Developer Advocacy
Building a Developer Community in an Enterprise World
Listen to Laura Cowen as she goes around talking about how she developed a community and DevRel culture in IBM making the organisation understand the needs and expectations of the developers.
Laura Cowen (IBM) - DevRelCon London 2015

  • Define your community
  • Challenge the status quo to reach where you want
  • Fund the work properly
  • Build the internal sub-community within the organization as well
  • Understand the development and marketing relationship
  • Defend the target audience, understanding their needs and advocating them

  • Were more focused on Developer Experience but developers expected community support.
  • Wanted Java EE Developers to love their product (Liberty) so much that they tell their friends to use it too
    • Created articles, resources, GitHub codes, YouTube videos, etc.
    • Created shared expertise within the community
    • Openness within the community - meeting developers at conferences, talking to people generally, sharing experiences

  • Whiteboard session at Devoxx 2008 (Belgium) - comparing Java application servers - everyone complained about difficulties starting/ fixing errors and consulting fees.
    • Wanted to create resources for Liberty to get around this problem.
  • Realised that they need to create a more developer-focused website for their community.
    • Frequent updates, adding new articles regularly created engagement, people were coming to the website and interacting

  • But this became difficult for them with a day job
  • One developer made in charge of maintaining fresh content, working a day a week dedicated to this.
  • As it grew, one person was hired full time for regulating this.
  • Made a strict weekly publishing schedule to maintain a regularity (Made a pipeline)
  • Executive director motivated developers to contribute to content around Liberty - it worked!

  • Mentoring them to use the handles
  • Letting them know the use of hashtags
  • Creating guidelines around attending conferences
  • This cannot be forced - social media is genuine and if forced to post/ tweet, it reflects

  • Developer Advocates were hugely protected by the marketing team
  • Marketing is good at awareness and hooking people to the product
  • Marketing helps the product to shine but developers need details as well
  • Added a trial for developers to try out the product
    • If registration was added to trial download, 60% of the developers turned away, if not the marketing couldn't collect leads.
    • Cold calls attracted negative reactions from developers.

  • Building a developer community is organic and long term.
  • Marketing needs to work on short term campaign

  • Quantitative Measures: Numbers of downloads, visits to the website
  • Qualitative Measures: Quotes from people, their thoughts on the product

  • Most difficult thing: Keep the focus on who is the end-user & who is the target.
  • UX Terms: Primary users, secondary users, tertiary users
  • Developers are the main users

  • It is difficult to say no, but things should be relevant to the target audience
  • Having a clear definition of what is needed, helps in this regard.

  • Yes - Metrics are going up!
  • More people are talking about the product - getting feedback
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Where did it start?
Motivating the Internal Developers
Recognising complementary roles of marketing & development
Understanding the users and advocating for them
Don't publish everything!
Is it working?