Activating developers to drive your advocacy program


Empowering developers to push forward your advocacy program involves positive interactions, investment and education, argues GitHub’s developer advocate Brian Douglas. It might also involve a few lessons from Beyonce, as he outlines here in his entertaining and informative talk from DevXCon San Francisco 2018.


So I’m actually here to talk about activating your developers through developer programs. Very exciting stuff. Nothing exciting about GitHub is gonna happen this week for the rest of the week. Cool. And so yesterday in the… Sorry, this morning in the intro, we had everybody, like, raise their hands who flew in. Who’s not from San Francisco, flew in somewhere else came in for this? That is awesome because I just want to be the first to welcome you to the Bay Area.

Awesome. Yeah. So what we’re looking at here is Beyonce. You guys all familiar with Beyonce? Cool. Yeah, and I gave a version of this talk in China, so it was kind of challenging to talk about Beyonce in China, but she did perform there in 2015 once, but who’s remember Beyonce? You guys fans? Any fans? Members of The Hive? All right, cool.

What Beyonce can teach us about developer advocacy

So Beyonce got her start with Destiny’s Child right? Destiny’s Child was like a legit group. I grew up on En Vogue. My mom was a big En Vogue fan. Guess you’ve probably never heard of them. And then we had like TLC, so like all these power groups. And then shortly after TLC, came Destiny’s Child which is also girls’ time. So, came out of like Houston, super awesome group. They did a lot of great stuff. Unfortunately, their time ended.

Sorry, I’ve really messed up that pun, but I’ll move on. And Beyonce actually grew out of that group. She became a superstar. She’s doing very awesome, awesome stuff. You guys probably remember a lot of her songs. For whatever reason, the only song everybody remembers is, “All the single ladies,” which is the only song I can’t sing in karaoke, apparently, because it’s way too fast. So if you guys wanna choose a song for me, Hold Up probably is a better version. It’s slower. Yeah, I’ll do that one.

Developer advocates, The Beyhive and superfans

So I’m here to talk about Beyonce and her superstardom. And it’s actually a lot of what we’re doing here as DevRel because she’s got what we like to call, The Beyhive. Anybody remember the Beyhive part of Formation? All right, cool.

So the Beyhive is it’s an awesome group. It’s a group of superfans of Beyonce. And superfans, these fan groups, superclubs, very popular in the ’90s. Actually, through all of rock and roll in the ’60s and stuff like that. The Beatles, everybody had this. And Beyonce has really, really tapped into her superfan group. So much that she has the Beyhive, which makes a lot of sense because she is Queen Bey, right? That’s how it works.

So because she’s Queen Bey everybody’s looking for her to have top-notch performance. So I… However, recommend you guys is keep in mind The Beyhive. I’m gonna move on to talk about something that I…the second most favourite thing I like to talk about, besides Beyonce, which is myself. So I am Brian Douglas. I’m @bdougieYO on Twitter. Hit me up. I’m also bdougie on GitHub, as well as bdougieYO on GitHub. I had the snapchat one because the Twitter combination poor guy who has been bdougie on Twitter always gets @ mentioned, I mean, so leave him alone. He’s a father of two, just like playing video games. He doesn’t wanna hear about your Beyonce or Kanye puns, so yeah.

Building my own hive

So I’m a developer advocate. I got my start, actually, as a developer out in Florida. Moved out here to Bay, worked a couple startups, worked at Netlify, this company and then eventually, transitioned to developer advocate because I was doing a lot of JavaScript react stuff and I like talking, like speaking, like sharing what I was talking about. So it made it easy to talk about because Netlify’s an awesome product, which you should definitely check out their space, which is in the after party.

But since in the last three months, good timing, right? I joined GitHub, and now I’m just like cashing checks. No, I’m just kidding. But yeah, so now I’m at GitHub doing DevRel stuff. So I’m on part of a team of two developer advocates as well as soon to be three Developer Advocate interns. So it’s an awesome, awesome program. Keep that in mind. And my job is to create super fans, so I am building my own hive. I’m building a bunch of fans of GitHub in a different way.

