So I went to DevXCon this week and I have one big takeaway: DevRel is a dark art and nobody has it all figured out. Or a little figured out, really.
Are you worried about proving the value of your efforts to the company? Good news, so is everybody else! Have you failed to figure out how to do this? Bad news, so has everybody else!
Are you wondering how to effectively measure the impact of your work? Good news, so is everybody else! Have you failed to figure out how to do this? Bad news, so has everybody else!
Should you thoroughly segment your developer audience? Yes! But should you avoid over-segmenting your developer audience? Also yes!
Are developers the hidden decision makers in tech companies? Absolutely! But are developers the hidden decision makers in tech companies? Definitely not.
Also, surveys are completely useless and they should be one of your most important tools.
In short: we are making this up as we go. There is a real sense that developer relations needs to grow up and that we’re struggling to figure out how. I wish I had some serious proposals on that front, but growing up is not a personal strength of mine. Let’s face it, I never stopped liking dinosaurs.
This may sound like the event wasn’t worth my time, but the opposite is true. It was enormous fun to meet so many first-class practitioners of our dark art and it’s not like there isn’t a lot of consensus on a variety of issues. It made me feel like I know what I’m doing and there’s real value in that. If I worked in marketing I would call it “inspirational”.
But I don’t and I’m German, so I will give it the highest praise permitted among my people and call it “sufficient”. Here follows some random thoughts, observations and quotes from the event.
Picking developers up where they are was big theme. Not everyone goes to hackathons or solders Alexa-enabled robots in their free time. The 9 to 5 developer is a thing and you still need great DX, even when your developer community is about twelve people at three giant enterprise customers.
“Listening, the hardest problem in computer science.” – Jenn Schiffer
Erin McKean is amazing and has taught me a new word: hagiothecium. Hagiothecium is now my second-favorite word beginning with “hagio”, right after “hagiography”, the ancient greek word for what we now call a “speaker bio”. I’ve also become a proud member of the Semicolon Appreciation Society. Note that this does not mean I will start using semicolons; I merely appreciate them.
I am on #TeamSurveysSuck, because surveys suck.
Cristiano Betta gave a talk on the seven deadly sins of developer onboarding and I am going to hell. (Actually we’re not doing so badly, but it was a good reminder to keep looking at your developer experience with fresh eyes.)
Seriously, surveys suck. You’re not smart enough to ask the right questions and people hate filling out surveys.
I also quite enjoyed Bear Douglas’ views on developer support. Easy to forget what an important part of the developer experience this is. Too often we just tell people to go to stackoverflow and think that solves the problem. (Hint: it might solve our problem, but it doesn’t solve theirs.)
“Recruiting developer evangelists is like searching for unicorns that poop rainbows.” – Grace Francisco
Another big theme was how to treat your champions the right way. Donnie Berkholz had a great suggestion: give them access to your leadership team. That’s really cool, not just because it’s an amazing way to show your champions how much you value them, but because your leadership team can and should learn a lot from these folks.
It’s hard overstate how much fun I had. Big thanks to Matthew, Tamao and Phil for organizing the event and I can’t wait for DevRelCon in London!