See full event listing

The Rise of the Developer Community

Community is so hot right now.

For the past decade, most product companies have been striving to create their own communities to capitalize on the attention of folks surrounding their products. When the pandemic hit — we saw an almost immediate spike in the rise of community efforts. Our screen time increased spending countless hours and company resources on Slack and Discord groups, forums, virtual meetups, and online gatherings.

When built properly, maintained actively, and measured correctly, these efforts are among the best word-of-mouth “marketing” for developers, a group of people with a historical and notorious disdain for traditional tactics. Unfortunately, we all too often see this optimized for the wrong metrics and reasons, leaving developers running for the hills.

In this presentation, we’ll explore the evolving role of community in technology. From humble user groups and IRC to modern communities of practice or product.

Bryan has been building websites, communities, and relationships for the past 15 years. He’s created hand-crafted websites ranging from large-scale news sites to boutique sites for small businesses. He’s built local communities of practice and online communities centered around products. He loves sharing knowledge in whatever form – meetups, conferences, articles, videos, and quick chats.

Currently, Bryan is exploring the highs and lows of community building as a Senior Developer Advocate at Orbit.love – a product for community builders and developer advocates to measure and create healthy, vibrant communities.

Transcript

Bryan Robinson: [00:00:00] The rise of the thanks, Brian the rise of the developer community. That’s what we’re talking about today. Before we dive in, Hey, everyone. Nice to meet you. I’m Brian and I’m pronouncing. The why specifically so that we don’t confuse me with Brian. I’m a senior developer advocate over@orbit.love.

Orbit’s a platform that helps community builders build what we call high gravity communities. We may chat a little bit about that, but primarily today we’re gonna be talking about. Community in general. You can find out more about me if you’re interested. I’m at be Rob on Twitter. Be Rob dot.

Dev is my, is where my website is. You can find out more about orbit if you want to orbit model on Twitter, orbit.love on the web. But the succinct version of who I am. I’ve been working on the web in some capacity for about 15, 16 years now. But more than that, I’ve been building and fostering technical communities for a long [00:01:00] time.

So long ago, in fact that the only image I have is a black and white image. That’s not entirely true. We had this as a promotional image. I guess it was for the art house feel of it. I don’t know. But seriously, I’ve been building tech communities for about 10 years. This photo is actually taken from a code pen challenge for a user group.

I ran this was a couple years into it. We got to start experimenting with new formats aside from just your standard pizza and a talk format. So today we’re gonna talk about something that I’m obviously pretty passionate about. If I’ve been doing some form of it for 10 years, we’re gonna talk about developer communi.

And the reason that I want to talk about this and we’re gonna frame it as just community in general a little bit is cuz it’s a very hot topic. Every product for the past, like decade has either wanted to build or had a community and not just developer communities. If you had any product or service, someone somewhere was telling you to have a community.

So let’s talk a little bit about [00:02:00] why and we’re gonna do it in a little bit of framing. I have two historical contexts that we’re gonna talk through and I’ve got three hot takes that we’re gonna talk through. Cause I think that every presentation should at least have one. So I’m giving you triple the value on that less Ivan.

So the first context I wanna talk about is millennial old. It is the idea that humans in general are communal creatures. We thrive on community historically. Evolutionarily we thrive as a species because of community. But what does that really mean? And I think to get there, we have to first define what the heck a community even is put very simply a community is a group of people that share something.

That’s something could be goals. It could be passions. It could be interests, games, even locality. And oftentimes multiple of these things wrapped into one thing at orbit. We like to talk about three archetypes of communities. We like to talk [00:03:00] about communities of play. So if you’re into gaming, maybe you’re in a discord about a specific game communities of practice, all looking to learn and grow and communities of product.

Product companies, typically, as I’ve said, nowadays, have some sort of community that spas up around them. So historically speaking, evolutionarily speaking, when we think of evolution, we think of this kind idea of survival of the fittest, right? This really Carnel thing, right? Does that even really make sense in a human capacity humans?

Aren’t very fast. We’re not very strong. We’re not at all equipped for extreme temperatures or really equipped for much of anything. Now we picked up tool use early on, our ancestors did and that was great. And we had, good brain formation and that, that really helped. But I think what really separated us as a species and.

Fit right. Was the ability to form larger and larger communities [00:04:00] and rapidly adapt, not just biologically, but also culturally. And there’s actually a scientific research paper that was written in 2009 from Robert Boyd and Peter Richardson. Now I have a degree in philosophy. So I love these kinds of papers but it’s called evolution or a culture and the evolution of human cooperation.

