We turned developers into journalists


Tena Šojer Keser

Job title

Global Developer Content Expert




DevRelCon London 2023

Tena Šojer KeserWhen you’re creating developer targeted content, who better to help you make it than your company’s own developers?

In this talk from DevRelCon London 2023, Infobip’s Tena Šojer Keser, shares how they created a content culture and equipped developers with the skills and tools they needed to write regularly and to be a part of the developer experience crew. Tena explains the workshops they conducted, the benefits of writing for developers, and the importance of building a strong relationship with developers to create effective content.

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Key takeaways

  • Turning developers into journalists can benefit both the developers and the company, as it encourages them to write regularly and be a part of the content creation process.
  • Workshops that incorporate the fun of journalism with theory and practice can be an effective way to get developers to write. These workshops should be structured to be engaging and efficient, with no homework and continuous feedback.
  • Developers should learn to write in a way that is engaging and keeps readers motivated, avoiding academic writing styles. They should also research different points of view and strive to be objective in their writing.
  • The workshops should provide a platform for developers from different teams to collaborate and understand each other’s work, leading to better collaboration and a stronger foundation for content creation.
  • Implementing these workshops does not require a large budget. All that is needed is an editor or someone knowledgeable in writing, enthusiasm to get people to sign up, and a willingness to help solve other people’s problems.
  • While content strategy is important, building a strong relationship with developers and creating a content culture should be prioritized. Results may not be immediate, but the long-term benefits are worth it.


Jon Gottfried:

And I am really stoked for the next talk because I was reading the description and it’s something that I want to know more about. So we’re going to be hearing about how they turned developers into journalists, which is really intriguing. So our next speaker is Tena Šojer Keser, who is the global developer content expert at Infobip. So please give her a huge DevRelCon standing ovation and give your attention to the talk. Thank you.

Tena Šojer Keser:

Okay. Hi. Thank you. Wow. Second Infobip talk in a row. Thank you for bearing with us. So basically this talk is about obviously how we turn developers into journalists and how they benefited from it, but it’s also so you can maybe take some hints about how to get developers write for you and how to do it happily and hopefully irregularly. We could all use some of that. So for a bit of a background, obviously my name is Tena. I’m a global developer content expert at Infobip, which is obviously a mouthful and it’s a made up title. But what I actually do in Infobip is my task is to create a content culture and make sure our developers are equipped with everything they need to write to write happily, to write regularly, and to be a part of our developer experience crew. So I started out as a tech journalist and I did some marketing.

Then I went to a developer agency where I hoped for a nice cozy job of copywriter, but ended up head PM somehow. Then I came back to the place I started, but then as a partner and doing the business side, and then poof, we got acquired. I’m kidding. Of course, if you’ve ever gotten acquired, it’s not poof. It’s a really long grueling process, but that long and grueling process got us time to think about what we’re going to do when we got to Infobip to create top developer content. No pressure, right? If you haven’t heard about Infobip or been to Beata’s talk just for this one, Infobip is a global communications platform. So basically if you get a text message that your delivery is coming or an Uber driving is calling you and there is some number messaging going on, or if you’re chatting to customer support, there’s likely some info beeping going on.

But anyways, so during the last decade before the acquisition, I worked with numerous startups and companies advising them and consulting on how to do their content, how to do do marketing, and I always say you have to have a content strategy. You can’t just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. And I see some of you nodding your head, so you’re not going to like my next slide because when we cut to Infobip we decided to have zero content strategy. Now there’s already really a lot of content going on at info. It’s created by our marketing department. There’s the, there’s sales, there’s everything. So we could have just taken those numbers, made an educated guess, made a strategy, and Diane adapted it along the way. That’s what you do. But here’s the thing. During the long time we waited for the acquisition to go through thought, okay, how are we going to make developers write?

Now I’ve edited hundreds, maybe thousands of developer blog posts, articles, eBooks, so I know they can write, I know a lot of them like writing, but everyone kept saying stuff like, devs can’t write. They hate writing. Don’t even get them to try. Oh, they’re only think in code. They can only write in code, just ChatGPT it and don’t get them to do as many extracurriculars. They’re going to absolutely hate you. Well, but here’s the thing. I know developers don’t think in code and talk about code. You can just go to Hacker News and see that they’re discussing migrational words or how home appliances look in city scans. And I know a little bit about Infobip. I mean I know a lot now, but before I came I knew quite a lot about Infobip. They have 800 engineers, all the people in blue. I know that they can create a whole engineering handbook in just three days, which is basically a content project we worked on with them before we came to the company actually, and I know they do a lot of extracurriculars in the academia, in the community, open source.