Because as a developer advocate, our job is to build more developer advocates. Now, that sounds weird. Like we’re not hiring more developer advocates. We have a couple and we’re doing a really good job. But we need people excited about our product just as how we’re excited about our product. My original intro to Netlify was actually I was a customer and I was very excited about Netlify. I actually used their platform to share my blog, my content around JavaScript, and because of that, they hired me and I became an engineer, and eventually become an advocate.

The Hive has your back

So like, those are the stories we’re looking to get, like the best… I think a few talks had the subject line where like, you want someone who’s excited about your product, but also in a position where they can talk about your product as well. So, it’s a skill set that not everybody has, like it’s a very unique skill set. And it’s a conference of what, 200 plus here today of people who can do it, so keep that in mind as well.

But if you want more developers using the product you actually need more advocates. This is like almost obvious. And the thing about this is because your advocates can actually help push your product. So like, if you have bad news, or you show up on Hacker News in a less than happy light, which never happens for GitHub, then you need like The Hive to back you up, to show up on Hacker News comments. So one thing that happened… Anybody go to Coachella? Anybody go to Beychella?

So the Beyhive actually started this… I’m not sure if this is like Beyonce’s, like, her back room, like setting this up and saying, “Hey, Beyhive start this out,” but any sort of member of the Beyhive when they mentioned Coachella on Twitter, it was called Beychella. And it became so big where I don’t really watch Coachella, like I’ll catch like whatever shows up in my feed, but I watched Beyonce and I knew when Beyonce was coming on because my feed it was just slammed with Beyonce Tweets about Beychella and when she was going to come on. And then the Russian stream that showed up after of the actual recording because like Coachella didn’t have a recording to watch after the fact, I think was on YouTube, but for whatever reason, this Russian stream showed up and everybody was just like on there.

And because I follow people in the know, I was able to watch Queen Bey perform at Coachella without paying for a ticket. The other cool thing is that, as I mentioned on Hacker News, they go to bat for you. Like, if anything goes down with Beyonce, like when she had her twins and people are like, “Oh, man, now she’s kind of getting, you know, thick and she doesn’t look like what she used to be when she was at Destiny’s Child.” People go to bat for Beyonce, and they say, “Hey, this is not cool. Like, we’ll take this somewhere else. Go talk about Kanye about him getting away…” Just kidding.

So, what I’m trying to get out is like super fans are literally your developer advocates, like you need that. And that’s what helps you get your job going. Like if I had to write every single example app, every single line of code to make this work, this product or have to also provide all content around something that’s happening. It makes my job a lot harder and I don’t have the bandwidth to do all that as a solo dev advocate.

Make your first interaction the best

This is going to be like the outline. I’m going to talk about… I’ll move at a comfortable pace. So feel free to take notes and I’m going to talk about product interactions. So these are really important, talk about activating through education, which is very specific to GitHub and then I’ll talk about superfan empowerment, so let’s just jump right on the product interactions.

Some interactions could be interaction through the CLI, the onboarding experience, the first touch of someone actually signing up to your product and getting their, either, like…if you’re… I saw some Twilio people here, your first text message sent from the API, first sight deployed on Netlify, first pull requests on GitHub, whatever it is, like find out whatever that metric is and find out how to make that metric the best. So I’ll talk about actually related slides, but Netlify, we were all about like deploying how fast, how many seconds it took to deploy, and we made sure that deploy seconds was minimal at best. So that way we could keep that within the frame where people will stay engaged.

Because great experiences actually lead to great engagement, which is what I’m gonna talk about in a moment. But these engagements are what people tweet about. Like, if you went to a lot of these sites, marketing sites, you scroll below, above the fold, you see all the tweets of people raving about the product, and how much they love it. Like, that’s your campaign. That’s your ad.

At GitHub, we have a lot of engineers and the culture of the company started with engineers, who went out and spoke and they shared and they blogged and showed up on Hacker News. It got to the point where GitHub became bigger, and not everybody could do that. And when you get to the point where it’s everybody’s job to be a developer advocate, it is no one’s job. So then we had a point where they hired me three months ago to now focus more on that. So it’s something you don’t really need to think about as a company. Like if you have an engineering team and everybody’s an advocate, who really is an advocate? Try to figure that out. And then if someone in your community is an advocate, it’s probably time to start thinking about hiring that person, or reaching out to see if you can contract them for content as well because I know a bandwidth in money and runway are also realistic things to think about.