And now when we think about cooperation, we think of it as a, maybe a hippy dippy thing, right? Like we’re all just working together towards one big goal, but they defined it a little differently. And I thought it was a really interesting way that they defined it. They said that cooperation is costly behavior performed by an individual.

That increases the payoff of others. And that’s a really interesting framing, not just for humanity, but also for communities in general. It allows us to grow bigger, stronger, and more diverse cooperative communities. It allows us to work much, much better as a species. And you might even say [00:05:00] that communities are humanity.

Strength community is the underlying nature. Of humanity. And that leads us to my first hot take of the day that communities always exist. That is whether or not you create them, whether or not you participate actively in them, they always exist. So right now we’re here taking part in the CFE community.

There’s a broader technical community that we’re taking part in we’re in Brian’s community. We’re. Brian’s community. I hope you heard the different pronunciation there. We’re in all these communities together and to a degree you’re also currently taking part in, in orbit’s community. So it’s always here and it’s always something that happens.

So whether or not we actively guide them is something to think about. So let’s do a quick thought experiment about how this exists in the broader development world. Let’s say that I make the [00:06:00] next hot JavaScript F. There’s 8,000 already. What’s 8,001. That’s what we do. We create new Java frameworks in the front end world.

I don’t, cause I’m not that good a programmer. But we’re pretending. So I think it’s fine to go that direction. I mainly make it for me. Probably I start and it automates a couple pieces of work that I need to get done on a regular basis. Maybe I talk about it on Twitter a couple times, nothing major and someone based on that, picks it up and starts using it for their work.

Whoops. See, we have a community now, right? That’s two people that are sharing. Usage of this framework. Now maybe I, as a JavaScript developer just wanna write code. I don’t wanna manage all the trappings of a community. The community still exists. I’m just not optimizing for a good community anymore.

Now this is probably not a great road to go down. And this leads us to our first corollary on our hot takes, which. If communities exist either way, which we’ve already said, UN ignored community [00:07:00] can very quickly and almost definitely become a bad community as my amazing JavaScript framework grows in popularity.

A community’s gonna form up around it, cuz it’s awesome. But if I continue to ignore it and all the issues that come into GitHub and all the questions that come through Twitter and all of the things that pop up around. It will eventually devolve into a really bad place. And there’s probably gonna be a lot of hard feelings around it.

And honestly, I will probably be the worst for that, both professionally, probably personally, to a degree. And honestly, if I wanted my JavaScript framework to take off, I would probably be in trouble for that. And that leads me directly to my hot take number two, which is community is integral to developer experience.

So I wanna do another thought experiment around this. Your community is as important to the design, the API, the UI, the UX of [00:08:00] your product, or your framework or your open source project or your meetup, or what have you, so let’s do another thought experiment. You’re looking for a new API that you need to use, right?

So you look at services that are available. You’re building out a couple proofs of concept to test out the two best looking services that you’ve found you, you wanna see how these both kind of react in real world scenarios when you’re building them out. They’re you stumble a few times, right? Because it’s a new API, it’s a new syntax.

You’re not really familiar with it. And we all know what it means when you stumble while you’re working on code, you go. Do some copy and paste work, right? You head over to Google. Maybe you go directly over to stack overflow. One service has hundreds of helpful posts with plenty of copy and pastable code all on stack overflow.

Ready for you to try out. One has two posts. Moreover, you look on Google even more, and you find dozens and dozens of helpful blog [00:09:00] posts for one about how to set things up all the way from the beginning, all the way through the end on sites like dev dot two CSS tricks, smashing mag personal blogs.

The other has like a company blog and some docs which do you choose? For my money. I go with one that has the amount of educational resources and the amount of copy and Facebook code that I need to get my job done. This doesn’t even go in right to how helpful service forms can be or GitHub issues that you can find directly tied into a product or service discords and slacks and live chat communities.

But how does this happen? How do developers specifically look at forming up these communities around products, frameworks? Code snippets. What have you for that? We’ve got our second historical context, the overall history of the developer community. Why did we get to where we had this critical mass of developer communities that we see today?

There’s a solid, [00:10:00] modern history to how developer communities have been coming through. I absolutely adore this quote. It’s theoretically by Pablo Picasso everywhere. I’ve seen it. It’s been Pablo Picasso. There’s some debate about some other people who may have said it. But it says when art critics get together, they talk about form and structure and meaning and kind these highfalutin things.

When artists get together, they talk about where you can buy cheap Turpen. Not only does it continue to bear out our first historical context. Look, we basically have two sets of communities here with two very distinct purposes. But it also has our second historical context as well.

