Write fewer blog posts and reach more developers


Adam DuVander

Job title





DevRelCon London 2023

Adam DuVander discusses how to write fewer blog posts and still reach more people. He emphasizes the importance of avoiding typical content fails, such as being overly promotional or generic, and instead focuses on creating strategic content that addresses specific problems, provides valuable knowledge, and connects to the audience’s needs. By narrowing down topics and expanding on concepts, content creators can create content that resonates with developers and attracts their attention.

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Key takeaways

  • Strategic content over quantity: Focus on producing fewer, more strategic pieces of content that resonate deeply with developers, rather than a high volume of posts.
  • Avoid overly promotional content: Content that is too self-congratulatory or promotional often fails to engage developers. Instead, aim for content that provides genuine value.
  • Focus on developer trust: Build trust with developers by sharing educational content that showcases how to build or solve something without immediately pushing your product.
  • Escape the generic trap: Generic content, especially comparisons that don’t take a clear stance, fails to engage readers. Personal stories and strong opinions are more compelling.
  • Content should progress the developer’s journey: Ensure your content connects to your product in a way that is educational, not sales-driven, helping developers understand how they might use your product to solve their problems.
  • Leverage your unique perspective: Developer relations professionals are uniquely positioned to create content that bridges the gap between technical and product knowledge, avoiding the pitfalls that content from marketing, product, or engineering might have.
  • The PAT (Problem, Angle, Teach) pattern: This framework helps ensure your content identifies a developer problem (P), takes a unique angle (A), and teaches a solution (T), rather than just promoting features.
  • Concepts vs. topics: A concept encompasses a broader category under which multiple blog posts can fall, allowing for a deep dive into a subject, as opposed to a one-off topic.
  • Call-to-Action Adaptation: For products not accessible to everyone, such as B2B, tailor your calls to action to connect with your DevRel team or other appropriate next steps rather than self-service sign-ups.
  • Measure and track engagement: Determine the success of content not just by traffic but by engagement and actions taken by the audience, which may include reaching out for more information or connecting with your team.


Jon Gottfried:

Our next speaker here is someone I’ve known for upwards of almost 15 years at this point. He was the executive editor for Programmable Web for a long time, built developer content programs at a whole host of companies that I respect and admire, and he’s still the person that I turn to for advice when I’m doing my own developer content. So I’d love for you all to give a huge DevRelCon welcome and round of applause to Adam DuVander, who is going to tell you how to write fewer blog posts and reach more people.

Adam DuVander:

Thank you. John. Yes. Who here wants to reach more developers, right? That’s an easy question. That’s one of the reasons we’re all here, but we have a lot of things going on right now. Lots of ways that our attention could be spent. So I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to write fewer blog posts and that there’s a way to do that that will still reach more developers, which might sound a little bit like magic to some people, but that’s okay. I do some magic mostly on my children. So one day I was practicing a technique called the double lift where you take two cards but flip them over as if it’s one and then back over and you can kind of move cards around. Did that to my younger daughter, had her wave her hands to make the magic and she was blown away.

Then I called my older daughter in, did the same trick, didn’t get past, didn’t even get to the move, the hand around part, right? And she grabbed the fake card and put it in my face and showed me that she knew me and then I went and bought her a bunch of coding books because I think for sure she has the makings of a great developer because the developer will pick over that card every single time. They’re a skeptical crew and that’s why some of the content stuff that we do is difficult. And so over the next few minutes I am going to talk about why that typical content fails, why we need your content you here, and then of course how to create that strategic content. But first I mentioned I do some magic, so I thought if I could get, maybe you here, I’ve got this, what’s the word for that? Non-digital iPad? Yeah, here it’s got like a hundred apps it. And so what I would like you to do is don’t tell me the name of a developer tool company, but think about it. Think of the name of a developer tool company. Okay? Are you thinking about it? Yeah. Okay,

I’m going to attempt to. Let’s get in here.

Alright, now tell everyone

Speaker 4:

Jet Brains.

Adam DuVander:

Jet brains.

You can take a seat. Thank you very much. But you know more of these than my children do clearly. But let’s talk about content instead. Later we can do the double lift thing. I’ll get you. So I’m going to go through some quick ways that content fails, kind of like my magic just did there, and I’ll go through these quickly. They’re probably things that you’re familiar with. So the first one, overly promotional, right? Don’t be the guy that’s blaring the air horn in his own ear, but yet we’ve all seen those blog posts, the ones that look kind of like this, right?

