We all know that community building is an effective and important part of any developer-facing product, but how well are we communicating that effectiveness in business terms back to the stakeholders? We've talked in the past about how important storytelling is (communicating your successes back to the right stakeholders in terms that they understand in their contexts), but what about your strategy?
Without a short- as well as long-term strategy, you've lost your "north star" -- the thing you can point back to when you're unsure of what to do next or which metric to pursue. Without a strategy, you don't have a way to clearly illustrate how your goals align with other departments like Product, Marketing, and Engineering. Lastly, without a strategy, you run the risk of being reactive instead of proactive with regard to your community.
This week's newsletter includes a handful of articles about strategy, from content to member research and beyond. And a quick shameless plug: if you're looking for help with building out a strategy for your DevRel team (big or small, brand new or non-exsistent, and everything in between), let me know. I'd be happy to see how I can help!
Thanks to our newest sponsor, Algolia! Check out their Developer Advocate job posting today. Interested in featuring your job description here? See the DevRel Jobs section below for more information.
p.s. I'm still looking for a few more people to help me populate the newsletter with content while I'm gone at the end of August/beginning of September. Don't worry -- I'm not asking for you to duplicate all of this work 😅What I'm looking for is your top favorite articles/videos/blogposts about DevRel or something related to DevRel. If you've got one or more go-to articles, hit reply and let me know!
DevRel Win of the Week!
Those of us in developer relations spend a lot of time building and showing demos to inspire. When a customer does it with real scenarios, it’s extra awesome.
-Greg Wilson, regarding community member Laura Bandura from Chevron presenting at Google Next.
What Sets Your Particular Community Apart?
People are now overwhelmed with community options.
What makes your community unique? What makes you stand out? How do you help every member who joins your community immediately experience your uniqueness?
Offering a new space to connect is no longer compelling on its own.
The Key to Community is Involvement
Community isn’t just about content and conferences. Sometimes it’s contributions (of code and/or cash) and conversations. The key is involvement.
Get involved!! Seek out communities looking for participators and become one!
What is a Community Strategy?
A community strategy is a balance of an organization’s goals and its members' needs. Organizations have methodologies for developing goals and objectives, yet many organizations are missing research as a core part their online community development process.
Even for organizations that are highlighted as examples of “getting it”, there are still cases where the community wasn’t engaged in research about a major platform change, feature enhancement or policy shift (the historical/hysterical Facebook privacy, anyone?).
There is a discomfort in connecting 1 to 1 with customers. That could be rooted in the inability to have meaningful interaction at scale, the overhead associated with regular contact, or the lack of an evolved organizational culture that encourages this type of interaction.
Any community development (or refinement) initiative requires the input and direction of the members. You must conduct member research. More on this to come.
DevRel Advice Column
DevRel people who have started a developer conference, what is the best piece of advice you can give?
(Sidenote: If you're also looking for advice on running your first (or 2nd or 3rd) event, check out Admission, a new conference from Tito.)
We Need to Move on to the More Important Questions
The discussion around #devrel has to move beyond "What is dev rel?" and "How is dev rel different compared to marketing?".
He's got a point! After all, there are 3 separate posts this week alone that are some version of "My experience with DevRel."
But the thing is, we still don't have an industry-wide accepted definition of DevRel, which means this question is going to keep coming up and people are still going to write about what their unique experience has been... and they should! Without their voices being heard, the confusion and misunderstandings will continue. The fact that we have as many people as we do in the DevRel industry these days is a testament to blogposts exactly like these.
However, as I said in response to Matthew:
That being said, this is one of the main things motivating my consulting business: I want to drive the DevRel industry forward so there's an accepted definition & understanding of who we are, what we do, and why it's valuable. That's why books like mine & Brandon West's are so important!
This whole conversation has sparked a lot of other tweets and peripheral conversations. What are your thoughts? What do we need to be focusing on first and foremost in order to move the industry forward? What are the questions that you get on a regular basis and how do you answer them? Hit reply and let me know!
Dignity, Always Dignity
In the professional tech bubble in San Francisco, there’s a wide variety of hair colors, piercings, and clothing choices. But as Heidi Waterhouse points out
[there’s a] level of mindfulness to being visible/active online, and to representing a company.
Her pink hair makes her stand out, sure, but it’s also a statement of defiance... of fierceness... of being both boldly female and incredibly capable in a technical role.
Navigating knowledge landscapes – the role of community managers as guides
I have a go-to list of job titles that I use to give people an idea of what DevRel is on a day-to-day basis: journalist, liaison, mediator, etc. After reading this article from Lou Woodley, I'll be adding "sherpa" to the list.
Lou talks about the metaphor of communities of practice as hills or mountains of expertise within a landscape:
The mountains can vary in height, depending on the amount of knowledge contained, and the slope of the mountain indicates the gradient of learning or the curriculum that a new member of the community would need to follow in order to progress up the mountain to expert level. A steep slope indicates that it’s harder to master the knowledge in that community, whereas a more gentle gradient allows for working more leisurely within the learner’s comfort zone.