It identifies a little bit, this idea of a maker community, an artist, community maker, communities are typically communities of practice. They can be communities of product, and they’re often places where the nitty gritty gets discussed. Cause we often run screaming from highfalutin language, from marketing language.

[00:11:00] We, we as developers don’t really enjoy that sort of. And so the history of our specific type of maker, community dates back a long time, actually, we can certainly talk through the entirety of human, creative community. But we can probably skip ahead into the seventies and eighties and hardware clubs.

Not necessarily software clubs. There wasn’t that much software at the time were beginning to crop up. In fact the original apple computer, the app, the apple one was brought to the home brew computer club in Palo Alto. They were meeting about technology that literally almost no one cared about at the time.

And they did it because they had found a group of people that cared about these same things that they cared about things that literally. Only a hobbyist could love at the time with very little practical application outside. So that was the, these original like meetup groups that kind of spawned up.

But along the same timeline, we started seeing bulletin boards coming up and [00:12:00] cropping up in this nascent internet thing that was beginning to take shape. And the first technical in person and virtual communities were born from this. In fact, if you go a little further back in time we had something called user groups that began even before this, the first user group was actually what was it called?

It was from the share user group, which was based on aviation hardware on IBM mainframes. So it was a focus on that and that actually still exists today. The share user group that was founded in 1955, actually still exists today. And it was one of the first like product focused. Tech communities out there.

So really this was like-minded folks self-organizing it was a volunteer thing. And this would continue into the nineties. It would continue into the odds and most cities that had a decent size. Community in general, decent size locality would see user groups pop up around various languages.

Whatever the language of the era was, [00:13:00] whether we’re talking Pearl or basic or whatever it was, you saw software as software ate the world, software user groups bubbling up in localities. Now there are a lot of things that have helped us along the way. And there are a lot of companies that have done this and really pushed forward in a lot of communities that have done this.

But I think that a big shift happened in 2000. It’s a shift that drastically affected the web. But it also affected the way that companies viewed their communities in a lot of ways. And I think it was the beginning of this revolution that we see ourselves in and that. WordPress launched in 2003 nowadays, eh, I’m not the biggest proponent of WordPress, but back in oh 3 0 4 0 5, it was like revolutionary in the way that you could build websites.

It was great. I was specifically working inside WordPress for at least the first five years of my professional career in a lot of ways beyond how it shaped the the early creator web, though. It also helped push forward. Open source and push forward community. It was built and [00:14:00] taught and advocated for specifically by the community.

And when a company formed up around WordPress, when automatic came in, they knew that was their strength. They knew, and they supported and they pushed forward with that. And within the first three years, the newly formed automatic company hosted its first word camp event. And that was in, I think. And from that very first meetup, they sponsored local volunteer led user groups across the world.

And now the word camp conferences are they’re over 1100 of them. And that is on all six populated continents and in 65 countries and a whole bunch of cities. And that’s. Supported in some way by automatic and by the WordPress core they sponsor like meetup accounts. They sponsor pizza, they sponsor all these different things to make this happen.

And that’s because they know this community centric growth mindset is what allowed them to take. Was it like 43%? [00:15:00] Powering the web at this point, it also guarantees that people new to using WordPress have literally tens of thousands of people who are eager to help them learn locally, remotely, virtually whatever it is.

It also means that you’ve got tons of advocates. The job of educating a user base globally over tens of thousands of people is nearly impossible for just a company to do. And by having basically a small army of crowdsourced advocates, It’s totally possible, but like, why do developers do this? Why do developers spend their time and their mental energy and their resources to organize events, to do blog posts about things they like to share in communities of practice and communities of product.

That’s gonna lead us to our last hot take of the day. And that is developers love market. Now, this might get me in trouble in developer communities, because a lot of [00:16:00] developers will tell you that marketing is some BS and they hate it and they think it’s ridiculous. And there’s no need for marketing.

But developers love marketing. And if you don’t believe me, Take a look at most developer laptops. This post is from Alex Patel on dev dot two from a few years back. She posted her laptop and she said, Hey, post your sticker collections. And that post had 155 comments, I think.

And a lot of them were showing off their laptops and their stickers. And if you look not all of these stickers are companies, but some are, and really. I dare you to go make a comment about anything, react negatively speaking in on Twitter go. Post react is terrible. React is the worst thing to JavaScript ever.

And just see what happens. I wouldn’t really recommend that cuz there’s a very vocal user base that wants you to know that react is the greatest thing since slice bread. So why do developers take such strong stands [00:17:00] about the communities that they. There are a lot of things that can go into this. But if you ask me in orbit for that matter there’s one big thing to think about when it comes to getting a passionate community up around your product and all has to do with a capital V value.