And I didn’t have to go very far to find them that sort of mentioning your own company, the apologies if anyone from this company is here, but I thought this was really good. They got two mentions of the company within the headline and pulled off the thing that I hate the most, which is the please to announce, proud to announce Programmable Web. I would hate that. Instead do something like what we worked on with Algolia, where Algolia search company, they have autocomplete as a feature, but this particular post doesn’t mention that maybe at the very end it’s like, by the way, Algolia does all these things we just showed you how to do in this blog post. This is how to build it yourself and that will build that developer trust. Avoid the curse of the generic. This comparison between Angular React and view is, I mean you can just look, the outline is boring. You get to the table and it’s not even very much here. My favorite performance, all three is good.

There are some spots in here where you can pull out a story, but they don’t do that. In fact, it ends with on comparing the frameworks, all the frameworks, please grab the person next to you, shake their shoulder, get them back awake. This is the curse of the generic. That’s what you want to avoid. Instead, do something like Luis did here. Why I chose the View over React or this other posts, why I chose React over view. I guarantee you just from the headlines here, both of these posts are better than that one that we showed before.

And then the third one is you’re not actually moving them forward when you are creating your content. You want to have some connection to your product without actually pitching the product. And now I will laugh as much as the next person at Hip Hip array, but it’s not going to make me sign up for your product. Instead, do something like what LaunchDarkly does here. LaunchDarkly Feature flags is part of its product, but this again, is not about LaunchDarkly product. This is about feature flags in general. You get a little mention of it there from time to time. And this is what much the Algolia example, what I would call the developer content mind trick where you say, this is how you’d build it without us. You don’t need to use us to build it, but you probably want to use us to build it, right? So a little mind trick, which brings me to, I mean I think I need at least like two tries here. So no one’s locking eyes with me. There we go. Alright, so let’s see. We did developer companies. Let’s shrink it down a little bit more. So don’t tell me, but think of any programming language, any programming language, and you, so okay, you got it right. I already know you have it.

Okay, okay. Yeah, that’s good. All right. Tell everyone, I mean, Matthew told me everyone likes Rust here and that would be the one everyone mentions. Alas, you lied to me.

Well, it’s a good thing that I do this content thing instead. So let’s get onto the next one. This is why we need your content. This is the most important part about you. So when I talk about you DevRel people who are here, there’s kind of an implicit, well, why not someone else? Why not our friends in marketing? Now, some of you may be in marketing. I have been in marketing, I have had marketing in my title before, but many people in marketing do not have the technical background that I’m going to guess the majority of the folks in this room do.

Product might have some of that background that definitely know the product, but often goes too much to the, what’s the features that we talked about before. And engineering can get deep into the weeds in a way that folks here probably are less likely to. So really it becomes you here in this room that have kind of the bits of that skill that whoop, oh no, no, I’ve seen this. This is from sneakers. And so you need to do is you plug in to the right place and and then there’s a device in sneakers. And any encrypted stream can be decrypted, whether that’s the bank, sorry, discover or a municipal system. And so they have this translator device. Well, when it comes to technical content, that’s you. You’re the translator. You’re the one that is taking those developer problems and turning them into things that connect to your product. You’re the ones who understand the developer who posts this thing into Stack Overflow. You are the one who is likely going and creating this box that highlights this edge case that might trip up a developer. And in the meantime, you’re then bringing and telling product about that edge case and making sure that you avoid it, right?

You’re the one that understands the languages that your developers use, sometimes many languages, and you’re probably the one then that is going to help them to prioritize those as well. Get them down to a limited amount. So you’re the right ones. And I’ve been where you are. 10 years ago, this was me at Srid and I worked with the developer evangelism team to be able to scale what they did traveling all over the world with content. We would publish something like six posts a week, one each weekday, and then two on Tech Tuesday. And they were all over the place. As we tried to keep up with that. I look back and found a few, so a mobile app, Google Glass that dates it, and even this how to price a Hackathon. This was just half of a week right here, and we had three more that week and six more the next week after that. And these are all over the place. And if I could go back and tell myself now, I’d say you don’t need to do as much to be able to still reach the developers you want to. And one of the things I now use is something I call the PAT pattern. And these are a filter to run your ideas through, things to look for. You want to identify the problem, that’s the P.

