A tour of developer relations tools


Jessica and Matt Rose

Jessica and Matt Rose

Finding tools to help with developer relations work isn’t always straightforward but, in this talk from DevRelCon Tokyo 2019, Jessica Rose of Mozilla and Matt Rose of GitHub provide a tour of tools they recommend to help people working in dev rel.


[Jessica] Fantastic. So this is our first joint talk together. So either, it will go very well, or maybe you’ll get to see a divorce in real-time.

So we’re going to be taking you on a very fast tour of some different tools we both think are very important for DevRel.

  • [Matt] Okay, so I am Matt Rose. I work for GitHub as a Supportocat. So all day I talk to developers.

I help them solve problems and I try to persuade them that they are talking to a real human, not a robot.

  • So you lie.

  • It’s not a lie.

  • Real human. My name is Jessica Rose. I work with Mozilla and I get to do some really, really fantastic stuff. If you saw Allie’s keynote earlier, she talked a lot about the Tech Speakers program which I get to work with and also working on some very new, exciting, secret things. Both of us used to live in Japan.

So if you find us afterwards we’ll be very excited to speak bad Japanese. We’re going to show you four main tools today. There are many, many others we like, but we only have 20 minutes. So maybe we’ll show you three.

  • So we’re going to talk a little bit about Alfred. It’s a digital butler.

  • [Man 1] Yes. Whoo!

  • Monica. It’s a relationship manager. Trello, it’s a digital noticeboard. And TripIt, it’s a travel helper.

  • Like a digital mom. So maybe you’re thinking, “Jess,” because we are on a first name basis, you say, “Jess, are you telling me about productivity tooling so I can do more work, I can get more done?”

-No, this is not about doing more work. This is about being lazy. So this is like scuba diving. Have you ever done scuba? When you do scuba, you want to be very lazy.

If your movements are very efficient, you use less oxygen. You can dive for longer. So if we use tools that make our time very efficient, we can be in DevRel for longer.

  • And not burn out. I want everyone to find tooling that works well for them so they can relax, they can go home. They can turn their phones off. Maybe. The first thing we’re going to look at is Monica. And Monica’s a CRM.

It’s a client relationship manager. But really, it’s a supercharged, very powerful contacts list. So who here works in DevRel now? Who here meets too many people? You remember everyone’s name, yes? So Monica can’t make you remember everyone’s name, but it can be a little bit helpful.

It’s also an open-source technology. So you’ve got the option of either self-hosting it or you can pay them maybe $50 a month. Yeah. Oh. So this is an example of Monica. I’ve populated it with artificial data. So these calls are not real calls.

These are just my friends. I’m not calling Cristiano and Matt Revell all the time.

  • Yeah, you are.

  • Just a lot. So we’re going to add a new person. And I’m going to add Matt. Because I need to remember his name, maybe. Rose?

  • And Rose. Monica always asks the gender of people, which I think is strange. So I just say, “Don’t mind.” We’re going to add Matt. And Monica was designed not for business, it was designed for busy people to use with their friends and family. So you’ve got some very unusual options here. So I could say, “Oh, love relationships.”

Your spouse, or your… I was going to say you better. Or family. You can add people’s pets. So if you want me to remember your name, please show me pictures of your pets. Actually, show me pictures of your pets anyway.

  • No, not your pets. Don’t show her your pets.

  • So one of my favorite things is you can go ahead and log activities or calls. So we’re doing something now. We spoke at a thing. And because Monica is very flexible, you can create your own field. You say, “Oh, were on a… not a podcast. Spoke at an event together. He was okay.”

  • Better than okay.

  • “He was not great.”

  • Very great.

  • Done. So my favorite thing about Monica is a little bit creepy. Monica, because it’s designed for your friends and family, you can record debts. So I can say “Oh, Matt owes me  for pizza.” Not really.