So if everyone is saying the developers can’t or don’t want to write or do any extracurriculars, then maybe we have to have a people strategy and not focus on the content. So how do you have a people strategy? I dunno, I’m not in hr, but we decided to put developers in the spotlight and we wanted to get them to love writing. It’s been a year of this. And basically we started out by asking them, Hey guys, what do you want for the content team? How can we help you achieve that with content? Basically it fell under three different things. There were some personal goals, like external and internal recognition, showing up their expertise, communicating clearly, learning something new. And a lot of them said that they wanted to prove their English, Spanish creation, whatever teacher wrong because they probably told them, ah, you’re good with math so you don’t need this.

There’s also some team and department needs showcase their working accomplishments. That’s pretty much the same as the personal one, attracting new hires by showing what the department does, how they do it, some of their practices, some of their best work, and they wanted to learn how to share knowledge effectively within the team to make their jobs easier. Also, they had some company goals like help reach company goals, which is so nice of them. Also, we do have the as a program and they want to take pride in our work. So what they don’t like to do is doing other people’s job, doing additional work in their free time and doing extracurriculars that have no benefit for them whatsoever, even if it’s just personal enjoyment and they hate wasted effort. Now ask me, how do I know that? How do you know that? Well, because we did a really bad workshop with them, which was everything I just described.

So we tried to get them to basically create API documentation for us, API tutorials, and we were like, Hey, do you want to come to this workshop and then write a tutorial instead of us? And then just basically we’re going to learn how to do this one type of documentation that you’re never going to use again. So obviously it wasn’t very popular and some people did show up, which is just to say that developers do like extracurricular curriculars sometimes. So we tried to switch gears and we decided to do journalist workshops. Why journalists? Well, it was a media company. We’re all journalists. It’s what we know how to do best. And also being a journalist is fun. Not the part where you’re getting sued or the part where people hate you if you write something that does not concur with our opinions, but we have fun things like newsroom meetings. So we decided to do workshops that incorporated the fun of the journalism with some theory and some practice. We held the newsrooms meetings, which is like, has anyone done any of those ever? Yeah, there, great. Basically you get in a room together and you pitch your article ideas and then you get some editorial feedback and then all of your peers, journalists, whoever is there, gets to pitch in. You get to discuss the topic. It’s very lively, it’s very dynamic and it’s really fun. So we got to learn something new part done.

It’s a very simple concept. It’s a two-day workshop, but only four hours a day because getting them to sit for eight hours and not do their basic job, you’re just going to have someone in the workshop doing whatever they’re supposed to be doing that day. And if it’s just four days to get to push it around, it can be onsite, remote, hybrid. We do up to five to 10 people and we do 10 to 30 minutes theory parts where we take them through how to make content efficiently and then we give them continuous feedback and they have loads of writing time. But the most important thing is that there is no homework. So you’re done with your four hours. You go home, we have homework, we give you additional feedback, so it’s ready for you tomorrow, and then you do another four hours and by the end of the workshop you have a completed article.

We do a lot of theory about what makes a good topic, what makes a good title, how to edit your own words. A lot of it, we don’t expect them to learn everything. If they want, they can, but here’s some takeaway that we want them to learn. One, that academic writing style doesn’t actually work in real life because readers have a limited attention span and you have to structure your thoughts and your content in a way that they will read and that will keep them motivated. And that’s not the academia style. You need to research other points of view because developers, like all other people, have views pretty strong. One of that. And when you’re doing a journalistic type of writing, you need to be as objective as possible. You need to put holes in your own arguments and try your best to basically beat yourself in a debate.

So eventually win. We also teach them to ride drunk and is sober, not literally, but if it gets them going, which just means that you first write everything out and put everything that’s in your head onto the paper. What usually happens with developers and people starting to write for the first time is they write a sentence and they go back and see how it can be better, and they write a sentence and go back, write a sentence, and go back. And it makes writing a really tedious process and it seems like it’s never done. But what you’re actually doing when writing, you’re just making a set castle and 70% of making a sand castle is dumping sand. So with writing, you’re just basically dumping your thoughts and then you’re turning it into something. When they’re pouring their thoughts over the paper or wherever they’re writing, basically they’re getting the feeling of, Hey, I can do this.