Define your angle at that problem, avoid that generic content, the curse of the generic. And it’s almost like a DevRelCon drinking game for me. Share knowledge, not features. You want to teach your solution the PAT pattern, and that’s the filter. I would run this, I do run this through now and you can think of it sort of like these dials here, and you can turn some up, turn some down. You’re probably not going to have any of these all the way down or else you’ll make one of those mistakes that I showed. And so in a moment, I will show you about strategic content, but I need one more chance here. I picked up some swag. I need to narrow this list down. Daria, will you help me with this? So I’ve got a copy of my new book, technical Content Strategy, decoded. I have an MLH sticker and a common room trading card kind of. So if you’ll just grab, wait, I have to make my guess first. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? What to do? Yeah, yeah. Well what I’ve done is I’ve put some energy into each of those and

Guess, okay, so go ahead and select two of those. Just pick up two of those. Yeah, so that was the trading card and my book. Yeah. Yeah, you could do any two you wanted. Those were the two you did, right? Yep. Okay, let’s move those out. You can have both of them. We’ve got here the thank you very much. Thank you very much. The MLH sticker, which I don’t even remember what I is not the one on here.

Okay, I promise I won’t do it again. I told my kids I would try that it worked on them on the first time. Alright, real quick here on the strategic content, we all have a of potential topics, everyone have that. Raise your hand if you have a list of potential topics. One day I’ll blog about this and it’s often long. It is random and reactive and probably non-strategic. And what we want to do, I’m not going to tell you to get rid of that list, but what I want you to do is find one at a time that you can go really deep on and I’ll show you what I mean in the next five minutes here with this intro to DBT example. So that could be a one-off post or it could be a, yep, that’s the one. Alright, it could be a much deeper example.

You could go deep and create a whole concept around it. What would it look like if you were creating only content on intro to DBT? At which point you say, Adam, you said we’d write less content. Now you’ve got a bunch of stuff that you want me to write. That’s fair. But what we’re going to not do is any of that other stuff that doesn’t pass that pattern that we talked about. And what I do, my team does this. We work clients and do this. I recommend you do this is answer these three questions. Why is the concept important? Remember, this is beyond one post. If it’s an important enough topic, you’ll do multiple posts on it, what will it cover? So it has to be more than just one thing. And then how does it connect to the product? Again, you’re not going to write about the product, you’re going to do the o OB one method you’re going to, but you need to have some way to connect to it, otherwise there’s no way to move forward.

Here’s how I answered those three questions for this. First of all, I made it A DBT for data scientists. It’s an article series, experienced data scientists. So I specified who I’m wanting to find with this. There’s a transformation tool, DBT, and then what is it? It’s a series. We are going to connect to existing tools and then someone who uses DBT might want to use in this example, it might be a data storage product. So what you’re going to do is you’re going to answer those questions for all of those potential concepts. And by making the argument to yourself and hopefully someone else on your team, you can start to see which ones have the most traction, which ones are with your, again, specialty knowledge as a dev re, which ones are going to resonate. You can kind of turn dials up one at a time. So more of the problem is build this into your airflow pipeline. So that’s another tool that might be used.

My favorite tutorial is this one that is not about their product specifically. It mentions appointment reminders. That’s a use case. It mentions Python and flask. That’s a tool. This is the sort of thing someone might find before they even know what Twilio is. And that’s what you’re looking for when you’re attracting developers. Someone who’s going to find this before for that angle, read this before you use DBT for data science. It’s a little clickbait, I’ll give you that, but it’s injected with a real opinion. It’s not. No one’s going to say, oh, it’s generic content. Curse to the generic there. And this is an example of something great I think from Optic who has a tool to be able to identify when your API breaks and they’re saying it’s okay, break your API, as long as you have a way to know about it. And so that connects to their product and finally teaching.

So how is DBT different from your current ETL? You could go super deep onto this. You could have an entire intro to ETL kind of series. You could do what Replicated did with enterprise ready.io. If anyone has hasn’t seen this, you should check it out. They have about a dozen different guides that dig into that. And of course that connects to what they want their audience to be able to do, but they’re able to not say it’s all about replicated, replicated. This is our product. So that’s how I am suggesting you look at that huge topic list that we all have. How can you drill in and expand those topics within each of those and then only do the one or two concepts as I call it, not topics. So multiple topics within a concept that will actually resonate with the audience based on your knowledge of that audience. And so in conclusion, we want to avoid those typical content fails that I said at the top right, we’re not going to promote, we’re not going to do those other things. Use that pattern, problem angle, teach. And you want to build out your concept catalog because you have the pieces of it right there in front of you already. It might not seem like it, but when you go back and you examine them, you might find what you need here. What was the programming language again? C Sharp and Jet Brains. Jet Brains.