But I use it to record favors on a scale of 1 to 10. So if somebody does you a very big favor, maybe it’s a 10. A very small favor, maybe a one. So Matt agreed to come and do this talk with me. So I owe him a favor. Is it big?

  • Eight.

  • Eight? Helped with a talk. This way, Monica will remind me to get in touch with him and say, “Hey, Matt,” you owe him a favor. See if you can help him. Maybe. So this is Monica. We’re going to move ahead a little bit and talk about Matt’s favorite one.

  • So Alfred is only available for Mac. I’m going to be talking about features that are from the paid version. So I think it’s about $30, maybe.

  • Oh.

  • I don’t know what…

  • Some Yen.

  • Some Yen. It works with your Mac and provides a lot of functions. It can search the web quickly. It can search your computer quickly, and you can write little scripts.

  • And you can write little scripts. I would like to test it. So in the Slack for this event, we have made a channel called DevRel Tooling. Maybe you could post some things in that channel, maybe links to websites, maybe some text in Japanese that I can translate. Maybe you have questions about GitHub.

  • Or, Mozilla.

  • But mainly GitHub.

  • And for Japanese speakers, if you can give me a four-character idiom so…. That’s very good Japanese.

  • Okay, so one of the things you can do in Alfred is set up many custom web searches you can trigger with keyboard shortcuts. So you can set up a translation if you have to deal with a language you don’t know. You can translate it very quickly. You can also set up…I do a lot of support of GitHub pages.

So I like to look up DNS records and, of course, GitHub docs. So has anyone made it to DevRel Tooling? No? No links? That’s going to make this next bit hard.

Okay, so I’m going to find some Japanese…Do you want to hold?

  • Oh, no. There was a speaker dinner, but we didn’t have any fun without you. I promise.

  • Okay, so I copy the Japanese. Trigger Alfred. And I say, “Translate for me.”

  • Oh.

  • Okay. It wasn’t that kind of speaker dinner. Like, it wasn’t unsafe. Okay. So it says it’s unsafe. Maybe I can analyze that link. Actually, this site takes a long time.

So I’m going to skip it, but I’m sure it’s a…Oh, no, it’s a safe link. Another thing Alfred lets you do is communicate faster. You can use text snippets, text expansion. You type a few characters, Alfred will fill in the rest.

So you can put a custom greeting, “Good morning, I hope your day is off to a great start.” All you need to type, “Hiam.”

  • Everything’s fine.

  • Yeah. So I can type, “Hiam.” “Good morning.” Or “Hipm.” “Good afternoon, I hope you’re having a fun day.” Now if you use many of these shortcuts you can start to add in variation. So you can create different levels of formality.

You can be very casual, or regular, or very formal. So when you talk you can quickly say to your boss, “Ah, yes, hello. I respect you.” To your friends, “Hey.” But this means you have to think, you have to remember which shortcut is which.

So you can also use workflows. It allows you to use a little code to automate things. So what I did is create a workflow to take a snippet and choose randomly which phrase to use.

So I’m always saying, “If I can help more, please let me know.” I write four different versions and use a little bit of Ruby to randomize. And then when I say my snippet for, please let me know, it will choose a new one each time.

So if I am talking on Twitter, each time I speak a different one. I don’t look like a robot. Now, perhaps your company announces a feature and you didn’t know. Suddenly, you have many people saying, “Hey, that feature sounds great. Tell me more.”

You could reply to each tweet and say, “I’m sorry. I don’t know yet. It sounds cool. Blah, blah, blah, blah.” If you do the same tweet every time, you look like a robot. But if you spend a few minutes making some snippets, you can make an answer that changes.

So what feature might they announce?

  • Is free cake a feature?

  • Yeah, so maybe your company announces, “Free cake.” You can use the clipboard to mix with the snippets. So…Tweet one, “Thank you for your interest in free cake.As soon as I know more, I’ll be in touch.”

“We’re glad to hear you’re excited about free cake.When everything is confirmed, I’ll let you know.” “Thanks for reaching out about free cake.When everything is confirmed, I will let you know.” So each tweet is a little different. You look like a human, not a robot.