And it’s not Hey, I want money, right? It’s actually this idea that the best communities and for that matter, the best products. Create far more value than they capture, capture, meaning consume back in. So what this means is that a community member needs to receive. And not just receive, but perceive the amount about three times the amount of value they get from your community, then what the community gets from them.

So for a company it’s super easy to see what kinds of values you might get, right? To capture you want upsell to a paid plan, right? If you’re a, software’s a service company, you want advocates, you want people helping out in your support forums. [00:18:00] But the more important thing is on the right side of the screen.

It’s the value creation. It’s what a community member should be getting out of your community. And whoops. It ran off the slide, right? And again, this needs to be much, much higher than what’s on the left hand side. What’s the value capture. We wanna have creator plans. If it’s a software as a service company, we wanna have active help in the community, not just from the community, but from support engineers and from the developers themselves.

And from from community advocates and developer advocates. We want extra tools to get the job done, maybe a nicer CLI or a nicer framework. We. A sense of belonging. We want future opportunities. We want partnerships. We want open source contributions coming back into the broader community. We want promotion of the content that we create.

We want inspiration for doing things better. We want advanced tutorials on how to get the most out of the product we want. We want all these big things. And if we’re given these things, we’re gonna be a loyal. [00:19:00] Brand person we’re going to want to share our expertise because we, as we share, our expertise are being given value from the community, from the product, from the company.

So it’s very important as we’re thinking about how we go about creating communities, especially communities of product that we raise up our community members and in doing so the community is the tide. That’s gonna raise the product. We don’t really need to worry as much about marketing to developers.

If we have a community, the community is the marketing to developers and that sense of belonging and that sense of for good or ill, the tribalism that comes with that is very much where we get this vocal user base for our products or our open source communities or our services that so a quick recap of what we’ve already discussed today.

Humans are innately communal creatures. We survived. And in fact, we’re selected because [00:20:00] we formed these powerful community bonds. They allowed us to adapt culturally instead of biologically. Cause we could do that much, much faster. The diversity that comes in from being able to adapt culturally makes us that much strong.

The history of dev communities is the same as community. In general, we have a topic of interest that we’re passionate about and we seek others that are passionate about it as well. No matter what. Because of that historical context, communities exist no matter what, if we don’t actively lead a community, it will devolve into something less than worthy for our aspirations.

If a community is bad, that is directly tied to the overall experience of a product or service, a user will get their job done. Fast, discover more about a product and become a power user much, much faster because of a C. And finally, because of all the value that we create in the process of doing community creation properly, we inspire developers to have a high level of brand [00:21:00] loyalty, and that’s gonna prove prove to the, that developers do love that marketing specifically, if it’s community driven community led marketing.

And this has been a lot around like how to form a community that’s worthy of a product and how to work in products for communities. But it’s also important for the developers in the audience to think about these things and to think about community, even if you’re not gonna be a dev or a dev advocate or a community advocate or a community manager there is still a lot that you.

Can get and feel and be a part of, in a community that is outside of that. So why should you care about community as just a developer and not a developer advocate? Being active in a community open doors I listed out a ton of value that product companies can offer folks. But why should you be active in a product or a practice community?

Being active in a community. It’s about building relationships in [00:22:00] communities of practice, the ones that I built in the past, those relationships that people built inside these communities landed them jobs like concretely landed them jobs. Those relationships also helped the agency that I was a part of when I was building my first communities of practice, hire people.

People wanted to work with me. People wanted to work with the speakers that I had that would come from my agency to talk. Cause they were passionate about a subject. They wanted to work with these people who were passionately spreading this information. They wanted to work at a company that was so community focused as well.

Not to mention all that teaching and helping a community helps build your expertise both internally to yourself, but also externally, it helps build your brand, that you are somebody with this expertise. And when you’re confident in those skills, you’re much more likely to share that in a much larger audience sometimes for good or AU build yourself a brand.

But here’s a big one. And I think it needs to be talked about a lot more You get a lot of that value, right? You produce [00:23:00] content or you grow expertise or you get education, but you also shape the products for the communities that you’re with. That you’re in about the tools that you’re passionate about.

If you’re an active and trusted member of a community of product, your product feedback is invaluable. And in fact, you’ll see feedback that you’ve directly given. Start to get incorporated into a product. And that is an absolutely amazing feeling. It is. Really awesome. So that’s being active in a community and that open stores but also being a community leader can be even better.