Jet Brains. And Daria. What was the swag that we left on the table? The one was left out sticker. MLH sticker right there. Thank you. So go back to those topic lists. What you do is not magic, but you can make it look like it and create some great content, the stuff that’s going to resonate and reach more developers. Thank you.

Jon Gottfried:

We have time for a little q and a. Raise your hand and Matt and I will run around with mics.

Audience member 1:

Can you flesh out a bit more of the difference between a concept and a topic for you? I’m a little bit unclear.

Adam DuVander:

Yeah, yeah, that’s a good question. So the difference between a concept and a topic. A topic is it’s probably going to be a single blog post. You have it already listed likely in some spreadsheet or notion list, and you’re right now thinking of it as a singular thing. Maybe it’s going to be an epic blog post, but it’s going to be one. And the concept says what would it be like? What would it look like if you had categories on your blog, if maybe you do what is at the level where it’s like this is big enough that it might even be a category that you would put on your blog. That’s a concept, it’s bigger. You would have multiple things that fall underneath that. It’s not just the one-off post. It’s not like, oh, I found these developer jokes and someone saw that the search volume on those are actually really huge developer jokes. You can get lots of traffic that way, but one I question whether developers actually search for developer jokes. And two, like I mentioned, there’s no connection to the product. So what is media enough? And again, the superpower in this room is your knowledge of that audience and your ability to say, okay, this is big enough. I would put this as a category and not, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to say you’re not going to have a developer jokes category on your company blog. Right?

Audience member 2:

Hi. So my question is what do you think about thought leadership blocks? And if you think that this is something that comes under the content strategies and if it does, it does the same patch rule applies for that as well.

Adam DuVander:

So I knew you were going to ask that because we’re on a wavelength, but sorry, can you repeat that for me?

Audience member 2:

Okay, so I was asking about thought leadership blocks and what do you think about when we strategize those kind of blogs? Does the same PAT rule apply

Adam DuVander:

The topic level blogs like

Audience member 2:

Thought leadership,

Adam DuVander:

Thought leadership, okay, the

Audience member 2:

Community or something

Adam DuVander:

Like that. So you can have thought leadership and still build concept around it. So in that DBT example, you might have the things about how you would structure your data team, how things that are less in the weeds of technology but are still really important technology topics. I think there’s actually a lot of room for thought leadership type topics. So I would say be clear about who you’re attracting with that content. And so what you might be saying is that that’s less of a developer audience and more of a business user audience, which is okay. I think recognizing the motion of those and how that works, and I look at that as a continuum. I mean we’ve talked about developer first and developer focused companies a lot today. That’s clearly going to be a developer audience. But as you get further away from where it’s something like maybe a developer is the one integrating, but someone else is discovering it and the developer is maybe given the thumbs up or thumbs down, that’s going to be a different audience. You want to have some bits of it that is able to allow that main audience to be able to usher the developer in and avoid that sort of, if it’s thought leadership that says this is amazing and wonderful and will scale infinitely, the developer is going to plug the nose that might pass the test to the first person. But you need to make sure that it doesn’t sort of ruffle the feathers of the dev that might be reading that.

Jon Gottfried:

Any other questions from the audience out there?

Audience member 3:

Yeah, maybe a bit specific, but I’m just wondering if you have tips on how to adapt those strategies to products that are not accessible for everybody. So I’m thinking like B two large B for example, because a lot of the examples that I see there, like Twilio, I can subscribe to get a test account. Nice. How do I do if you need to make 20 million a month?

Adam DuVander:

So where there might not be a self-serve option as part of that is that, yeah, and that’s super common. You want to figure out what is that clear next step. So with a developer first, a Twilio type of example, obviously the next step is they’re going to sign up, but instead, what are the other next steps that you could use? Is it reaching out and connecting to someone on the dev rail team? And so those could be calls to action. You could have really great developer focused content and in the spot where you might say where Algolia or LaunchDarkly might say, oh by the way we do this sign up here. By the way we do this. Our team has tons of experience. You can connect with us on whatever the social platform is you use or events, whatever. That way that you want someone to engage with you is have that be the next step. And many times open source, you’re going and you’re exploring the open source. It’s less trackable but you at least kind of know that’s the next step. So it’s finding out what is that key next step and are we comfortable with how well we can track that? Yeah. Alright. Awesome.

Jon Gottfried:

Thank you Adam. Give him a huge round of applause.

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