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AMA with Tessa Kriesel

alex profile image Alex Angel with Tessa Kriesel ・1 min read

Developer communities are unique in their needs and structure when it comes to managing their online community spaces. Building trust is one of the most important components of that early community development, and it's critical to maintain for the health of the community. Tessa Kriesel is the Head of Developer Community at Twitter, and she has a lot of thoughts about this subject!

Join us at 11AM ET on November 11th as Tessa answers any and all of your questions about building trust with developers, developing programs that build trust, and how to scale those communities. The AMA will happen in this post at 11AM ET. Tessa will be around throughout the day responding, so feel free to comment with your questions early to make sure she gets to it.

Discussion

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smpieczonka profile image
Spencer Pieczonka

Just joined and loving this community already. I'm looking forward to your AMA Tessa!

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

Woowoo! Looking forward to getting to know you.

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jocelynhsu profile image
Jocelyn

Hi Tessa! Thanks for doing this! What do you think is the biggest difference between Developer Communities and other types of communities?

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

Hey Jocelyn! Let's start here since you posted your question yesterday technically. I am a developer by trade, and I "lucked" into my first community professional role (from a developer advocate role) by proposing a plan to build an advocacy program, although at the time, I didn't know that what I wanted to do had an official name or other companies also building them. I pitched a program that I knew would help OUR developers engage deeper and be more invested in our company than they already were. It was a wildly successful program and my role was incredibly fulfilling.

From a personal standpoint, I actually created a Guitar Hero community back in 2008 called GH Jammers. At the time, you couldn't have tournaments the way you could in the later days so I taught myself PHP and MySQL through Joomla so I could build a tournament community. It was a wild success and Activision ended up posting our tournaments in their community. I have also created many smaller orgs/groups of folks that have common interests, like a Facebook group for dog lovers.

Professionally, I have only focused on developers. And the biggest differences I have noticed is the developer mentality. Developers do not trust people by nature. They have a tight knit circle and if you aren't someone they already trust or a developer yourself, don't expect to make it too far with any initial engagement.

Since developers do not trust people by default, trust building is incredibly important. At Twitter, I focus on developers who specifically use or want to use the Twitter API. Twitter has made some changes to their offering over the years and have unfortunately destroyed a lot of trust the platform had built up. So in my role, I am hyper focused on ensuring that every tiny step we take is proving that we are trustworthy. As a way to build trust, I recently launched office hours. Currently office hours is invite only and we are inviting developers that our DevRel team has been personally helping or engaging with as they dive into v2 of the API. In planning for office hours, we had to think about so many things, like how will others perceive this? Will they be upset that it's invite only if they find out? How much should WE (Tweeps) actually talk? To shed light on that last one, if developers feel like someone is focused on themselves, their end goal or their company needs, you can forget having any success with them. So if we spoke too much or not enough, we could fail at office hours, which is a project intended to build trust. Sure office hours can help deflect support requests, build engagement, etc. but in our case, its sole purpose is to build trust.

That was somewhat of a rambly answer, but I thought it was important to frame the fact that I have not professionally worked in any other communities besides ones focused on developers, but personally been exposed to all sorts of community types.

The best way to think about developers is to think about how you would start a relationship with your new neighbor. Would you walk up to your neighbor and ask them to watch a demo of your companies product? No way. You take your time, you wave, then you introduce yourself, you compliment them to strike up another conversation, then you walk over when you see their outside, maybe you invite them over for dinner, THEN you start diving into who THEY are and and how you can enjoy a relationship together.

Other audiences are a little bit less observant and particular about who they trust and who they engage with.

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jocelynhsu profile image
Jocelyn

Thanks Tessa! Love that you're shedding light on the Developer Mindset and helping folks work with and connect with developers better. It's not a group I've worked with before.

Follow up question: I see the term "developer" a lot but I'm actually not sure who is considered a "developer". Who is considered a "developer" and does that change at different companies or spaces?

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

I think everyone likely sees this term differently. I mean anyone in real estate would think it was a contractor building communities/homes/businesses. 🤪

I use the term developer to pool together folks who are actively writing code in any capacity, OR who have written code in the past and still has a few skills up their sleeve. I rarely write code anymore, but I still consider myself a developer because those skills are there and could be used again. Often times, developer communities have a few other audience dynamics to them. For example, a CTO (chief technology officer), likely doesn't call herself a developer any longer, but at the end of the day, at one point in their career they were writing code.

