It’s no surprise that developers like to visit online communities.
When Devada surveyed developers earlier this year, for the 2019 State of Developer Report, we discovered that 94% have visited one or more communities in the past 30 days, and 88% agree or strongly agree that software vendors should provide an online community. What intrigued us more is how developers participate when they visit a community. It turns out developers earlier in their career tenure are more likely to lead or moderate in communities vs. more experienced developers.
Let’s dive into what that means for community managers; What do developers want in a community, how do they participate in them, and who wants gamification more (hint: it’s not the developer).
The 2019 State of Developer Report
We surveyed a little over 800 developers. Respondents are a mix of full-time developers and those that have some management responsibilities. The respondents were evenly spread across small-, medium- and enterprise-size companies with revenues ranging from under $10 million (39%), $10 million to $100 million (25%), $100 million to $1 billion (14%), and 22% over $1 billion.
When do Developers Participate?
We expected that community participation would be fairly constant during a person’s career, but the activities developers participated in would change as they gained more experience. Specifically, we hypothesized that developers would ask more questions earlier in their careers and then transition to answering more questions later in their careers. At mid-career, we expected to see a peak in involvement in reputation building activities, such as moderating a discussion or contributing long-form content.
The first part of our hypothesis played out; Six in 10 new developers (first two years on the job) have posted a question in the past 30 days. Where we missed: Posting a question remains the number one activity across all career stages.
If you step back for a second, it makes sense. Everything in the developer world changes at lightning speed – languages, frameworks, tools. What you learned in college – or what you learned a few years ago—might no longer be relevant.
It also solidifies how important online communities are for developers.
What are Developers Doing When They Visit Their Community?
No matter the type of online community the number one thing developers want is to learn new skills or improve existing skills (86%). Next most popular:
Discover new solutions or techniques – 81%
Find an answer to technology questions – 81%
Improve my code quality – 73%
Equally important is what was least popular: Influence product or industry direction (12%). As you look to build engagement with developers, keep that point in mind.
So What Can I Do to Engage Developers?
We asked developers what communities can do to deepen a relationship with them. The top response: “Provide access to development tools, testing tools and test scenarios” (61%). Followed by “Provide opportunities to talk with specialists and engineers’’ (52%). Developers could choose more than one option.
There are several options that landed in the middle that involve inviting a community member to do something like write a blog, participate in a webinar or provide feedback. While only approximately a third of respondents were interested in these options, they point to terrific engagement strategies that you should consider.
What about rewards?
Interestingly enough, “reward me for site participation” registered at just 30%. When we asked the question a different way, “What do developers want in a community”, 63% said recognition for participating wasn’t needed.
That raises the question of how important gamification is for community managers.
Our take: Offering points and awards and levels of achievement isn’t for naught. But don’t make that the cornerstone of your community building efforts. Don’t invest in expensive gamification platforms, or pin all your community building efforts on prizes.
In a recent post, 10 Best Practices of Community Managers, the community manager at DZone, Blake Ethridge, said:
“Aim for the right blend of virtual and physical rewards to help nurture your community. Rewards should be a natural part of your community members’ journey. Don’t rely on contests aimed to prop up quarterly numbers or to try to increase community activity. In action, gamification (start small) can help scale your community’s nurture stream, rewarding members as they become more and more active.”
One of the most powerful gifts you can provide is a handwritten note. Another option is to help active community members (like those that answer questions for newbies) reach key members of your staff when they’ve got a question no one in the community can answer. They will likely reward you down the line by answering similar questions within the community.
Developer community managers have a tall task. You are responsible for deepening the relationship with developers, and helping shift people away from other forms of support (tickets). For community managers of internal developer communities, helping developers be more efficient is critical. The 2019 State of Developer Report is available for free download and provides more insight into what developers want from their communities, and how DevRel community managers can deliver.
What to read next:
How to Become An Awesome Developer Evangelist When You’re Not a Developer by Wojtek Borowitz