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Liz Acosta
Liz Acosta

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The DevRel Digest January 2024: DevRel and Dev Marketing and No More Random Acts of Content!

When the Wheel of Fortune Sets Its Sights on You

In tarot, the Wheel of Fortune is the tenth of the twenty-two cards in the Major Arcana. Depicting a spoked wheel emblazoned with mystical symbols and flanked by divine figures, this card represents destiny, good luck, and turning points. I recently drew this card in a reading for myself and I desperately hope it means my protracted job search is soon coming to an end.

And as we close out the first month of the new year, the Wheel of Fortune indicates a turning point for Developer Relations at large – especially while tech continues to commit mass layoffs. There are some indications the market is about to enter an upswing, but not without a little PTSD. My feelings about capitalism aside, 2023 left me wondering what I can do to fortify myself against future downturns. While I missed attending Decoding 2024: Insights from Developer Relations Leaders live (it’s snowboarding season and I was in Tahoe), I did watch the recording, and it turns out I’m not the only one thinking a lot about how 2024 is a year of turning points.

The Wheel of Fortune card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck featuring senior pug Gary Photoshopped poorly as all the divine figures in the card

The Wheel of Fortunate from the Rider-Waite deck with senior pug Gary Photoshopped poorly as all the figures of divinity

Insights from a DevRel Headhunter and Aligning with the “Enemy” to Survive

Moderated by Co-Founder of DevRel.Agency, James Parton, Decoding 2024: Insights from Developer Relations Leaders featured panelists Chiara Massironi (Senior Director, Developer Network, Twilio), Chris Traganos (Head of Developer Evangelism, Amazon), and Lucy Jones (Director, Lawson Brooke). The webinar took a closer look at some of the findings that surfaced in the 2023 State of DevRel Report – particularly the evolution of DevRel roles, DevRel salaries around the world, budget challenges in a market downturn, and how DevRel needs to learn how to align itself more with broader company objectives to better demonstrate positive impact.

For those of you who are also currently job searching, Lucy Jones offers some interesting insights as a headhunter about why the specialization of Developer Relations means recruiters like her are especially important in finding the right candidates. So what does this specialization mean for Developer Relations as a role in an organization? Is it still misunderstood and mysterious? While the panelists all agree that the greater variety of roles (ie, community management, technical writing, developer education) now falling under the DevRel umbrella means the practice is reaching maturity, Jones points out that the size of a Developer Relations program relies greatly on the specific needs of a company.

Jones also had some motivational points to add about the need for DevRel to “learn the language of other business functions.” She remarked on how she was surprised to learn how many in DevRel hadn’t yet embraced terminology common throughout other organizations – and in particular, marketing. This is something Developer Advocate and Stealth Startup Co-founder Jeremy Meiss wrote about in his series Moving Developer Relations Forward.

As Meiss points out in his series, the question of whether or not Developer Relations is marketing is one of great contention – marketing is often seen as the enemy. Furthermore, when companies are quick to downsize their marketing departments to save their engineering teams, the message from the top is clear: Marketing is not important. So yeah, why would you want to be aligned with an org that is often on the chopping block? However, having worked in both marketing and engineering, I see Developer Relations as an opportunity to bring engineering practices and processes to marketing, uplifting marketing organizations with the data and work tracking to prove its worth.

This is where, as Chris Traganos points out in the webinar, Developer Marketing potentially comes into play.

Content: Blurring the Line Between Developer Marketing and Developer Relations

This is my first time looking at the State of Developer Marketing Report and while I haven’t had a chance to read through the whole document, here’s a great summary of key takeaways. I found it interesting that similar to the State of DevRel Report, “content creation” came in among one of the top responsibilities of Developer Marketing:

“Our respondents have many different core responsibilities in their day-to-day. The top five are managing the developer community (68%), content creation (64%), product positioning and messaging (52%), collaborating with sales (44%), and planning events (44%).”

