DevRelSummit

Learning about DevRel for the Asian market at DevRelSummit Singapore

I’m in the lounge of the Singapore Airport waiting for my flight. Yesterday I spent the whole day at DevRel Summit in a fancy event space listening to peers and colleagues how they tackle the task of reaching out to developers in the Asian market.

I didn’t have any speaking slot at this event, so I took the time to take a lot of photos and take lots of live notes of the event

I was very happy to be able to help out with a workshop for the leadership of the Asian Women Who Code chapter, giving an “Ask Me Anything” style Q&A in the local Microsoft office.

The things I was asked about the most were:

  • How to get invited to present at events. I pointed out that having a good online portfolio with what you can cover, examples of your work and your speaking terms and conditions help a lot. Feel free to fork and change my terms and conditions on GitHub
  • How to deal with bad feedback online
  • How much to charge for speaking engagements
  • How to ensure that more diverse people get a chance to represent your company

Many of the answers I gave sparked a constructive discussion amongst the directors of Women Who Code and resulted in answers presented at the closing panel of the DevRel summit.

I look forward to working more on this.

The summit was organized by the same people who run the DevRelSummit in Seattle, Barry Munstersteiger and Sandra Persing, together with a local crew and MC. It was held in a hotel in Clarke Quay, an entertainment section of town close to places for the after party and walking distance from my hotel. The event space was good, with excellent catering, good room facilities and excellent WiFi. A few more power outlets and a better sound system would have been beneficial, but the ample space to sit down and have conversations made up for it.

DevRel Summit

Some talk feedback

  • Jarod Reyes of Twilio did a really good job talking about reaching Dark Matter Developers, aka the ones not publicly visible (a term coined by Scott Hanselman) showing how Twilio found out more about their developers by doing in-depth research and surveys on what they are and altering their outreach and materials accordingly. It is also interesting to see that Twilio has a defined content creation program that offers money per article to people who want to write for them and give them writing training. They also have an open policy for people to ask for event sponsorship and they have a game you can host, Twilio Quest, that teaches coding and participating in open source.
  • Tomomi Imura of Slack explained where developers go to learn based on the Stackoverflow survey and described how to create developer education materials for different types of learners based on the VARK system (which is loosely based on the Honey&Mumford research into learner types). She also gave her insights into how to reach out to developers in Japan with important information how to run events.
  • Yohann Totting of Google explained in detail how they localized Google’s devrel model to the Indonesian market based on a government hackathon he organized. In the notes there are some interesting numbers on that.
  • Ali Spivak of Mozilla did a great job describing how Mozilla uses a data-driven approach to developer outreach and how they scaled and diversified their speaking engagements by training up community speakers. This is directly based on the work I started when I worked at Mozilla and fun to see how it worked out.
  • Keir Whittaker of Shopify had a very detailed talk about how Shopify had a different problem than other DevRel organisations as they reach marketplace owners with a slight developer angle or resellers and not developers. I was impressed with his candidness about what worked and what didn’t
  • The closing panel with directors of different Asian countries of Women Who Code was a good insight into how they work differently from country to country
  • The biggest win for us according to my agenda of learning more about the Asian market was the talk by Thomas Gorissen, organizer of JSConf Asia who gave a detailed talk about what the developer landscape and company interests are in Singapore

Summary

I had a great time and met a lot of lovely people to follow up with on right now. There is a lot of opportunity in the market in Asia and the differences to what the landscape is like in Europe is a good challenge to tackle. Thank you for the organisers and everyone involved to make this a great event worth the long flight.

Live notes

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DevRelSummit was well worth it

Last week I was in Seattle to attend a few meetings and I was lucky to attend DevRelSummit in the Galvanize space. I was invited to cover an “Ask me anything” slot about Developer Outreach in Microsoft and help out Charles Morris of the Edge team who gave a presentation a similar matter.

It feels weird to have a conference that is pretty meta about the subject of Developer relations (and there is even a ConfConf for conference organisers), but I can wholeheartedly recommend DevRelSummit for people who already work in this field and those who want to.

The line-up and presentations were full of people who know their job and shared real information from the trenches instead of advertising products to help you. This is a very common worry when a new field in our job market gains traction. Anyone who runs events or outreach programs drowns in daily offers of “the turn-key solution to devrel success” or similar snake oil.

In short, the presentations were:

  • Bear Douglas of Slack (formerly Twitter and Facebook) sharing wins and fails of developer outreach
  • Charles Morris of Microsoft showing how he scaled from 3 people on the Edge team to a whole group, aligning engineering and outreach
  • Kyle Paul showing how to grow a community in spaces that are not technical cool spots and how to measure DevFest success
  • AJ Glasser of Unity explaining how to deal with and harvest feedback you get showing some traps to avoid
  • Damon Hernandez of Samsung talking about building community around hackathons
  • Linda Xie of Sourcegraph showing the product and growth cycle of a new software product
  • Robert Nyman of Google showing how he got into DevRel and what can be done to stay safe and sound on the road
  • Angel Banks and Beth Laing sharing the road to and the way to deliver an inclusive conference with their “We Rise” event as the example
  • Jessica Tremblay and Sam Richard showing how IBM scaled their developer community

In between the presentations there were breakout discussions, lightning talks and general space and time to network and share information.

As expected, the huge topics of the event were increasing diversity, running events smoothly, scaling developer outreach and measuring devrel success. Also, as expected, there were dozens of ways and ideas how to do these things with consensus and agreeable discourse.

All in all, DevRelSummit was a very well executed event and a superb networking opportunity without any commercial overhead. There was a significant lack of grandstanding and it was exciting to have a clear and open information exchange amongst people who should be in competition but know that when it comes to building communities, this is not helpful. There is a finite amount of people we want to reach doing Developer Relations. There is no point in trying to subdivide this group even further.

I want to thank everyone involved about the flawless execution and the willingness to share. Having a invite-only slack group with pre-set channels for each talk and session was incredibly helpful and means the conversations are going on right now.

Slack Channel of the event

DevRelSummit showed that when you get a dedicated group of people together who know their jobs and are willing to share that you can get an event to be highly educational without any of the drama that plights other events. We have a lot of problems to solve and many of them are very human issues. A common consensus of the event was that we have to deal with humans and relate to them. Numbers and products are good and useful, but not burning out or burning bridges even with the best of intentions are even more important.

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