came up with a hard problem. She delighted in solving problems with us. She was thrilled when we figured it out. Ecstatic when we could teach each other. This was Ms. Geier the math teacher. I got to stay in seventh period, advanced math.
One day, we were all having trouble with some calculus. We could solve all the problems but we were struggling with the why. We got the formulas but not how they worked. The next day, a kid in my class whose dad was an engineer at IBM came in and said, “I got it! My dad explained it to me.” Ms. Geier, who had probably spent hours figuring out how to teach it to us, just grinned, held out the chalk and said “Show us!”
Several years after that first day of school, Ms. Geier was out of town for a few weeks. Her substitute pulled me aside during break. Sitting at Ms. Geier’s desk, he asked me for help with a math problem and said Ms. Geier had told him that if he had any problems with the math, he should ask me. Me, the kid who was afraid to ask which class was advanced, now trusted to help the math teacher!
Unknown to me, Ms. Geier also intervened on our behalf in other areas. We were having trouble with our science teacher. Several of us were banned from asking questions. One of my classmates was banned from asking questions because her questions were too stupid (she’s now a food scientist) and I was banned because my questions were too ridiculous (too much science fiction?). In all fairness, she did explore my ridiculous questions outside of class, even consulting her college professor. Things eventually got better. Several years later she told me that Ms. Geier had helped her figure out how to cope with us.
Ms. Geier taught me many things. Among them were that it’s ok to love math just because it’s math, that it’s ok to be the expert and let somebody else teach you – not just ok but exciting, that it’s ok to be the expert and not know all the answers, that sometimes people learn best from peers, that solving problems together is fun, and much more. I owe a lot of who I’ve become in my career to Mimi.
I, and many generations of math students, will miss Mimi Geier.