  • This sounds like something a robot would say.

  • Okay, also, you can do fun stuff. Green Pokémon. Red Pokémon. Yellow Pokémon.

  • Is this what you do at work all day?

  • This is most of the day, yes.

  • So we’re going to look at Trello very, very quickly. Is anybody here from Trello? Okay. Who works at Trello? Perfect. Oh, uh-oh. I’m sorry.

No, no… I’m sorry because I’m going to be using Trello but there are many similar tools. Please use the one that works best for you. I like Trello because I’m already using it, but if something else is best for you, use that. So as an example, I’m going to look at DevRelCon Tokyo board for me. And here, this is just a very common workflow I use.

Things I must do, things I’m doing, things I’m blocked on, and what’s…ah…Oh, no, I’m giving the talk right now. This is a very weird day. So here, these aren’t a lot of things to do, but if I was busier or if I had my work Trello up, there would be much more going on here. I can track what I still have to do, what I’m doing now, what I’m blocked on, which is getting another cat.

  • We have two cats. No more cats.

  • [Man 2] Evil cats.

  • So I have to remove the blocker later. And Trello’s just a really, really easy way to track different things in this space. Think of it as Post-it notes on a digital board and if these work well for you, these might be a really good addition to your workflow.

  • You can use GitHub project boards as well.

  • Or Trello. We’re going to go very quickly through TripIt as well because we’re almost out of time. Is anybody currently using TripIt? Cool. Is anybody using something else? Oh, come and see me after class.

I want to know what else is out there. Unfortunately, we’re not going to do a live demo of TripIt because I couldn’t find a way to fake the data and you all don’t need to know what hotel I’m in. You all don’t need to know where I’m going like…TripIt is just a very gently magical tool, where when you get your confirmation emails, when you get your flight email or your hotel email, you can just forward it to TripIt and TripIt creates little, tiny trip plans.

I think the most important part of TripIt is it will send you a push notification. It’ll say, “Hey, good morning.You can check into your flight now so you don’t get a middle seat.” Or even more importantly, it’ll say, “Oh, excuse me,” it’s not so polite, “your gate has moved.You have five minutes to run across Heathrow as fast as you can.”

It can also automatically share travel data. So if you have a team you really care about and you want them to know where you are, or if you have a spouse who is not a robot, you could share your travel details with them. You can pay extra for a premium plan, but I think the only… I’m sure there’s lots of value there. But I think the main value there is it tracks your sort of rewards programs, when you’re likely to get status.

There are a lot of other things you could do that might be helpful. I really like… If you’re using Gmail or Google Inbox for the next three weeks while it exists, automation tooling like Boomerang can let you politely nudge people who haven’t replied to you. A lot of people talk about their love of notetaking apps like Notist or Apple Notes.

I’m very old-fashioned though, and I’m sort of a pen-and-paper girl. We’ve used Slack as an example here, but I think the most valuable thing to do with messaging apps and messaging programs, is to use whatever your team is willing to use. If your team loves IRC, you’re probably going to have a hard fight moving them on to something new. And really, any other tooling that works well for you.

Just because two people at a conference said it might be a good idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you. But sometimes you try something new and it just doesn’t fit. I always like to recommend that if you’re trying new tooling, try it for yourself first before showing it to your team. And then, set sort of a probation period.

Say, “Okay, Jess and Matt talked about using Monica.And I don’t trust Matt. But Jessica, she seems okay.I’m going to try Monica for maybe one month or two months, and if it doesn’t work, I’m going to retire it or kill it.” Whichever is more humane. The best tooling and the best productivity tooling is really about what’s going to be working for you.

If you wanted to try any of the tools we’ve mentioned, here’s a very, very easy shortcut for taking a photo, and we’ll also have these slides available on slides.com. Thank you all very much for your time. ♪ [music] ♪

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