In short, we as community managers provide the right tools, the necessary gear, and the introductions that enable our community members to reach the summit.
Why is DevRel Necessary?
Looking for a concise article that explains why any developer-facing product needs a Developer Relations team that isn't focused on sales numbers? This recent article from Vanilla Forums might do the trick.
The Wisdom and/or Madness of Crowds
I came across a fascinating exercise this week thanks to Carl Carrie. Created by Nicky Case, The Wisdom and/or Mandess of Crowds is an interactive explanation of how the people around us influence the perceptions that we have of the world.
As we build and engage with various communities, the principles that you walk through in this exercise are important to remember. Are we existing in an echo chamber? What don't we know? Are we researching the non-active members? It can often be beneficial for us to explore the channels we don't know rather than focusing on the areas that we're most comfortable with.
Industry News: The DevRel Version
Two pieces of industry news for you this week... one that's specific to tech companies & tooling and one that, well, isn't.
Let's start with the simple one:
On Thursday of last week, Atlassian announced that they're discontinuing Hipchat/Stride. Want the bullet point version? Check out this tweet thread from Slack CEO Steward Butterfield.
And now on to the not-so-simple:
Also on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that Twitter is "shadow banning" prominent Republicans. While not illegal, many people view shadow banning as an unethical practice. As Patrick O'Keefe says in this recent article,
...it goes to the core of community management, and the ability to block people and content in the manner that you deem appropriate for the community that you are responsible for.
He gives a fairly concise summary on Twitter as well, stating
[President Trump's statement] is a pretty direct threat to online communities. One of the greatest dangers to our work is clueless people who are not only grandstanding, but have the power to affect policy in a shortsighted way.
No matter your political views, there's good reason to think that President Trump's statement implies an attack on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which could change how community management, especially online forums and groups hosted on social media sites, is structured.
Executives are Overwhelmingly Supportive of Community Approaches
Research from The Community Roundtable has shown that a majority of executives are supportive of community strategies and DevRel teams. However, it's up to those of us who are involved in these initiatives on a day-to-day basis to engage those stakeholders, helping them understand the value of what we're doing and the reason why our work is integral to the company's success.
As Feverbee points out, without a strategy,
You’re making it impossible for your boss and her boss to know what resources you’ll need and when you will need them.
They often want to be involved, but simply don't know how. It's up to us to show them.
Math determines that the more Tom Cruise runs, the better his movies are
As ridiculous as it sounds, researchers (aka people who have way too much free time on their hands) have found that the more Tom Cruise runs in a movie, the more successful the box office numbers are. Whether or not you’ve seen the latest movie in the Mission Impossible franchise (or even care about it), you’re probably rolling your eyes right along with me. After all, how is it possible that Tom Cruise’s running ability directly influences the success of his latest movie? While I can see that doing his own stunts might contribute to people being more invested in the movies, I don’t see the running correlation.
It reminds me of DevRel teams where the leadership is desperately pulling at straws to prove the value of DevRel instead of actively digging into the metrics to figure out how and when the community is influencing the company, and vice versa. We as DevRel professionals have the ability to demonstrate direct value from the work that we do to the success of the company. Let’s not resort to vanity metrics like “number of yards run”.
One from the Archives 📰
Content Marketing Strategy with or without an Audience
I’ve talked in the past about how important a strategy is for content, especially in this day & age where content is king, but there are a lot of kings. A few weeks back, Erik Dietrich wrote up a content strategy framework that fits whether or not you have a current audience (which, let’s face it, is where we all start!). His tips are solid, and while this may not be your silver bullet, it’s definitely going to get you headed in the right direction along the internet superhighway.
I picked up on a few more DevRel events happening this week! Check out this list to see if there are any happening near you.
Algolia Developer Advocate
The Algolia Developer Relations team is looking to grow and would love to have you be a part of the team! Developers make up a large part of our community, and Algolia Developer Advocates play a crucial role in keeping developers both informed and inspired about what’s possible. Choose your adventure with writing code and blogging, speaking and traveling or helping with partnerships!
Developer Advocate – Kendo UI for React
The jobs just keep flowing in, including this one from DevRel Weekly's newest sponsor, Algolia. Check out their Developer Advocate role as well as many others in the collection.
Interested in advertising your job in the newsletter? We're booked for the next few weeks, but take a look at the DevRel Weekly sponsorship page for more information.
Developer Avocados 🥑
Happy (Belated) National Avocado Day!
You didn't really expect me to let this one slide, did you? Tuesday was National Avocado Day, so I figured we'd celebrate in style! I'm happy to publicly announce the amazing group of "Developer Avocados" who will be gracing the cover of my book coming this fall! Huge thanks to artist Erick Zelaya for his patience and creative genius and to the 26 individuals I conducted interviews with who made the book infinitely better!