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Live Notes on DevRelSummit Asia 2018


DevRel Summit Asia 2018 Live Notes

These are my notes of the DevRel summit 2018 on 2nd of November in Singapore. They are by no means complete and I may have rushed a few bits. I'm looking forward to the videos and slide releases by the different presenters to fill in gaps and welcome comments on that. I hope this helps getting an idea what was covered.

Keynote Nicole Zhu, GoJek


Devrel = Talent Acquisition and Talent retention

3 Major shifts in Devrel

  • 1990s-2002 Technical Writer Era
  • 2003-2015 Product Adoption and Recruitment
  • 2016 - ??? The Protocol Era (Blockchain)

Predictions for the next 4 years:

  • Strongest and most charismatic engineers will do developer relations
  • Companies will fund schools (physical and digital)
  • DevRel will become more personable, customisable
    • Udemy and YouTube Developer Superstars as influencers
    • Devrel is not sales and shouldn't be connected
  • Companies will be open source first

Joe Nash, GitHub

Joe's slides are available

Joe does Developer Marketing at GitHub - Github Education.

"Github Education helps students, teachers and schools access and tools and events they need to shape the next generation of software development"

  • A lot of Open Source is understaffed - OpenSSL had 8 maintainers.
  • 5 years ago Github had 4 million users - now 30 million
  • 1.1 Million verified students on GitHub
  • Half of new GitHub sign ups identify as students


  • Support - What are users asking for help with?
  • Content - Put a URL on it - FAQ to content pieces
  • Outreach - Common question as URL - turn it into a cheatsheet, give it out at events
  • Operations - Automate and scale delivery
  • Programs Bundle and brand it

Applied to students:

  • "Do you offer students discounts?"
  • Help docs getting student section
  • Cover student hackathons
  • Infrastructure and Partners - third party companies checking student IDs to ensure they really are eligible for discounts
  • Student developer pack

Re-iterate scoop

20,000 Teachers use GitHub to teach their classes. Make it real life examples and allow students to take part in impactful products. Instead of doing own events, go to existing special interest events and introduce them to your products GitHub Classroom for teachers https://

Bottom up onboarding:

  • Open source brings opportunities - have impactful tools and people will come
  • GitHub Campus experts enrich the technology community at their schools
    • Training from GitHub to help you become a leader and bring people together
    • Resources from GitHub to inspire and motivate your peers so they can learn skills they need. Don't learn new technologies that might be fleeting but good basics instead.
    • Opportunites from GitHub to share out speaking engagements to the community and users
  • Github has 128 teacher experts in 27 countries
  • Community and Growth - don't mention GitHub, do a show, don't tell

Jarod Reyes, Twilio


Dark Matter developers- Developers that we should be, but aren't serving well right now

  • 23% of Twilio community created 95% of code

Leading questions to challenge our assumptions

  • Does the developer have everything they need to use your product?
    • Assumption: Developers have a Mac - in reality only 18% use it
    • Assumption: Developers hate talking to sales - 1 in 10 does
    • Assumption: Developers love our site docs - make site more accessible as there were many #a11y issues
  • Can developers understand your content?
    • Assumption: College educated - 31% are not
    • Assumption: English speaking - look at bounce rate/language (26% higher for portuguese)
    • Assumption: On Desktop - 1 out of 5 on Mobile

Remove barriers in your documentation - no jargon on the first page.

  • Do developers respond to your brand?
    • Assumption: Work in tech - 73% do not (Goldman Sachs has more developers than Facebook)
    • Assumption: "Lifestyle" developers - 64% have never skipped a meal, 54% have never contributed to OSS

Tools to check your impact

  • Brand survey - how many developers know you

  • Event survey - 95% willing to fill out a survey for a T-Shirt

  • Are developers showing up to meet you?

    • If we build it they will come - Global developers are ageing 85% over 40 have kids - offer childcare at events
    • What aren't we building?
    • Survey people after implementation of changes, if they really helped
    • San Francisco is a great city - terrible for events as it is too expensive.

Tomomi Imura, Slack


Supporting Diverse Developers

  • Create Awareness
  • Give Inspiration
  • Outreach
  • Engineering
  • Dev products feedback
  • Create developer ecosystem
  • Improve developer experiences
  • Support
  • Developer education

Goal: Make it easy for developers to understand products to build apps

How and where do developers learn?