Timing your onboarding

So I’m gonna talk about onboarding. It’s the only product interaction I’ll focus on. I think a lot of these are, kind of…you can probably think about all the things, the problems of your product and think, “How can we make this better or how can we go to market to make sure we do advertisements or examples around the certain thing?” But onboarding is really around, and I like it a lot because the company it came from, Netlify and I think GitHub as another different onboarding experience is unique as well.

But onboarding is really there for helping users get started quickly. So if you’ve timed your interaction, I always use this example because I’d be getting into, like, cryptocurrencies and stuff like that. So like when you get on like the exchanges, it takes like a week for you get to get your…know your customer and find out whether or not you’re allowed to transact on the platform. That’s like a not a very great onboard experience. I know they’re trying to figure that out and deal with that. But if your onboarding experience takes so long, then you probably have something to think about and how to fix that. So help users get started quickly because if it takes too long to use your product, then they are probably not gonna use your product.

So onboarding, one minute, two hours, one week, probably not so great. Try to see how you can go to bat and figure out how to serve your customer, which has been another theme today. This is me recording myself onboarding with Netlify with a new login. And I have a timer here. It’s gonna go up to around 21 seconds. I know it’s very awkward. But this is like me, I already know how to like login. So obviously, I’m going quickly through this. But imagine someone who’s never logged in ever, maybe times that by four. So like, we’re still talking like around the minute to someone first deploying their first site to Netlify.

And this is something that I went to… Every single example tutorial had a Deploy to Netlify button and this was intentional because I knew that the experience could happen within 30 seconds. So if you didn’t know how to use our UI or click big, old, Github buttons and stuff like that, at least, you can go through my tutorial and click this button and have a clone of the example I talked about. So something we took from other companies like Heroku who has their own Deploy to Heroku button, it’s already existence, like, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, let’s just see how we can get people using our product as quickly as possible.

Ways to encourage better interaction

And again, the longer it takes to have your interaction with the product, it’s probably less likely someone’s actually gonna use your product. So keep that in mind. But one other thing is like onboarding is not the only interaction that can happen. My first interaction with GitHub actually was not on GitHub. It was actually through trygitHub, that io, which was another company who did teaching Code School which was absorbed into portal site. That was my first interaction to Github. So my interaction happened off platform. So you don’t necessarily have to go directly to product and design to try to fix your onboarding flow or your interactions with features. You can also contract and partner with other companies like what GitHub did.

As a developer advocate, you should also encourage better interaction. So you should probably as was mentioned earlier… I forget which talk, is to show up at stand-ups, identify what what’s happening in the product. So you can go to bat to understand where some key places you can actually improve your product. So one thing being GitHub operates everything issues, pull requests, all operated markdown. Now not everybody knows what markdown is. Not everybody that’s on the GitHub platform is doing markdown for since the…what the daring fireball blog has been out. So that’s actually linked directly here. So inside of anywhere, you have to write markdown that experience is enhanced by actually having a nice little note saying, “Hey, we’re in markdown through this link.” So this is a small little addition to improving the interaction with your product.

So let’s talk about bad interactions. There’s also a lot of opportunity to improve your product through better interactions. So by just simply listening. Who’s familiar with the Dear GitHub letter? Is that something… A handful of us that either worked at Github or used to work at GitHub? All right, so this is something I remember in Hacker News that came out. I didn’t think of it as a big deal, but GitHub took it as a big deal. So a lot of open source contributors and maintainers got together and put all their grievances very similar to, like Martin Luther for like the church and stuff like that, and just wrote them onto a ReadMe and then put it up there. And then it got on Hacker News on the front page.

And this is something that we could literally just run away from. So who’s gonna look at all these like random jobs for developers that don’t like how issues work. But this has actually been fuelling all changes on the GitHub platform, has been coming from this list, and GitHub actually took it internally. They actually had a response about a week later. So it took a little time, but they had a response and said, “Hey, we’re listening. We will do something about this.” When you have better interactions, you wanna think, “What would Bey do?” and what she would do is go to bat for the hive.