No More Random Acts of Content and the Search for Meaningful Metrics

I was recently introduced to the term “random acts of marketing” and few phrases have resonated so deeply with me. I’ve seen a lot of it. Another point that came up frequently in the webinar is how DevRel programs will be forced to do more with less budget in 2024, which means getting creative and getting intentional. When done well, quality technical content creation is time-consuming. While AI and automation can expedite processes like brainstorming, first drafts, formatting, management, and publishing, too much content – and especially too much low-quality content – will hurt a brand. So how do you ensure an appropriate return on the investment? How do you quit committing “random acts of content” and instead publish material with intention? How do you measure success and capitalize on it?

This is a question I am asking myself and the DevRel community at large. Just because I’m not working for a particular company it doesn’t mean I can’t treat my personal work like a job. I’ve always been told that I take myself too seriously, so why not lean into it? At first, I wanted to see what people out in the wild might be using to track the performance of their content, and when I found out that most people did not have any sort of process in place, I saw an opportunity to perform some experiments of my own.

I like to say that because I come from a creative background and have technical experience, I bring technical solutions to creative problems and vice versa. If we approach content creation with the scientific method, we need two things to start: We need a hypothesis and we need a way to collect data that will either prove or disprove our hypothesis.

Quality Content Relies on Community; Quality Content Activates Curiosity and Engagement

I plan to establish a baseline with a few pieces of content. I started tracking content performance with my last DevRel Digest, using Bitly to generate UTM codes. It’s not a particularly sophisticated method, but since I can’t install any kind of tracking scripts on the platforms I publish on, it does the trick. (Moreover, the privacy advocate in me objects to potentially identifiable session tracking.) Unfortunately, I can’t export any of my click data without upgrading to a more expensive Bitly plan, and considering how I am not using their other features, it doesn’t make sense to spend more money on their service. So I did a little research and for this post, I am using because their free tier enables CSV exports. (However, uses Bitly to shorten links, so you’ll still see those here – I’m still figuring it out.) It’s a little tedious, but eventually, I want to use something like Streamlit to visualize my data and create some simple dashboards for myself.

I hypothesize that quality content relies on community, collaboration, and partnership. I have put that into practice with this post by featuring the work of community members, and I plan on tagging those individuals when I post this on LinkedIn, which has proven to be my most engaged audience. But this isn’t just about leveraging their networks – this is about uplifting the work of individuals who are elevating our profession as a whole. Furthermore, I hypothesize that quality content generates engagement, which is not only measured in likes and comments but in curiosity. Is my content interesting, accessible, and authoritative enough that someone wants to explore the other links I offer? I’ll be tracking that too.

I’m excited to see what the data will reveal!

If you’re just getting started creating your own content, I found this great little post with helpful tips for writing for developers. If you’ve been creating content for a while and tracking its performance, I would love to hear about your methods and findings!

As I gather more data, my hope is I will be able to draw some meaningful conclusions about how best to distribute my content and what other content I should pursue next. And yes, I am absolutely planning on writing a post about it!

Although my job search has lasted longer than I would like, I have been afforded a unique opportunity to research and learn about many different companies, their products, and their communities. Whether it's a blog post about a product update, a tutorial, or even documentation, content is often a developer's first introduction to a solution. Make sure to make it count – for both the reader and the creator.

Events and Resources and Other Notable Things

An image with a purple gradient background and an illustration of a pug with the quote from Jessica Temporal that says: My biggest prediction for 2024 is that AI will become a tool that no Developer Advocate can ignore anymore. With the rise of AI, more and more companies will require Developer Advocates to make use of LLMs to increase speed, personalization, and, in general terms, output of content to help developers out.

  • What are your thoughts on AI in DevRel? Add your thoughts to the DevRel Discussion!
  • Rain Leander is a Developer Advocate looking for folks to interview for a book they are writing called Developer Experience Unleashed. For more details and to sign up, check out this link.
  • This news is from November 2023, but still interesting! PyPi has completed its first security audit. The audit revealed that “when evaluating severity level of each advisory, 14 were categorized as "informational", 6 as "low", 8 as "medium" and zero as "high".” Read more about it here.

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