Building on Slack:

  • Official Documentation
  • Stackoverflow
  • 3rd party tutorials
  • Code samples on GitHub
  • Help Forums
  • Twitter

RTFM is not the right approach - find a way catered to different learning styles

VARK Model Theory Fleming and Mills(1992)

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Read/Write
  • Kinesthetik

This is based on the Honey and Mumford theories

  • Diversity / Multilingual content - get Community members to do it


Japan community insights:

  • Dev Conferences need to be on Weekends - engineers can't take weekdays off
  • Food needs to be served at the end of an evening meetup, not before
  • Kawaii swag and self-publishing manga
  • Anime Costumes
  • Impersonation and characters

Keir Whittaker, Shopify


  • Shopity defines "partners" as it is too hard to define developers/designers

Ways shopify did developer outreach:

  • Workshops

  • Third Party Content

  • Tutorial Videos

  • Sponsored Events

  • Free stores for "influencers" (doesn't work)

  • Webinars with experts. People came for the tech, didn't care for shopify

  • Swag (give out tshirts on the second day of the event - people will need it)

  • Technical problems were less the issue for Shopify than business reasons

"how can I convince a client to pay us to pay a hosted platform to do their shop"

  • Users of shopify created third party offers
    • Facebook groups
    • Podcasts
    • Slack channels

Grow book series - chapters written by partners


Partner meetups sponsorship

  • Helped partners run own events
  • "An evening with shopify" events - showcasing special partners
  • Helped partners speak at third party conferences
  • Put partners on stage at unite
  • Built a global event series around partners
  • Celebrated partners with annual commerce awards

What to do better

  • Get educational element sorted first then focus on the awareness
  • Have more mid funnel activities - reappropriation of educational content
  • Identify and support advocates as soon as possible.

Thomas Gorissen, JSConf Asia

Observations of 8 years in Singapore in Web Tech

The average developer in Singapore:

  • Swaps jobs ~2 years (liquid job market)
  • Career developer
  • Rarely contributes to open source
  • ~3 years experience
  • Not very familiar with engineering fundamentals or how they are relevant. Making it work is more important than how it is done.
  • Upskilling by switching jobs or self-learning

The average employer in Singapore:

  • Has a handful of engineers. Largest employers are GovTech, a*star, approaching 500
  • Is a ~4 year old start-up


  • Lack of seniority - companies tend to bring people here to train people - easy to get visas
  • Self-learning is haphzard and not organised -Full stack overflow developer
  • Hype driven development - blockchain

How to fix it:

  • Hiring seniority
  • Training on the job - leadership training
  • Bringing in outside guidance
  • Making space for self-growth
  • Future of work? Make an environment where people want to stay


  • 2000+ attendees since 2012
  • YouTube channel 106,573 subscribers
  • Mission: educate on the world's busiest platform and on engineering fundamentals
  • Inspire solutions and contributions
  • Bring the world's web community to SEA
  • Raise SEA to become to a significant part of the web community

JSConf Ingredients:

  • Strong curation

    • Go Deep, not broad
    • Education, Inspiration and Entertainment
    • No sales, no reciting documentation, initially no sponsored talks
  • Involve the community

    • An event lives from its diversity of perspectives and experiences
  • Financed via ticket-sales

  • Sponsorship Limits

  • Being aspirational helps

  • Audience curation

  • Great hospitality

  • Grounded and appropriate code of conduct

Next edition: June 14 - 16 2019 Signapore 3 days 600 attendees

Victor Neo, Carousell

neo-feedback-loops{:height="36px" width="36px"}

  • Every company will be engaging in DevRel
  • Singapore and Taiwan - Victor has experience building up engineering management community in SG
  • Everything is a feedback Loop
  • A community's ability to learn and grow depends on the feedback loop
  • Plato as a platform to do live mentoring - time difference was a big issue
  • Personal feedback is much more important than reading articles and videos
  • Article that got Victor into his job Short feedback is much more important than feedback loops


Yohan Totting, Google

Applying a localisation approach for developers in Asia

  • What is DevRel?

Being a friend of developers who listens, understands and helps.