It lets you build a ton of relationships. It lets you learn a whole lot of skills. And so that’s gonna lead me to a bonus context. So I alluded a little bit to my own story at the beginning of the presentation about how I got into community. Building I had a user group. I think it’s an educational experience.

So let’s maybe spend a few minutes on it because maybe I [00:24:00] can push you in the way that someone else pushed me. So first and foremost while I’m going through this, cuz it’s the last bit of the presentation as Brian with an eye has mentioned in the chat, be sure to post questions. I’ll definitely field, any questions you have once we get through it.

So now’s the time to get in the queue and get that. So let’s go back in time way, way back. To 2011 at the time I was working for newspapers and I was building websites for newspapers and it was a lot of fun. I liked newspapers. But as you might guess, newspapers in 2011 weren’t Lucrative or stable.

. And the good time I was having working corporate at a newspaper was destined to change. And the company I was working for decided to shutter the entire corporate development and design staff which was about like 30, 40 folks but no hard feelings. They gave me like six months to find a job and like a really great severance.

Package. So Hey, no hard feelings. And also at the time I happened to move from where I’d been living back to my hometown of Memphis. So in that time I had a chance to find a new job. I found [00:25:00] work at a little agency. I also discovered a small, but Super active Python user group in Memphis called NEPI I believe I’ve been working in Jango at this com at this news agency.

So I felt like I could, this would be a great networking opportunity. Go learn a little bit more about Python. I was a front end developer. But as it turned out that there wasn’t actually a lot of work for Jango front end folks in Memphis, you had to like really know Python and I still don’t really know Python.

But it introduced me some really awesome people that are still my friends. Anyway, I landed a job at that small agency handling their user experience work. So at the time that literally meant I was a professional whiteboard and I liked it a lot. I like whiteboarding. So while I was working there, I had the opportunity to work with the local PHP user group leader.

His name was Joe Frickson. He’s still super active in the Memphis community. He’s active in the PHP community as a whole as well. And again, he’s another friend that I’ve made that I’m friends with to this. And in talking with him, I really bemoaned the fact that we had all these great user groups, PHP, Python, Ruby, all these great ones, but they were all like specifically backend [00:26:00] focused.

And there wasn’t really a user group for front end development. And I was a front end developer. I was a UX person. And he gave me a piece of advice that his mentor in the PHP community had given him. And that was if there’s no PHP community or PHP user group in your area, You are the PHP user group, go make it.

And so that Sanking a little, I didn’t immediately go take action on that. Until a little bit later in that year, that was about 2012. I got my first chance to speak at a conference, a really small conference in Memphis. I literally spoke in front of, I think, seven people which was fun and nerve-wracking and terrible and amazing all at the same time.

But in the hallway track and again, hallway tracks are where community bonds were forged. Joe. Told me that he wanted to introduce me to somebody, someone who had been idly talking in similar those slightly different ways of starting a JavaScript user group, not entirely front end, not design JavaScript.

And so from there, the Memphis web workers were born. And that was my the meetup group that I ran. I partnered up with Eric Tetra [00:27:00] still again, a good friend to this day and for the next five years. Eric. And I ran the user group until he moved away. I ran for another year until I moved away.

It was great. We got to experiment, like I said, with a whole bunch of different things. We did a monthly meetup where we ran talking pizza kind of scenarios, but we also did that code pen challenge at a huge arcade. We did a node bots building day. We did that twice and that was amazing. We actually got 16 and 17 year olds in for that as well.

And that was super amazing. But this didn’t actually happen in a silo. As I mentioned, I’d attended the Python user group. My coworker led the PHP user group. There’s also a.net group, a Ruby group, a Java group. And then we started web workers and all these groups were disconnected. We shared a locality.

So technically we shared a community, we shared Memphis as a community standard. But there was no singular gravity that pulled it all together. There were these little pockets of gravity and no central point of [00:28:00] connection. And then we had some rocket ships, People, that would go in between these groups.

There were people who just loved the user group scene and they would go between them. But again, no centralized space for a community to actually thrive. We were hosting events. We were meeting people. We were seeing people over and over again. So there was community happening, but we weren’t tending to the broad community as a whole.

And so a few of us in what was considered at the time, like the new guard of the community in Memphis we banded together from the relationships we’d already forged as we were creating our user groups and we created this thing called the Memphis technology foundation and we put all of our resources together.

It was technically a nonprofit. I’m still somewhat involved with it today. Not significantly. But we started building relationships amongst all the group leaders and we started connecting things together. We created resources to help make everyone have a cohesive community. We shared information about the other events that were happening.

