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How developer evangelists build community, engagement for software firms

Sharon Florentine | Sept. 13, 2013
If you're looking for a way to keep developer communities informed, involved, engaged and excited about your product offerings, adding a developer advocate (also called a developer evangelist) to your IT team is a great way to do it

If you're looking for a way to keep developer communities informed, involved, engaged and excited about your product offerings, adding a developer advocate (also called a developer evangelist) to your IT team is a great way to do it. And if youre a tech pro who loves software development and people, a career as an advocate may be your team job.

Finding Your Software Religion
Put simply, a developer evangelist, acts as a liaison between third-party, independent software developers and users and a companys software and product development teams. But theres a lot more to it than that, says Terry Ryan, whose official title is Educational Evangelist for Adobe.

We are the people responsible for bridging the gap between when a product is sold and when people actually have to use it, Ryan says. There are 20 of us at Adobe who talk about the products with the users and developers, and we arent involved in either production or sales of the software and the products, he says.

While a sales force works from the top of an organization down, developer evangelists work from the bottom up — with the people using the products, regardless of whether theres a deal to be done, Ryan says.

How Google Advocates Spread Developer Information
Its a completely different approach, says Seth Ladd, a developer advocate with Google, which encourages a free, two-way information flow between software companies and the developers and users of their products and services. That can lead to more reliable, user-friendly products and reinforce a trustworthy, dependable brand identity.

This is so different from, say, a traditional product-development cycle where companies [form a] focus group, come out with a product and essentially tell users how to use it, Ladd says.

Developers are savvy. They can see through all of the hype and the sales pitch, and they know when they're being sold. As advocates, we can be frankand walk developers through all the features and any issues,to help them get productive,creative and successful with our products and our development environment, Ladd says.

The value of developer advocates to an organization is that we are credible users of the products and solutions, says Adobes Ryan. We can bear witness to the community that this is good. We sometimes get in trouble for being too brutally honest about the products, but thats part of what makes us valuable to the developer community our credibility, our bona fides with them. And we bring back very nuanced, technical feedback from customers thats outside of the normal chain of support and interaction, he says.

Talking to current and potential customers every day allows advocates like Ryan and Ladd to deliver real-world, real-time feedback to their product development teams and that allows for more secure, reliable, easy-to-use software and products.

 

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