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MARTHA ESSIEN

Wow ❤️

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Brian Oblinger

Tessa! Would love to hear your thoughts on the business impact community has on DevRel. I'm starting to see a lot of organizations shift to a self-service, community-based experience for Developer freemium models. Can you talk about the types of impact/ROI you're seeing there?

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

I think some folks see Community + DevRel as one cohesive team, while others see it as separate entities. I think the team dynamics are defined, usually, by experience levels. If you have a solid DevRel team with experienced Developer Advocates, they can closely work with community to push forward initiatives together. I've also been on a team where I was the community leader and was the person responsible for metrics and tracking of our entire team (DevRel+Community) and proving ROI. Not ideal, but what I am getting to is that there is no right way to build a DevRel and/or Community team. I have opinions about how they should be structured, but everyone does it differently.

Developer Advocates and other roles in DevRel teams, tend to focus on attracting and inspiring developers. They do this through written content, code samples, conference presentations, tutorials, pair programming, live streams, etc. The idea being that if you're showcasing something cool or intriguing, a fellow developer may want to dive in and check it out (it being your product). Therefore, they are usually the first interaction a developer has with your company.

Community comes in sometimes before, but usually after DevRel. Community enables and engages with those developers once they decide to try your product. Silly analogy here, but think back to your single days. Physical attraction causes you to strike a conversation with someone (DevRel), while getting to know that person and their awesome personality is what keeps you in a relationship with them (Community).

There are many DevRel techniques that engage and continue to build trust with users, and when DevRel + Community can work tightly together, well you probably guessed it, they're a powerhouse.

In terms of impact, our team at Twitter is combined. We have separate "tiger teams" as they call them, but we are all considered a part of DevRel. Myself focusing solely on community. However, I work very closely with my Developer Advocate coworkers to push initiatives forward. For example, we just launched Office Hours a few weeks ago. The intent of office hours is to build trust with developers (retention), what community cares about. However, in last weeks office hours one of our users convinced a non-user they should try the API. The Developer Advocate on the call started answering technical questions, showing examples and giving tangible ideas around how they can dive in. I see this as an opportunity to continue to engage with him through our community work. I want to make sure that this new user continues to get the resources and answers that he needs to remain a user.

SO many other impact and ROI examples, I may just turn that into a content piece that I share here later. 😉

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Katelyn Gillum

Hi, Tessa! When it comes to building trust early on in the process, what are the types of signs that you see when you begin earning the trust of your community? What are some signs that demonstrate trust not being earned?

Thanks in advance!

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

Monitoring trust is incredibly difficult! There are no hard numbers behind it unless you solicit a survey and surveys are the first step to losing an engaged developer. Think of it like your neighbor (such a good example), if you hadn't spoke to your neighbor yet, or at least waved to them, your probably not going to ask them to watch your dog for a couple hours. This is the same way devs see surveys. What have you done for me to give away my valuable time to you? BUT if you build trust first & provide a value to them, they will happily complete your surveys and provide feedback. Providing a value to developers is quite simple, you just need to be listening. (Examples of values: professional network introductions, free product access, invite to a beta program, access to your product team, shoutout on Twitter, a deep conversation where you actually listen to their concerns 100%)

Easy ways to see a lack of trust: posts or content that feels negative, complaints or bad mouthing, or recommendations for other products. Seems straight forward, but reviewing content with a fine tooth comb is where you see the truth. If someone in a forum thread is sharing their frustrations about your product and another developer jumps in and says they use competitor B, you have a lot of work to do with both of those developers. If the responder recommended someone else, they clearly don't trust your company/product and it's capabilities. When it comes to developers, there are SO many tools and options for just about every task. Maintaining their trust is the only way to build a fully successful product/company with a developer audience.

And on the opposite side of things, you can see trust when developers are recommending our products or raving about them online. In our office hours session last week we had one veteran developer, scratch that, MVP, who convinced a non Twitter API user to dive into the API. This step is how you know you are succeeding with building trust. As I shared in other replies, developers trust no one by default, except their fellow developers or someone a fellow already-trusted developer recommends.

