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Today I’m excited to tell you about DeveloperMode, a new company that’s helping businesses attract and retain developers using the medium they know best: code. Before I dive into that, I want to tell you a little bit about how I got into the world of developer relations, starting all the way back at the beginning.

I’ve loved writing code since I was a kid, when one summer I saved up money mowing lawns to purchase a used Apple IIe from a garage sale. Somehow I discovered it had a programming language called BASIC on it, and then wrote hundreds of programs that identical to this one, just changing the message each time:

10 PRINT "I HATE HOMEWORK"
20 GOTO 10  

In college I got a job building the web site for the university I went to—I found this much more satisfying than the coursework 😛—and haven’t stopped making sites and apps since.

Programming, however, has never been the whole story. For me, software is also exciting because of what you can do with it. How it can improve the world. How you can build a business around it.

When I first started using and then building APIs, I fell in love. Entire tranches of code that I don’t have to write? Yes, please. Solving problems for other developers? Well, okay!

In 2013 I joined Keen IO and worked with a wonderful team to build an API for analytics. Later I joined Algolia and helped developers dig into a very powerful search API. Along the way, my role gradually shifted from engineering to evangelism. My interests widened from solving the engineering problem to solving the growth problem. Adding writing, speaking and thinking about growth on top of a coding role was challenging but exciting. It felt natural. Why not do that all the time and call it a job?

This week I’m at DevRelCon London amongst a host of other folks who have found their way on this multidisciplinary path too. These fine souls are who I want to serve with DeveloperMode. I owe a debt of gratitude to this community for being welcoming when I was new and for being supportive through the various ups and downs over the years. I feel privileged to be able to pay that forward. ❤️

What we do

This year I’ve done anything from developer product design to positioning & messaging to DevRel team strategy to DX assessments. I’ve worked with evangelists, advocates, marketers and founders. While the variety of experience has been very valuable, it’s not scalable to try to do everything. Thankfully, one type of work has risen above the rest as both satisfying to work on and uniquely valuable to clients.

I love to build developer community projects. These projects are a creative mix of code and content that gives value to the developer community, whether by helping solve a common problem or explain a complex concept.

When a company builds an awesome community project, it makes developers naturally curious about their product or API. Because community projects tend to be long-lived, they lend themselves well to ongoing storytelling and repeatable campaigns, making them much more valuable than the average one-off blog post.

I believe that the “show, don’t tell” style of marketing offered by community projects is what actually works with developers, what really moves the needle on developer awareness and credibility.

I’ve helped build many successful community projects before including Keen Dashboards (10k+ Github stars ⭐) and Algolia DocSearch (powering the documentation search for 900+ open source projects). I’ve written code, typed out blog posts, done outreach, given talks, and done whatever else it takes to get community projects from concept to launch to traction. I’ve also been a fan and user of community projects like Stream’s multi-platform Winds RSS Reader and the beautifully designed game that is TwilioQuest. By building and studying community projects, I’ve gotten a solid idea of what developers respond to and what kind of results that these projects can deliver—subjects that we’ll cover in future blog posts.

Wrap-up

If an awesome developer community project sounds like something your team or company is interested in, please get in touch and let’s taco about it 🌮 Don’t worry if you don’t have an idea in mind yet, we can come up with it together.

If you’re in developer relations and want to see examples of high-quality community projects, subscribe to the newsletter.