We created a free to use community meetup account [00:29:00] that any of these community leaders could do. And if you wanted to create your own user group, we mentored you in how to do that. We shared the people that we knew that that were good resources for sponsorship. We let you have access to the meetup group.

We created a slack community for it all. We helped each other find speakers in the community and outside of the Memphis community and twice a. We started hosting a super user group where every six months all the user groups would cancel their meetup and push everyone into the super user group.

And we would host five or six different talks that night across a really broad range of things. We also ended up building a yearly hackathon and we built an, and we kept our original annual conference going and all these things wouldn’t have. Easily possible with just those little pockets of gravity, we needed that kind of central solar gravity to really band it all together and to adapt culturally so that we could build a cohesive and thriving community.

That was resilient. It’s still going on today, even though I’m 700 miles [00:30:00] away, I don’t take an active part in the community anymore. I’m. Part of that community of locality anymore. But it’s still so resilient because those interconnected natures made it much, much stronger. So a few things I’ve learned along the way that if you want to build your own community of practice, wherever you may be I highly recommend it first start the community.

If there is not a community for a language that you are passionate about, You are that community you are that user group find a good recurring sponsor. And I’ll say this it’s okay. Recruiters are actually a great source of sponsorship. They usually only want two or three minutes at the beginning of meetup and they will pay for the things that you need.

And they usually do it on a monthly basis and they work out individual marketing budgets is great. Recruiters are fine. Don’t. Have a cohost, if you can. If you’re sick one month, your cohost is there. Don’t worry about it. If they’re sick, you’re there. Don’t worry about it. And then grow just beyond your user group.

If there are other user groups in your community, if there are other communities little pockets of [00:31:00] gravity in your community, go for that. And then you can also, even if you don’t make your own community, if there is a community, either in your locality or broader in this grand global community that we have offer to.

Come to events, talk to other people, build their relationships because those individual relationships are what build a higher level of gravity and a stronger community around each of these communities. Building relationships is the key there. And really, as you do these things, whether you’re helping to lead and to grow, or you’re building from scratch.

The skills that you learn along the process are invaluable in any career. Not just as a developer advocate or as a community builder they can make your day to day life much easier as well. You’ll be a better communicator. Since you won’t find a speaker every month, there will be lulls where you can’t get anybody to speak.

You’ll learn to be a good speaker, cuz you’ll have to fill those gaps. You’ll also learn much more details about the technologies you’re passionate about. because you have to learn them well enough to present. You’ll learn about managing [00:32:00] events. You’ll learn about cool technology that you can seek out people to come talk to.

Cause they’ll be willing to talk to a meetup group. You’ll learn how to manage timelines and run events and do all these things all because you did these things all because you built a community all because you were an active participant in a community. So this is the kind of thing that not just makes you stronger as a dev.

But again, going back to the historical context, it’s gonna make you stronger as a. Because we are communal creatures. And with that, I’m gonna go ahead and say that it’s Q and a time, and we’ll bring Brian back on and we’ll talk QA. But also I understand you might not wanna ask and chat and you might like to talk in private and all that sort of thing.

So hit me up on Twitter at B Rob or come join orbits discord. Cause we talked about community building in there. It’s you can hit it up. rob.dev/discord as well. Oh my God, Rob. That was

Brian Rinaldi: awesome. And I could talk to you about it for probably the rest of the afternoon. but I

Bryan Robinson: will, I’ll clear my schedule clear my schedule, everyone.

I have

Brian Rinaldi: so many [00:33:00] thoughts. So yeah and you hit on so many important points and to. Before I get to questions. I wanna emphasize that last part you talked about as somebody who’s been doing this myself for a long time, I’ve gotten as much out of it as like more out of it than I gave in many.

I’d say even things like CFE dev. I started it because like I wanted to see these presentations, like these are things I wanted to see and I’m learning. I’m not just here, running it, I’m here learning as well. And I feel like I’ve been introduced to so many different people who are, have made connections for me, but also like I’ve learned a lot from everything they’ve presented about things that, that I knew nothing about.

But by the end of it I learned a lot. So I think your point that being involved in the community can really give back more than you end up having to give, right? Just about every time receive. So excellent point there. We did get one question so far, but please folks feel free to put your [00:34:00] questions in the chat or in the Q and a module.

So Amy has a question for Brian but that’s you

Bryan Robinson: with the Y you got pronounced the Y a little bit stronger.

Brian Rinaldi: your favorite passion project you’ve worked

Bryan Robinson: on? It’s a tough question. I. So a few different ways to answer it. My, my best passion project that met all the goals that I set for it is the podcast that I organized that Brian has been a guest on.

