Every year, Evans Data puts on an event called the
Developer Relations Conference.
It's a fascinating conference about how to improve relations with the developers who
build on your platform, targeted largely at mid to large size companies. I've been
meaning to write up a summary of my favorite talk about what gets developers' attention.
But first, here’s what SDK Bridge been up to since our last newsletter:
• Creating REST API documentation for a company whose product "gamifies" websites.
• Writing a specification for mobile app reporting.
• Continuing to write documentation for Spec Explorer, a Microsoft model-based testing tool.
How to Get Developers' Attention
of Intel gave a highly entertaining and insightful talk which he called
"Developer Program Content: Technical and Marketing". He challenged everyone
to think about traditional marketing techniques and whether they would work for a
developer audience. Then he told us the result of some "unscientific" studies he did that
really illusrated his point.
In one study, he showed a picture to 10 developers and 10 non-technical people. The picture
contained the following images in a row:
• A laptop with some syntactically-incorrect C code on its screen. Behind it was an image of the Earth.
• A woman.
• A kitten.
He gave his subjects 10 seconds to look at the picture, and then he asked them to recall what
they saw. All of the developers noted the incorrect code. Most of them did not remember
the woman or the kitten, and none of them noticed the Earth. The non-technical people noticed the laptop
and some of them noticed that there was code on it, and some the Earth behind it,
and all of them noticed the woman and kitten.
He then removed the code, and showed the same image to 10 more developers. Now all of them
noticed the woman and the kitten, essentially having the same results as the non-technical people
in the first experiment.
The lesson learned? Developers' attention is drawn towards code more than anything else.
(Yes, even more than kittens!) If you want to grab their attention, show them code.
This is another reason why sample code is so important in your documentation. It's what makes
your product seem the most real to them.
Reinders had other stories to tell of studies that showed how important technical information
is in marketing. (For example, never say that your platform is "light years faster" than your
competitors'. A light year is a unit of distance, not speed. Developers will dismiss you right
away.) It's a fascinating area, and a challenging one for most companies, since most technical
people do not know how to market, and most marketing people are not technical.
It's good to remember that documentation is a form of marketing for your platform. It's often
the first thing developers will go to when making a decision about whether to use it. Always
make it publically accessible if you can, technically accurate, and easy to understand.
And if you can, include code.