Huh, this turned out to be longer than I expected. Don’t feel obliged to read it, it’s more notes for myself, and to remind me of why I liked the event.
On Wednesday I went to DevRelCon in London. DevRelCon is “a one day single track conference for technical evangelists, developer advocates and anyone interested in developer relations” setup by Matthew Revell. I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between my role (defined as Community Manager) at Canonical and Developer Relations so figured it would probably have appropriate content for my role. Boy was I right!
DevRelCon was easily the single most valuable short conference I’ve ever attended. The speakers were knowledgeable, friendly and accessible, and easy to understand. I took a ton of notes, and will distil some of them down here, but will almost certainly keep referring back to them over the coming months as I look to implement some of the suggestions I heard.
The event took place at The Trampery Old Street, in Shoreditch, the trendy/hipster part of London. We had access to a bright and airy ‘ballroom’ and were served with regular drinks, snacks and a light lunch. Free WiFi was also available, which worked well, but I didn’t use it much as we had little time away from the talks.
The day consisted of a mix of long (40 minute) talks, some shorter (20 min) ones, and a few ‘lightning’ talks. Having a mix of durations worked well I think. We started a little late, but Matthew massaged the timetable to claw back some time, and as it was a single track day there was no real issue if things didn’t run to time, as you weren’t likely to run off to another talk, and miss something.
All the talks were great, but I took considerably more notes in some than others, so this is represented below in that I haven’t listed every talk.
Rob Spectre – Twilio – Scaling Developer Evangelism.
This started off well as Rob plugged in his laptop and we were greeted with an Ubuntu desktop! He started off detailing some interesting stats to focus our minds on who we’re evangelising to. Starting with the 18.2m developers worldwide, given ~3Bn smartphone users, and ~4Bn Internet users that means ~0.08% have the capability to write code. There’s a 6% year on year increase in developers, mostly in developing nations, the ratio is less in the western world. So for example India could overtake every other countries’ developer count by ~2017.
Rob talked at length about the structure of Developer Evangelists, Developer Educators and the Community Team at Twilio. The talk continued to outline how valuable developers are, how at Twilio their Developer Evangelists are the ‘Red Carpet’ to their community. I was struck by how very differently we (Open Source projects) and Ubuntu specifically treat contributors to the project.
There was also a section on running developer events, and Rob spent some time talking about strategies for successful events, and how those can feed back to improve your product. He also talked a little about measurement, which was also going to be covered in later talks that day.
Another useful anecdote Rob detailed was regarding conversion of talks into blog posts. While a talk at an event can catalyse the 20-100 people in the room, converting that into a detailed tutorial blog post can bring in hundreds or thousands more.
The final slide in Rob’s talk was “Would you recommend this talk?” with a phone number attendees could send a score to. I thought this was a particularly cunning strategy. There was also talk of using the external IP address of the venue WiFi as one factor to determine the effectiveness / conversion rate of attendees.
Cristiano Betta – Braintree – Tooling your way to a great devrel team
Cristiano started off talking about BattleHack which I’d not heard of. These are in person events where teams of developers get 24 hours to work on a project fuelled by coffee, cake and Red Bull to be in with a chance of winning a cash prize and an amusing axe.
He then went on to talk about a personal project to manage event sign-ups. This replaces tools like Eventbrite and MailChimp and enables Cristiano to get a better handle on the success of his events.
Laura Cowen – IBM – Building a developer community in an enterprise world
Laura started off giving some history of the products and groups inside IBM who are responsible for WAS, the public facing developer sites and the struggles she’s had updating them
The interesting parts for me came when Laura was detailing the pain she had getting developer time to update documentation and engage with users and communities outside their own four walls. Laura also talked about the difficulty when interfacing developers and marketing, their differing goals and some strategies for coping.
I recognised for example the frustration in people wanting to publish everything on a developer site, whether it’s appropriate to the target audience or not. Sometimes we (in Ubuntu) fail to deeply consider the target audience before we publish articles, guides or documentation. I think we can do better here. Pushing back on content creators, and finding the right place for a published article is worth it, if the target audience is to be defended.
Shaunak Kashyap – elastic – Getting the measure of DevRel
In this short talk Shaunak gave some interesting snippets on how elastic measure community engagement. I found a couple interesting which I felt we might use in Ubuntu. Measuring “time to first response” for questions and issues by looking for responses from someone other than the first poster. While I don’t think they were actively using this data yet, getting an initial base line would be useful.
Shaunak also detailed one factor in measuring meet-up effectiveness. Typically elastic have 3-4 meet-ups a week, globally. For each meet-up group they measured “time since last meetup”. For those where there was a long delta between one meetup and the next they would consider actions. This could be contacting the group to see if there’s issues, offering assistance, swag & ‘meet up in a box’ kits, and finally disbanding the group if there wasn’t sufficient critical mass.