  • Career started in forums answering english questions in local languages
  • Teaching people how to answer the question by explaining the forum functions
  • How to you sell a new platform?
    • Start with friends.
    • Quality before quantity - find a big player to use it
    • Hackathons empower developers to contribute for their country
    • Starting with an API to access data allows people to build better apps. Example voting data API - 41 apps 100m API hits
  • Companies throw competitions or hackathons without engaging and understanding the community
  • Find local champions, partner with them and make them the face of the event and the conduit for communucation
  • Cultural differences: when you do something nice to people in Indonesia they feel compelled to reciprocate
  • Scaling the community in Indonesia/India/Brazil (next Billion users Google)
  • Web Unconf:
    • 72 participants
    • 27 leaders
    • 11 cities
    • reaching 350k devs
  • There is nothing better than sitting with people than talking online or on Telegram
  • Localised blog on medium

DevRel Pattern Inspire => Play => Build => Report

  • Inspire show pains, capabilities, values and success stories
  • Events are not scalable - videos make more sense
  • Play Provide a playground to practice (google codelabs)
  • Study groups are the most effective way to use the codelabs with local instructors who can talk the local language. It works really well with women as trainers getting women to sign up
  • Developer Experiences vs. User Experiences (libraries bloat the web)
  • Record the impact and write good stories about it.
  • Be a friend not an evangelist

Ali Spivak, Mozilla

Fueling growth and how diversity can help

  • Include diversity in your strategy
  • MDN growth strategy
  • Address Diverse audience needs
  • Grow engagement
  • Get into users workflow
  • Improve performance

How to do that:

  • Interactive code samples.
  • Integration in VSCode
  • Product advisory board of people outside Mozilla to get more diverse needs into the MDN product VS Integration happened because of this
  • Changes to MDN were at times at odds what the Firefox engineering group wanted, MDN did user research to prove that what the board said would be good to have is really something that developers need

MDN Community

  • 1000s of contributor about 1k contributions a month
    • Browser compatibility: 303 contributors, >4000 commits
    • Hack on MDN events - unconference style around a broad subject (accessibilty, performance,...)
    • Discourse & IRC
    • 50% growth of MDN YoY
    • 13 million users a month

Measuring Impact

  • Slashdata 20,000 developers survey about what developers get from companies ali-tools

  • Access to evangelists = Marketing, Access to experts is seen as helpful

  • Things they say isn't necessarily that important and un-important bits drive a lot of traffic

  • Results from the survey showed sensibly what makes sense to invest more in ali-satisfaction

  • Access to experts was something that was not good for MDN and for the market leaders in same measures

  • Mozilla invests in training on experts and will re-measure how that will change

  • MDN's Audience is US 3/3 India 2/3 France 2/3 China 2/3 Japan 2/3 although there is no Chinese content ali-adoption-difference ali-western-features

  • Main difference found is that documentation and tutorials are most important in the Western world, and more hands-on like access to * experts, social learning and events in the Eastern

  • Adoption varies in countries, lowest in Asia

Speakers need to be as diverse as the audience


  • Tech speakers program to train up volunteers. 27 countries, largest group of speakers is in India.

  • Recognize, promote and develop the talents of volunteet technical advocates and educators

  • Tech speakers did 312 events 40,000 developers

  • Local knowledge getting people to get invited and hired elsewhere, example was an expert on Asian typography

  • Consider diversity when setting goals

    • Outside company, region, dominant cultures and gender
  • Measure impact across multiple factos

  • Empower regional representatives

Elisha Tan, Facebook

  • Investing in innovators through developer programs

  • Founder of tech ladies

  • Innovator needs skills, builds a product and needs it to scale

  • Sololearn - everyone can code

  • - grocery delivery in Nigeria

  • To build the thriving economies of the future, we need to encourage innovation where it lives

  • Developer Circles

    • Event sponsorship for local organisers who get full control over what event makes most sense in the local market
    • Swag sponsorship
    • Bring good people together, gives some guidance and sponsorship and see magic happen
    • 18 month - 150,000 developers in 55 countries, 16 countries in Asia

Women Who Code: APAC Directors - Panel Session


  • 25 events this year in Singapore with each one of them first-time speakers
  • training for 15,000 women engineers to upscale their skills to get back into work starting 01/12
  • Korea: first time female keynote speaker at
  • Demand for more women leaders, opportunites for mothers to attend events
  • Korea: teaching people Github and how to maintain their profile, support for women to come back to work after having kids
  • Phillipines: meetups during weekdays hard to attend - moving to Saturday afternoons and allowing kids and elderly people was a big success. Tech summit planned for the end of the year

What can leaders do to support diversity in the ecosystem:

  • Helping recruitment to phrase job descriptions and outreach to attract more diverse applicants
  • Korea: diversity and CoC is a tricky subject and hard to explain to people. Making it easy to understand and implement helps.
  • Creating awareness that diversity doesn't mean hiring women to fill a quota
  • Longer process for hiring allowing for many applicants to come in will result in more diverse applicants
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