I have a lot of metrics that I track on my end to try to gauge this without asking. Negative engagements being one of the key ones. When negative engagements go down, trust seems more clear and collaboration increases, when negative engagements go up, I can usually track it back to a communication, event, or release that did not build trust with our developers. If you're working with a developer audience a community manager doesn't just manage their community, they also have to work incredibly hard to ensure that everyone internally understands the dynamics of their customers and ensures that every step they take is building trust.

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Peter Fayle

"Surveys are the first step to losing an engaged developer" - yes!

Trusting no one by default also rings very true, and accounts for a lot of company dynamics. I'm wondering how it begins. Maybe every developer has their own diary of broken promises and abused goodwill :)

Loads of fantastic stuff here, thanks Tessa!

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

Ya know, I am not sure why developers think this way, but it's right on every time. I think its likely the way their brain looks at problem solving and can see when someone is trying to accomplish something on their end. It's a true mystery though.

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

This is so exciting! Looking forward to diving into these questions. In the meantime, I wanted to share my contact information and such in case anyone wants to reach out afterwards.

Developer Mindset blog: thedevelopermindset.com/
Personal blog: tessakriesel.com/
Twitter: twitter.com/tessak22
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/tessak22/

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Alex Newman

Hi Tessa! What is your favorite incentive program that helps scale communities without losing trust?

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

Fabulous question! I have experienced a few incentive programs but not many that are solely focused on developers.

I actually built a program at a previous employer (pantheon.io/community) that was incredibly good at this. The reason that this program was this way was because the entire premise was around open source. Our product offering only served Open Source projects and the developers were obviously a part of those communities. The program was focused on making THEIR lives better. For example, if we provided incentives (never money, devs don't need money) for them to contribute to WordPress, the open source project, that benefited our company none, as they saw it, but since our product depended on WordPress, it actually did indeed help our company in a small way. There were other opportunities, like public speaking, where we would cover travel costs for a developer to attend and speak at a tech conference. For them, they were traveling and attending a conference for free, but for us, we had someone super passionate about our product raving about it besides our own dev advocates.

I would actually LOVE to start a convo here of folks favorite developer-focused incentive programs. I feel like there are so many of them, but I have only been exposed to just a few. Too busy focusing on my own. 😉

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amannewg profile image
Alex Newman

Great program! Thanks for the response, Tessa!

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

How has Twitter's approach to developer community over time (either based on your experience and what you know about what came before you?)

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

Twitter has, from what I know, never had a dedicated community person before me. They've had folks in various roles across marketing and DevRel dive into community work, but never a focused role. They created the #TapIntoTwitter program, which is a collection of local Meetup groups, as well as the community forum over at twittercommunity.com.

As I have joined the team I have brought in my community knowledge, of course, but also another voice to advocate for developers. I've spent a great deal of my early time at Twitter writing documents that outline how developers prefer to be engaged with and how they will perceive different things we do. The team integrated UserVoice to obtain feedback last year when they launched labs, but it lacked strategy and growth—hardly any developers even know it exists. I am currently working on building a developer feedback program (and re-designing UV Thanksgiving week!) that works cross functionally to ensure that we are obtaining as much feedback as we can from our developers to ensure we are making developer-driven decisions.

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alex profile image
Alex Angel Ask Me Anything

Hey Tessa! Thank you so much for doing this AMA today :D

With large developer communities, what tactics have you found yourself needing that weren't as necessary for smaller ones for building trust?

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tessak22 profile image
Tessa Kriesel Ask Me Anything

What a fabulous question. In my first community role, I almost knew every developer in our community. At Twitter, I am lucky if I know 25 of them. Okay, that's a little low but still. I've found that it's quite helpful to find developers whom have a significant following or reputation in our community, and work closer with them so they help echo what we're sharing. This tends to be my tactic whenever possible. Sure, I can tell folks about things we are doing or offering, but if a fellow community member tells them its more credible and intriguing—plus it's a great way to scale the community quicker.

I've been really focused on strategy of trust building and bettering our feedback program that I haven't had much chance to start to implement tooling and new techniques to engage our community. I've been striking up a conversation one developer at a time to learn as much as I can. One plus side is that growth is not a major focus for me, most developers who want to use the API are there, BUT they're being wildly underserved so instead of growth, I'm focused on trust which is very difficult to scale.