No, I pronounced it with the eye called that’s my jam sack. And that’s been very Personally, not monetarily lucrative. I pay more for that than I get out of it. , but I’ve met so many amazing people through that. I’ve met Brian through that. Ray who’s talking next next week was, has twice now been a guest on the podcast and I’ve gotten to learn about a whole bunch of different perspectives on the jam stack world.

That’s been pretty amazing. The hackathon that we organized that I mentioned was called hack Memphis. That was super amazing. It was actually a a hackathon that was not just a software [00:35:00] hackathon. We wanted to bridge our hardware community in our software community. And it was a hackathon that was all about community building.

You couldn’t win the hackathon. There was no judge panel. It was all about getting together for a weekend once a year and building cool. Sometimes bridging hardware and software, sometimes just a software project, sometimes just soldering people would bring their mechanical keyboard to work on. And like the amount of people who thought that I like drastically cared about hardware stuff was amazing.

I would just sit there and just listen. And it was amazing stuff and I very much cared about their story, but I would destroy myself in all my tools. If I worked on hardware projects that’s just, that’s not what I’m good at, but. Watching them, listening to them and seeing their passion.

Every time was amazing and like a, again, like a growth opportunity. I learned so much watching all that happen.

Brian Rinaldi: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been, and I’ve been involved in things like that as well. Even to your point of just stepping up when. Nobody, that’s generally how I got into this [00:36:00] stuff.

I I moved, I talked about years ago, I was doing full fusion. And I was living for a brief period in a small town in Wisconsin, and we were moving to Boston oh, finally, I’m gonna have be able to go to a group, a user group with like other people doing full fusion. I got there and there was one, but it was defunct.

And. And so I was like, Ugh. Okay. So I just started, and then I wanted to be able to go to a conference about some of this stuff and my company wouldn’t pay for it. So I’m like, so I’m like, okay, I’ll just start one here. And so it everything evolved out of that.

So I think, it’s not always easy to do those kind of things. It’s not always, as you mentioned, from. What do you monetarily, what do you gain out of that individual thing? Like even CV, to be honest. But I would say, my it advanced my career enough that I’m more than made up for whatever I spent on these things over the years.

Bryan Robinson: Legitimately I’m not here talking to you today. If 20, if that meeting with Eric Turk [00:37:00] didn’t happen in the in mid 2012, I’m not here at orbit. Yeah. I’m not at any of the opportunities I’ve had in the past few years. I’m still probably working out a small agency in Memphis, which is fine, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And I’d probably still be pretty happy, but like where I’m at now doesn’t exist without starting that community a decade ago now. Yep.

Brian Rinaldi: Yeah. And the thing that we have a I’ve run, something similar to what you were talking about in Memphis here in Orlando code Orlando devs. It’s a also notfor profit.

We also have a group meetup account to for everybody, we try to have like more community events and stuff like that are broader community. And, the other thing that gives me a lot of personally, a lot of satisfaction is just how many people we’ve helped get jobs. How many people who’ve furthered their career?

Like how many people who like this was their first opportunity, like to meet somebody who wasn’t they just getting into coding and they, this is they’ve never really even had a [00:38:00] talk with other developers, and so all those things, like just, it’s not even just about how does it affect.

It’s like you can have such an impact on

Bryan Robinson: other people. Yeah. We do have another question coming up. Oh, so yeah. What risks does the developer advocacy slash community world face moving forward? There’s always risks, right? I think some of them go into the idea talk I talked about near the beginning, which is.

If you’re not building your community in the way that is to build strong bonds within the community, you run a lot of risks about that, about losing one member of a community team or developer advocacy team and the community crumbles, or you run the risk of not building the community in a way that supports itself.

And then you have to hire 50 community advocates and that doesn’t support itself. Or. You build a company that has one community advocate, one developer advocate, and they only can do so much. And so they have to focus on what brings initial [00:39:00] value, right? And that then means that people get left behind in the community.

And that creates a bad community experience. And that bad community experience like said directly correlates to bad user experience of a product because the community is a pillar of the product. Yeah, also there’s a lot of buzz, and anytime there’s buzz there’s problems to be had. About people really pushing various types of agendas around things, but also as we move into this kind of more Cy space I think we can look at the history of dere and developer advocacy and know that there are.

Various pitfalls that can leave a poor taste in someone’s mouth that can get very marketingy heavy. You’ll notice, like in general, I showed no screenshots of the orbit platform today. I didn’t really talk about orbit that much. I just wanted to share. My take and by extension orbit’s take on community and developer communities and stuff like that and give some value and not say, go sign up for my product.