This is not that hard. Screw English teacher and writing is actually fun. So they’ve published around a hundred plus pieces written by our engineers. They have been published both on info B channels, but also on some engineering media. Basically, if our developers have a media in mind that they would want to appear in and they say, oh, look, I’m really sad on this. We’ll try to make it happen. It’s like additional effort that’s making it worthwhile for them. Also, they’re super happy when they get a newsletter or something with their own article in it. So they’re sharing knowledge, they’re showcasing their expertise, sticking it to the English teacher.

Some of the actual content has had tens of thousands of reads. This is actually from the new stack. So basically the pink is, we had a sponsored session with them. The pink is a result of our sponsored content, and the purple is like the sponsored content standard. So it outperformed four times. Some of it was tweeted by Dave Farley. It went super viral. I guess we did manage to put our developers into the spotlight and they were pretty happy about it. So one of the things I also mentioned is that you have to give something back. You can’t just say, oh, hey, come write for us. We need content. So what are you giving back? We try to support their own project through writing. Like Christina here, she was here, she was trying to educate the developers, turning into managers, what kind of a shift in career that is?

So this was her agenda. Our AppSec team launched their open source education about app security, and we also tell their stories, whatever you need, whatever you’re writing is completely free topic that goes with no content strategy. So we did manage to get them to write regularly. Not all of them, but a lot of them keep writing. We have this back and forth. They send us ideas, we give them feedback, they send us drafts, we give them feedback, and it kind of works. So we’ll skip turning and they quite like it. We even started a developer magazine. It’s Shift Mac, it’s info bi powered, but editorial independence. So if you have your developers writing and you don’t know where you would like to publish it, please give us a shout out. We can see if we can make it happen. We’re more than happy to.

And okay, yeah. So I said we are going to talk about how the writing benefited them. Well, first of all, writing is a core skill. Incidentally, the slide is also where you shouldn’t just get five lines of code and have ChatGPT do the rest for the article. Writing is basically structuring your thoughts. Writing effectively is structuring your thoughts so that whoever is reading it will read it to the end. It’s questioning your views, it’s putting your own arguments, and in the end, it makes you basically understand any topic better and it makes you a better professional whatever you’re doing. It’s like talking to the doc, but to other people, lots of other people. And also same rules apply whether you’re writing a blog post, whether you’re writing an article, a super long slack message. I know the other developers love those as well, but a bit more structured.

So a work handover, confluence, post project, documentation grant application, whatever you’re writing, it’s mostly the same rules. So you’re getting better at everything you do and something not to be sneezed at. So we do do some workshops that are topic related, so just maybe security or just one product, but also we have open workshops where anyone can come. So as I said, Infobit is a really big company. I mean really big. It’s 4,000 people company. So here we have in the same room, people from databases assist admin platform, it, telco, infrastructure, quality engineering management, and different basically info big products who do not actually get to sit in the same room together often. And this is a unique time when they get to see what other people are working on and why they’re doing something the way they’re doing something. If you don’t have that contact of new thinking, the team is doing such a good job and you don’t even know why they’re doing it the way they’re doing it. So basically it makes for a better collaboration and better understanding within the company.

Okay, now if you think that this kind of makes sense and you want to do it and you don’t have the budget, well, I think buying a made company might be an overkill, not for Infobip, great, thank you Infobip. But the thing is that you don’t need to do These workshops are super simple. You need an editor or a person who knows what they’re doing and can basically teach it to other people. Knowledge of writing tools, tips and tricks. You need a lot of enthusiasm to get it going, to get people to sign up. And you need the willingness to help solve other people’s problems because as I said, it’s not about what you need from them, it’s what you can do together.

But I think as a dev, you already have that, right? That’s kind of your job. By the way, we did end up with a content strategy, but here’s the point. I’m not saying ditch your content strategy. I’m saying that if we started with a content strategy and then changed it along the way, we would have a content strategy now just the way we have. But now we have a really strong relationship with our developers. We have some good results. We decided not to care about those results. We decided to care about building this strong foundation for all other content we’re going to create. As dev, you’re kind of in this position where you have to be concerned about what external developer needs, what they need to use your product, and it’s easy to think about, oh, what do we need from our, I don’t know, engineering team? What do we need from our marketing team or whatever. But especially in a time of tight budgets, maybe we can think about, okay, what do we need from them and what can we help them achieve? So how can we work together and be more efficient? Okay, thank you for bearing with me.

Jon Gottfried:

Thank you. Hands up here. We have time for a handful of questions. Yeah, I saw Wesley first.

