May 28, 2021
DevRelCon founder and Editor in Chief of DeveloperRelations.com.
It’s not that long since developer relations tooling meant spreadsheets, Meetup.com, and begging for a Salesforce login.
This week Orbit, perhaps the best known of the new tools targeting DevRel teams, became generally available.
Founded by Josh Dzielak (previously DevRel lead at Algolia) and Patrick Woods, Orbit brings a community-focused model to measuring the impact of developer relations. And, although Orbit has focused initially on the needs of teams running developer communities, it seems clear that Orbit’s future is as a more general purpose community platform. Indeed, the Orbit team themselves describe their product as a “community experience platform” rather than something specifically for developer relations.
So, what does Orbit offer that a CRM doesn’t?
If all you want is to track who’s who, then perhaps a CRM does the job. But CRMs and DevRel teams are a notoriously tricky combination.
First up there’s the question of who owns the data. In most orgs, the CRM is the fief of the sales team. Whatever polite promises are made when new customers are flowing, that opens the risk of community members getting cold calls from sales people desperate to make their number at the end of a quarter.
More importantly, though, CRMs are modelled around the idea of a linear sales funnel. The Orbit team argues that communities don’t work that way. Instead, they have developed a model that maps people’s reach and activity; or, as they call it, “love”.
While the model itself is an important aspect of Orbit, it is the platform’s automated data collection and processing that DevRel teams will find most useful.
Orbit absorbs data from GitHub, Twitter, Slack, and the other places where community engagement takes place. While sales and customer service teams have spoken of a 360 degree customer view, these integrations aim to provide a 360 degree community view. Orbit uses that data — someone forking one of your project’s GitHub repos, for example — to build a picture of an individual’s relationship to your developer community and where they fit into the orbit model.
Also working in this space are Port.dev, Krunchdata, and Savannah, each promising their own take on measuring and tracking community impact. While these newer names have grown out of DevRel, it’s worth noting that the general purpose community management software space has some well established vendors, such as Higher Logic, Influitive, and Chaordix.
The growth in tooling available to DevRel teams is a sign of how seriously founders and investors now take developers as an audience. The dilemma for the teams behind these tools will be how they juggle the specialisation that DevRel teams need with the bigger opportunities in the general community management space.
If you’re wondering where to start with navigating what’s available, then we might be able to help. We at Hoopy are working on a new report that will help to explain the DevRel tooling space to be published this summer.
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