The rise of Developer Advocates and its impact on the dev community
My first contact with a Developer Advocate goes back to 2010, when I tried to hook up to the Twitter firehose but stumbled upon a weird bug. I posted my issue to a message board, and quickly got a reply by Taylor a Developer Advocate from Twitter trying to help me out.
While the role and definition are not always the same, or whether they’re titled Platform Developer Relations Manager or Technical Evangelist, the common characteristic is that Developer Advocates are the public channel where (external) developers have a point of contact for technical issues or feedback into Bigtech.
Or at least that was the original focus. Developer Advocates became much more vocal in the tech landscape. At tech events these advocates get to do their talks for Bigtech’s new product launches or get interviewed on tech blogs. But more worryingly the rise of Developer Advocates leads to them more-and-more shaping online discussions regarding Bigtech’s product to their advantage. Critiques from developers on blogs, forums or Twitter are paraded by an official reaction of Bigtech of which dissident voices are quickly drowned out.
I’ve seen multiple developers publicizing their feedback, only to quickly be put to bed by these advocates who are on top of protecting Bigtech products. Putting a halt to a healthy discussion. A recent example is yesterday’s Hacker News post “Google May Be Stealing Your Mobile Traffic”, which within hours was debunked (!) Debunked: 10 Misconceptions about AMP on an Google Medium channel.
I think that’s not the right direction.
The author in the example above initially already feels the need to add:
I hope I am not being too hard on Google
But even then the author gets to experience the full force of Google’s advocates against him. His views need debunking. Even leading to the author amending his original article, by adding — to the top — Google’s reaction.
Circling back. Them standing behind their own product is not the issue. The issue is that conversations led by Developer Advocates suppress honest feedback from the little guy against these advocates who are able to leverage their Bigtech brand, authority and communication channels.
Would Developer Advocates down vote these kind of articles so they wouldn’t gain more attention?
My impression might be totally wrong, so I would love to get some insights from actual Developer Advocates whether part their job is to be on top of the news and shape its discussion or not.