Communities aren't funnels

In this session from DevRelCon London 2019, Josh Dzielak introduces the orbit model, an alternative way of thinking about developer roles within communities.


  • Software is adopted not sold in the year, 2020.

  • If you work in dev rel, you work on adoption and adoption requires a different way of thinking.

  • As the funnel is to conversion, the orbit is to adoption.

  • Identify your developers with the highest gravity and make a plan for extending their love and reach even further.


  • Developers have enormous power to choose the tools that they work with from amongst a vast amount of proprietary and open source options.

  • Developers are drawn to tools that do a difficult job well that have great documentation, complete SDKs and very importantly have a welcoming and knowledgeable community.

  • Developers adopt software first, and often long before they buy it.

How is adoption different?

  • Happens slowly over time.

  • It can take a developer months to truly adopt new technology.

  • People expect to get value out of a product, out of new technology for a long time before they actually go and buy it.

  • Discovery happens with word of mouth and community is really the engine at the centre of all this.

  • Providing both resources for people to learn how to adopt the thing.

  • DevRels work on adoption, we also work closely with marketing and sales teams who are a lot more established.

  • And as a result -- DevRels are forced to think about adoption with that 122-year-old lens, the funnel.

  • And this leads to problems.

  • Applied to adoption, the funnel turns into a downward spiral.

Regularly asked Questions

“How many leads came from our last meetup?”

  • Why is it so painful?

  • From a meet-up even a really successful one, the number of leads that you can say you got is low.

  • Could be because you didn’t feel comfortable making every attendee give you their email address just to get in the door.

  • You don’t feel like leads are the right way to judge the success of a meet-up.

“Can you share that developer's contact information with the sales team?”

  • These awkward questions come from the funnel mentality, so they’re going to be hard to answer by people like us who work on adoption.

Orbit Stuff

  • The Orbit Model is an alternative to the funnel that's designed specifically for community-driven adoption.

  • The goal of the funnel is conversion but the goal of the Orbit is adoption.

  • The Orbit Model helps you explain what you’re actually trying to do as a dev rel.

  • Helps you identify and prioritize the developers who should be working with.

  • “Who’s in my community, and who matters?”

  • Help you measure and communicate your impact.

Orbit Terminologies

  • Gravity equals love x reach.

  • Everyone in your community has some amount of gravity, some ability to attract others.

  • And the gravity that that person has is a product of two things, love and reach.


  • Love is their love for what you do.

  • Expert Knowle

  • High Satisfaction

  • Part of the thrive


  • Reach is a measure of how well they can help spread love.

  • Well-connected

  • Respected by peers

  • Passion for teaching

Orbit one

  • Reserved for ambassadors.

  • Communicate with them via one-on-one, email, even WhatsApp or texting or DMs on Twitter and Slack

  • Don’t need many of them, but because each Ambassador counts for quite a bit like their own little community because of the love and the reach that they have.

Fans - Second Level

  • Folks are passionate about our technology.

  • Can easily explain what it does and how to use it.

  • Are connected to some kind of work community or local community.

  • Might not have the love or the reach of the ambassadors, but can do so, someday.

Users - Third Level

  • Folks who have some kind of working integration. some kind of sustained activity.

  • Most customers fall into this level, and there can be thousands of them.

  • Helps drive adoption for the community,

  • Find the ones that can be promoted to fans and learn how to motivate them.

Observers - Fourth Level.

  • Folks who have read our blog posts watched our talks, kick the tires with one of our sample apps or just followed us on Twitter.

  • “At some point in the future, many of these observers might need our technology for something.”

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