Activating through education

So for developer marketing and GitHub, we have this like pattern where we actually call it Scoop. Scoop actually outlines these concepts so we can get here. I’ll Tweet out my slides after. So if you guys actually wanna get this, I do have to kind of rush through some of this. So there is a talk that John gave at DevRelCon Tokyo, that’s all about Scoop. And he outlines house Scoop was, sort of, identified, so they had a lot of support requests around students who wanted to use GitHub and have access to certain things. So what they did is they created content around that experience. And that content grew into more content, which is… So this is a student-developed pack, so we give a lot of free stuff away for just for college students. That turned into classroom, which is education platform to teach college students how to use GitHub and other things around GitHub.

That content also turned into outreach. So we were able to go out in the field and talk at conferences and meetups and share that content. Joe Nash, who is sitting in the second row, did a talk last year at London talking about scaling your program and that’s what scaling looks like. So we have representation of student developers all around the country at colleges that we can activate and say, “Hey, we have a new feature. We have something new. Teach somebody about GitHub,” and we now can build the hive sideways, which is great. So we took this, and we actually made an operation of it, which is GitHub education. So you got [email protected], we can get everybody who’s a student free access to GitHub, but also training material to then qualify them and send them out and become eventually, campus experts.

This actually could be summarized in the 1 million users. So GitHub, it just was mentioned yesterday, we’re about 28 million users, so 1 million of that is just the education program. That’s a big deal. So, there’s a lot of people internally looking at this program and external looking at this program. So it’s a really good way to onboard extremely brand new developers. Now, I’m not on the education platform. I actually focus around ecosystem. So my focus is all So my goal is actually to engage the developer community to make sure they have all the tools for API ecosystem to deploy integrations at GitHub.

We also, in addition to that, we have another intro to onboarding experience at GitHub where we now no longer use Code School, but we’ll use for in-browser experience of learning GitHub and their tools. So this is the GitHub letter, what I was talking about. One thing that came out of this is also we built new features, but we can’t build every single feature because when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So we took that and we’re actually going to market to build a GitHub developer program to actually enable developers like yourself and developers at your team to build improvements on the GitHub platform.

Realising we weren’t perfect

So, years ago, GitHub did not want to do something like this because we thought Github was perfect so why would we want to fix it? But then we realized with the Dear Github letter…sorry, letter, that it wasn’t perfect; that there were a lot of developers that could improve GitHub. So now we have the idea of GitHub Apps. Meteor Apollo, they built an Apollo Bot, which actually enables GitHub’s ecosystem to enable open source contributors to add your own labels to issues. So previously, you had to be an admin to add your label to an issue or collaborator. Now, with the Apollo Bot, you can do it through a bot. And definitely check out that blog post and find more details.

Real quick, just kind of landing this plane. One other thing is the work in progress bot. So if you type in WIP to your label, you can actually block a merge from happening and the bot will actually activate and block that branch. So that’s a feature that’s, kind of, hidden within the branch tab. But there’s an actual… So one of the developers, main developers for octokit and also hoodie, he’s created this bot and he’s just adding enhancements to the GitHub platform and now he has this, eventually, on marketplace which we’ll talk about.

So this is the GitHub developer program. I’m looking to find more developers to help improve GitHub, and I’m looking to talk to people so we have a survey coming up really soon. I want to hear what are some improvements that can happen at GitHub, besides being bought by Microsoft. Github Marketplace. This is like the end goal. If you have a product that should go to market or should be like, sort of, like a Travis or Circle or any other company, like we’re giving you a path to it, because we want to build proteges and people on the platforms, very similar to Beyonce. If you guys didn’t know, Beyonce has a protege platform to encourage Beyhive members to become the next Beyonce.

And with that being said, we have campus experts, which one of them’s walking out of the room. And it looks like this. And they’re here as Developer Advocate Interns that we literally took from that Campus Expert program and we just lift them out and just now we pay them a salary to now do all of our work for us. So, it’s a really good recruiting tactic. It’s a real good program. You should definitely check it out. If you have any questions, you can find me because I’m here to build more advocates. So let me know. and I’m bdougieYO.

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