Audience member 1:

When you do the workshops or when you act as editor to the engineers, is there brand guidelines and all that added to it, or is it just making sure it’s structurally and grammatically correct

Tena Šojer Keser:

Regarding the workshops? It’s just making sure that it’s structurally sound. It makes sense that it’s engaging. So that’s what they have to think about. The thing is, when we’re done with a workshop, it’s like 80% done because sometimes we don’t know yet where we’re going to publish it. Are we going to publish it on our own channels? Are we going to publish it somewhere else? So the 20%, that’s kind of the work of the editors to make sure it fits wherever it’s going.

Audience member 2:

What was the biggest hurdle or the hardest part to do to actually get the engineers into that workroom?

Tena Šojer Keser:

Yeah, so I’ve mentioned that they hate wasted effort. And so as in any company Infobip also had a number of engineering blogs and content projects that have been started and then sunset and then discontinued, fallen forgotten. So basically it was us saying, Hey, we’re starting this content project, come join us. We’re not going to die all the rest, please. So they were sad that they put in all that effort to write some kind of blog posts and everything, and then it didn’t happen and they felt it’s going to happen again.

Speaker 5:

Hey, I have a quick question. So I think a topic a lot of people have been talking about lately is that you can use large language models to help generate a lot of writing fairly quickly. And I guess one of the things we’ve been thinking about in our DevRel programs is are we getting to a point where text-based writing is somewhat commoditized? And so you need to differentiate your programs in other ways in order to get the ROI out of them? So I get the concept that you might be able to get your engineering teams to publish articles, which is great. It gets some exposure and showcases the cool things happening there for sure. But do you put a different level of value on video content or how do you sort of justify what types of content your groups are creating?

Tena Šojer Keser:

Well, for one, it depends on the results. You’re not going to do a ton of video content if it doesn’t make sense. I am all for using large language models if they’re going to help you write it faster or make a better paragraph. But then again, these people are creating your product and there is no one who knows the product better than them. Again, we have in our no content strategy strategy, we decided to ditch the keywords. We don’t care what’s going on in Google, we’re not going to care about stuff like that. So basically, yeah, I completely lost my train of thought. Wait. Yeah, so basically we let devs write about whatever they want and they had great results because they’re part of the community. You can get G P T to write Why is c s s different than Python? Because of everything. And it might be super key wordy, but you may have created it fast, but it will not get you the results. I hope that kind of answers your questions.

Audience member 3:

I have met a lot of the same objections and resistance to engineers writing for a company blog. A lot of it around, they just don’t have time. It’s on top of their full-time job. I was wondering if you had to seek alignment from engineering managers or other leadership and stakeholders to allot time for them to spend on your projects on top of their everyday work?

Tena Šojer Keser:

Yeah, I think that’s a reality for all of us. We had the good luck that they paid money for us. It wouldn’t be worth it if engineers didn’t actually contribute. So at first there was a push from engineering managers to join. Okay, you can have the time. And then there was kind of a switch and it was like hyper productivity, but people still wanted to join and wanted to push. And then we decided with engineering managers and with product managers, we’re just going to go and do the same we did as developers. We were going to come and see, Hey guys, what do you need? Oh, you got new products coming up, we can help you write about that. So actually it’s the same model and it works

Audience member 4:

Hi there. Thanks. I noticed you mentioned dropping keywords and stuff like that, ditching keywords, I think you said. So do you have any advice for SEO? You talk about writing, but finding is also critical, I think.

Tena Šojer Keser:

I mean…

Audience member 4:

Do you write for SEO increasingly if we lose use content analysis kind of stuff? Actually, we are writing for robot already.

Tena Šojer Keser:

Yeah, true. Yeah. That’s why we didn’t, just focusing on the keywords, it just doesn’t get you anywhere.

Jon Gottfried:

I think we have time for one more question.

Audience member 3:

I really like the analogy of building a sand castle compared to academia. I never did well on academia. Well, Not Exactly true, but my question, is there anything from academia which we can still use in DevRel, or is it all a sandcastle?

Tena Šojer Keser:

Sorry, can you repeat the question? Anything from academia that you can use in DevRel? Oh yeah, definitely. It’s the research that’s going into writing anything that comes from academia. It’s actually what we usually do when developers write in the academia style. So they write everything, yada, yada, yada, yada, yada. And they put the most interesting thing in the conclusion because that’s what you do to academia. And we just copy paste it to the beginning. So it’s not completely useless. You just have to get out of the mindset. You have to provide the most interesting and important information first. And we are all taught by universities and academia to kind of hide it somewhere in the middle. So they have to read everything. That’s not what we want to do here.

Jon Gottfried:

Awesome. Well thank you so much. Give her a huge round of applause, please. Thank you. Another fantastic call.


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