And we sometimes [00:40:00] run into that, especially when we get into like developer evangelism and like tofu growth, top of funnel growth and all those things, it can very easily leave a poor taste in the. And that can lead to the entire industry of devel the entire industry of community management, getting a bad rap.

And so as more and more people are getting into that, having proper thaw leadership in place goes a decent distance to make sure that that we don’t have bad actors that end up poisoning the well of what community could and probably should be.

Brian Rinaldi: Yeah. And I would say, I would add to I think you’ve touched on it, but.

There’s oftentimes, I think one of the risks in Deel, particularly at smaller companies, is that the expectations of it are so high. Yep. It’s okay, we bought you in and you’re like a superstar and you’re gonna make us, you’re gonna suddenly, when you join, we’re gonna have like tons of new followers and we’re gonna have, huge Our Twitter, following is gonna go crazy and our traffic is gonna [00:41:00] boost and, and it’s, that’s not the way it works really.

And one of the things I end up going, it’s because there’s, you gotta be careful not to focus so much on what am I gonna, it was in your slide and then what are we getting out of this? I’m like, okay, but what are we giving? Because this is more about you have to build it that.

You have to put into the bank before you can withdraw kind of thing. And yeah, a lot companies don’t do that.

Bryan Robinson: There’s a lot of and Erin who’s in chat. She actually asked the last question. She’s a community advocate at at orbit as well. And we have lots of In depth, passionate conversations about this stuff, which is great.

But we both have like product and like UX type backgrounds. And it’s amazing, like to think about, there are so many overlaps to what like UX is and what community building is. And part of what I used to say when I was a UX professional, doing those whiteboards, was always like, I. What do I give the user, coming to the site in order to be able to ask them for something, whether that is paying for a product or signing up for an E [00:42:00] for an email newsletter or something like that?

What have I given them to let them know that this is gonna be valuable to them? So what we do in community is also What are we gonna give to them to make it so that they want to give more to us? And it’s always gotta be like three X the value it’s always gotta be huge. I think that goes for for product conversations as well.

Broader than just community like when you start talking about pricing and when you start talking about product strategy around that sort of thing, the value that a user gets out of your product has to be of a, of an order of magnitude larger than what they’re paying into the product. Otherwise they’ll find something cheaper, they’ll find a work around.

And so it’s the same with community. I think there’s so much that we have to like, make sure that we’re giving to make that work. Absolutely.

Brian Rinaldi: Yeah. It’s you know, and it can be a tough lesson. Because you want, obviously, particularly if you’re a small startup or something, it’s, you wanna see I, you need to show some immediate impact and it’s okay, but Deel isn’t always like [00:43:00] in community work, isn’t always it’s not a, it’s like a garden where you plant the seeds.

And you nurture them. And then if you do things right, it’ll grow and then it’s self-sustaining and then it’s, it really gives back. But it’s like until you do that kind. Initial work, gardening, like you aren’t gonna see the fruits of this

Bryan Robinson: ever when we were doing some strategy work at Algolia myself and my coworker the newly reformed developer advocacy team there we were doing a whole bunch of strategic work and like walking the company through like the vision for dev in the future.

And one of things we talked about was this idea that. We don’t want to just create content that gets people in the door. What we want to do is we wanna build advocates in the community that, that do that for us because there’s two of us. We can write X number of blog posts, create X number of videos a month.

If you want to scale that content up. You have to hire five more of us. And that is [00:44:00] something that doesn’t scale in the way that we want to, but if you provide value to champions and give them all the tools they need and give them the value they seek, when they create things, , they wanna create things around your product.

And by doing that, you. Take your three person advocacy team and you make it a 20 person advocacy team and a 50 person advocacy team. And theoretically that builds on itself on the momentum, because the more of those people that you have, the more people want to do that sort of thing. And just it’s a flywheel.

What, whatever that means, but yeah.

Brian Rinaldi: Yep. I think that goes back to your point of if it, the community exists, whether you manage it or not and. Pieces of that community will like you have, there may be champions. You’ve just not caring for them. And so there exist out there. You’re just, they’re not, you’re not

Bryan Robinson: taking advantage.

You, you have potential champions who are going to very quickly, as we would say in orbit, float back out into space, right? They’ve come very close to the center of your gravity, cuz they like your product. But as soon as [00:45:00] they realize that they’re not getting cared for, they do less and they float back out into space and they’re not your champions anymore and that’s not their fault.

That’s your fault. yep.

More Awesome Sessions