I’m on my way back to Holland as I look back on two inspiring days in London. No talks by me this time – I just sat back and learned about Developer Relations from some of the best!

Technical Evangelist Meetup

On Tuesday night I attended the Technical Evangelist Meetup where Greenwich PhD student Dawn Foster talked about using Network Analysis on Open Source communities. Using data from the Linux kernel mailinglists she demonstrated how these types of analysis provide valuable insights in a community and its key players.

  • Video as recorded at OSCON Portland 2015.
  • Repository as used for LinuxCon 2015.

By far the most awesome tool she demonstrated is Gource which visualises source control repositories. Check this video I made for the last 3 months of development on Titanium.

DevRelCon London 2015

The next day I headed off early for DevRelCon in The Tampery Old Street (great venue) for a day packed with DevRel talks. Here’s what I take home from it:

Rob Spectre, Twilio

Rob is one of the best evangelists, working on one of the best DevRel programs. So when he speaks, I listen :) Rob started with different stats to underline that a developer-hour will become if not already is one of the most valuable goods in our economy. Getting them to use your technology is a serious business which requires a scalable strategy and clear metrics, both quantitive (analytics) and qualitative (NPS).

I really liked Twilio’s Developer Network model which has 3 parts to it:

  1. Evangelists to bind new developers.
  2. Educators to help them succeed and strengthen their link with Twilio.
  3. Community managers to strengthen links between developers.

Laura Cowen, IBM

Laura heads IBM’s WASdev which for me is a great example of a good developer portal. Still, her story was one of struggling with management to finally come to see the value of a developer portal and for marketing to understand that it is not just another channel.

Laura: “Developers love shiny marketing material – they’re just not convinced by it.”

Metrics Panel

Shaunak Kashyap (Elastic), Phil Leggetter (Pusher) and Michael Wawra ( each did a short talk before joining a panel on why, what and how to measure. Shaunak talked about how to use metrics on meetup groups and the geography of your users to focus your evangelism efforts. He also stretched the importance of actionable metrics. According to Phil the key metrics are adoption and whatever you define as activation.

Shaunak: “If you report to marketing you might not be able to fully focus on adoption and activation rather than mere sales targets.” (paraphrased)

All three agreed the hardest thing to track is of course events. Coupons were considered useless, but Michael had some great ideas for alternatives. You can use the public IP of the Wifi at the venue to track on-site registrations. Twilio and Sendmail do a great job with interactive demos where the audience sends an email or text message to participate and by doing so become tracked.

Phil: “Metrics are awesome, but sometimes you just have to trust The Force.”

Shannon Burns, NGINX

Shannon shared different models to understand an work with people from different timezones and cultures. The Lewis Model provides useful stereotypes of different countries and cultures. I guess it’s pretty accurate since it says Dutch are direct ;) The Flow Model can be used to help people perform at their best by challenging their skills and last but not least.. recognize their results.

Shannon: “Timezones other than the Pacific do exist you know.”

Brandon West, SendGrid

I loved Brandon‘s open and honest talk about burnouts. Developer Evangelists are vulnerable for burnouts both because of the nature of their work as well as their typical idealistic and enthusiastic personalities. Brandon introduced the Job/Person Mismatch Framework to identify risks and start a discussion to mitigate potential burnouts in your organisation. I hope I’ll never need it.

Brandon: When you’re not enjoying the small things in life.. you might be near a burnout.” (paraphrased)

Hackathons, Meetups and Students

Tim Fogarty (MLH), James Milner (Esri) and Joe Nash (Braintree) talked about hackathons, meetups and students. All very time consuming but when done well, worth every effort.

For both hackathons and meetups throwing your own might not get you the best results at all. Better, sponsor an existing hackathon and support or speak at existing meetups. This way you will reach more people with less effort. Tim emphasised that participants are always eager to start hacking so you should keep your demo short, engaging. Always include some live coding, but make sure you have a backup movie. Of course provide an excellent quick start and docs.

Tim: “Realise that hackers are there to hack, not to hear your talk about your product for an hour.” (paraphrased)

Very much related was Joe’s talk on student outreach. Like hackathons they are great for building your brand. Students are learned skills, but not the latest tools. And when it’s your tool they first become to love it’s often the one they stick to and suggest to other students and – once graduated – colleagues. Both students and hackathons are also good for testing your product. If a student or hacker can’t find their way with it, your on-boarding clearly needs some love.

Joe: “Marketing isn’t after students for no reason. Get them while they’re young, but don’t try to play them.” (paraphrased)


I came back with a long list of to-reads, to-think and to-dos. The above talks, but also Jessica‘s on diversity, Cristiano‘s on tooling and of course Dawns Lessons about community from science fiction have provided plenty of inspiration to take back to my work at Appcelerator and beyond.

PS: Since we had one Dutch speaker and 5 or 6 more in audience I’m thinking about throwing a DevRel meetup in Amsterdam. Interested? Ping me on Twitter.