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Developer Relations: Becoming Part of the Community

As a marketer looking to improve developer relations, it’s not enough to merely create content for developers. If you really want to understand what matters to developers, to actually get on their level, you need to get involved.

When it comes to building a relationship with developers and contributors affiliated with an open source project such as PHP, Linux, Apache, or Drupal: community participation and collaboration are important. The more that is shared and contributed, the better those projects, modules, themes, and documentation become. Drupal, for example, is the largest, most active open source community out there and has a reputation for being one of the most friendly, open, welcoming, and positive development communities.

It might seem daunting to break into a passionate community of developers, particularly if you’ve never written a single line of code. But there are ways for non-technical marketers who are truly interested in developer relations to become an active, contributing part of any community.

Learn the Basics

If you’re concerned about being completely out of your element, learn the basics. While this might be a little more difficult for proprietary solutions, there are many online learning tools for open source solutions. YouTube is an excellent resource for learning the basics of web development.

If you’re interested in Drupal, subscription services like Drupalize.me or BuildAModule can help get you up to speed. Or just download Drupal and play around with it. Drupal 8 was designed for site builders, not just developers. It was built so that even if you don’t code at all, if you have enough basic technical knowledge, you can still install modules in the user interface. This was a fundamental design decision in Drupal; developers have put many, many hours into a system that non-developers can use and thus, making the code accessible to people who aren’t necessarily coders.

Get Involved with Events

There’s no shortage of developer events to attend, especially in the open source community. Go to one! At any of them, there are always a number of sessions about topics other than web development or engineering; design, product management, community, and data architecture, just to name a few. You don’t have to go to the hardcore coding sessions sessions. This is also an opportunity to meet other community members who aren’t coders.

Just because you don’t code doesn’t mean you can’t help out. Events provide an opportunity to apply your own expertise. Every event needs a team of organizers to make it happen and if you’re in marketing, chances are you’ve had some experience with events. Beyond the organization aspect, there is a need for creative as well; designers and copywriters are needed for signage, collateral, etc. And volunteers are always needed to keep everything running smoothly.

Spend Time with People

“Where I start with all of this is my fundamental interest; the intersection of humans and technology, the place where we cross over. I find a lot of value in knowing how you discovered something, what problem you were solving, what inspired you to create a solution, to modify it or to use it. What is your experience with this thing? The best explanations end up being connected with an actual story. It’s a very human thing. Stories are what tie us together.”
- Jeffrey “jam” McGuire, Evangelist, Developer Relations at Acquia

The best way to connect with people is by actually spending time talking to them. Within the development community, there are many opportunities for this, from structured monthly local meetups to drinks after work with internal developers.

Don’t be intimidated; maybe you only understand some of the things being discussed but the point is, you will learn something. Make connections and ask questions. Most people will be happy to help you learn if you’re asking in a respectful way.

Being involved with developer relations is an active pursuit. You can’t do it just from behind your computer screen. Get out there, talk to people, and ask questions. Try things out for yourself. It’s the only way to really do it right. Just go do it.

(Yes, I intend on taking my own advice on this).

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