DevRel is the Punk Rock of Tech
Warning. There might be some strong language.
There are many part of the tech world that fall outside of what might considered mainstream. The way we glom on to anything new with wires sticking out of it, the way certain communities are more or less open in their behavior, the way getting started works, and so much more.
But sometimes, there is something so much further outside the mainstream that it’s practically from a different planet.
Remember the 90’s? Sure mainstream radio had boy bands and the inklings of Britney and the other lollipop singers — sure fun to dance to, but mostly manufactured, processed, and without a whole lot of substance.
Then you had the alternative rock stuff coming up out of nowhere (seemingly). Bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Hum, Sunny Day Real Estate, along with the slew of grunge bands and other folks that didn’t fit in the main stream of music. Sure, eventually some of these bands became big hit makers, but most didn’t…and they were okay with that!
But then, there were the other bands, like NoFX who refused to make videos, or Rancid who demanded to be on an independent record label, or 10 Foot Pole who would sooner put the pedal to the floor than to slow down for anyone who couldn’t keep up.
These groups were punk as fuck. Mainstream radio would say they didn’t care about people — but it was actually the opposite. Their fans, their community, was what they cared for above all else.
DevRel is Punk Rock
It’s been said time and again, Developer Relations is not about the code, the tech, or the product — it’s about the people. People are the point.
In the same way that punk bands have never cared about money or fame, DevRel practitioners generally do not care about sales or funnels. They focus on bringing value to the users of the product and the community around it through content, talks, videos, whatever. It’s about the message, not the shine.
There are Dev Marketers and sales folks who can focus on the product side of things. Your Developer Relations folks: advocates, evangelists, content makers, community managers, speakers, and anyone else — should be focused on what people are talking about, what they care about, and how the company they represent can better meet those needs.
A good DevRel person can get more out of a 5 minute conversation than a 1-hour focus group after a webinar with 25 people.
That’s pretty punk.
Punk Bands Don’t Care About Billboard Charts
Never has a true punk band given a shit about where their album or single places on Billboard, Download Charts, or anywhere else. What matters is was a connection made, did this song make a difference to someone who needed it?
Not unlike the general DevRel push against sales and other “traditional” metrics. Often these metrics are of no real value to the community we are serving and don’t really indicate how well we are doing our job.
There are tools and metrics that tell a better story than “did signups increase after you spoke at an event?” or “are you pushing top of funnel activity up and the right?”
Those questions are so Top 40!
How about something that makes sense? Like, were there valuable questions after your twitch stream? Or, did that blog post have a good number of readers? Or, did someone use and/or praise that documentation you wrote?
The answers maybe more ethereal, but they actually reflect our community, our crowd, and what we do.
Small Venue to Big Stage — As Long As the Message Gets Shared
Companies tend to get caught up in two things: we only want to be involved in big events/large platforms and we should do our own branded thing.
Big events, small events. It shouldn’t matter to the DevRel practitioner. There is a community there, sometimes untapped, and that could mean a monstrously awesome relationship. If I can get that at Little Rock Tech Fest but can’t at AWS:ReInvent, which is more valuable?
As for branding your own events or meetups — who has more punk credibility, Blink182 or Bad Religion? Given a choice, who wants to be a poseur?
Joking aside, there is not really a big call for people to show up at what is clearly a sales pitch. They’d rather spend their time learning cool Python code tricks or how to connect their API to your platform. Give them value, not sucrose and sales.
After the Party, It’s Me and You
When all is said and done, DevRel folks work for a company. This doesn’t mean they can’t have their own personality, ideals, and identities. Furthermore, they have a voice and you, as a company, are riding on the coattails of that voice.
DevRel folks are able to present themselves as loyal to their organizations but more loyal to the communities that welcome and accept them. There is a great deal to be learned from the importance of interaction.
Technology is the concept of building tools to make human lives better. If you are lucky enough to have a DevRel practitioner in tune with the communities you are looking to participate in, that’s punk as fuck.