I took away a few good ideas from this talk, especially given recent conversations in Ubuntu about sparking up more meet-ups.
Phil Leggetter – Pusher – ROI on DevRel
Phil kicked off his short talk by talking about the ROI on DevRel by explaining Acquisition vs Activation. Where Acquisition of new developers might be them signing up for an account or downloading a product/sdk/library. Activation would be the conversion which might be measured differently per product. So perhaps “purchased paid API key” or “submitted app with N downloads”.
Phil then moved on to talk a bit about how they can measure the effectiveness of online tutorials or blog articles by correlating sign ups with traffic coming from those online articles. There was some more discussion on this later on including the effectiveness of giving away vouchers/codes to incentivise downloads, with some disagreement on the results of doing so.
Brandon West – SendGrid – Burnout
I’ve been to many talks and discussions about burnout in developer communities over the years. This talk from Brandon one was easily the most useful, factual and actionable one. I also enjoyed Brandon’s attempts to inject Britishness into his talk which lightened the mood on a potentially very dark topic.
Brendon kicked off with a bit of a ‘woe is me’ #firstworldproblems introduction to his own current life issues. The usual things that affect a lot of people, but all happening at once, becoming overwhelming. We then moved on to defining burnout clearly, and what types of people are likely to suffer (clue: anyone) and some strategies for recognizing and preventing burnout.
A few key assertions / take-aways:-
“Burnout & depression are pathalogically indistinguishable”
“Burnout and work engagement are not exclusive or correlatable”
“Those most likely to burnout believe they are least at risk”
“Learn a skill on holiday – the holiday will be more rewarding”
Tim Fogarty – Major League Hacking – Hackathons as a part of your DevRel strategy
Another great talk which built upon what Cristiano talked about earlier in the day – hackathons. Tim introduced different types of hackathons and which in his experience were more popular with developers and why.
Tim started by breaking down the types of hackathon – ‘hacking’, ‘corporate’ and ‘civic’ with the second being least popular as it’s seen as free labour by developers, and so they’re distrustful. He went on to reasons why people might run hackathons including evangelism, gathering (+ve and -ve) feedback, recruiting and mindshare (marketing).
He then moved on to strategies for making an impact, measuring the effect, sponsoring and how to craft the perfect demo to kick off the event.
Having never been to an in-person hackathon I found this another fascinating talk and will be following up with Tim Later.
Jessica Rose – Stop talking about diversity and just do it
Well. This was enlightening. This talk was excellent, and covered two main topics. First the focus was on getting a more diverse set of people running / attending / talking at your event. Some strategies were discussed and Jessica highlighted where many people go terribly wrong, assumptions people make and excuses people give.
The second part was a conversation about the ways in which an event can cater for as many people as possible. Here’s a highlight of some of the ways we discussed, but this obviously doesn’t cover everything:-
- Attendees and speakers should be able to get in under their own power
- Meal choices should be available – possibly beyond vegetarian/vegan
- Code of Conduct
- Sign language for talks
- Well lit and safe feeling route from venue to accomodation
- Space for breastfeeding / pumping, with snacks / drinks nearby
- Non boozy spaces
- Prayer room
- After party with low noise level – and covered by Code of Conduct
- Professional chapparones (for under 18’s)
- Diversity tickets & travel grants
- Scale inclusivity to budget (be realistic about what you can achieve)
Lots to think about!
Joe Nash – Braintree – Engaging Students
Joe kicked off his fast-paced talk with an introduction to things which influenced how he got where he is, including “Twilio Heroes”. The talk was focussed on the UK University system, how to engage with students and some tips for running events which engage effectively with both CS and non-CS students.
James Milner – ersi UK – So you want to run a meet-up
James talked about his personal experience running GeoDev Meet-Ups. I found this information quite valuable as the subject is under discussion in Ubuntu. James gave some great tips for running good meet-ups, and had a number of things he’s clearly learned the hard way. I hope to put some of his tips into action in the UK.
Dawn Foster – Lessons about community from science fiction.
This was a great uplifting talk to end the day. Dawn drew inspiration from her prolific science fiction reading to come up with some tips for people running community projects. I’ll give you a flavour with a few of them. Each was accompanied by an appropriate picture.
Picture: Star Trek Red Shirt
Lesson: “Participate and contribute in a way that people will notice and value your work”
Picture: Doctor Who TARDIS
Lesson: “Communities look different from inside then when viewing as an outsider”
Picture: Enders Game
Lesson: “Age is often unknown, encourage young people to contribute”
Dawn is a thoughtful, entertaining and engaging speaker. I’d certainly like to see more of her talks.
We all left the venue after the last talk and headed to a nearby trendy bar for a pint then headed home, pretty exhausted. A great event, I look forward to the next one.