by guest author Chetan Mittal
I have been writing software for a living for more than 20 years and have always been a member of various developer communities such as MSDN, MDN, Stack Overflow, Github, Redhat, Java, etc.
I still remember the early 2000s when most of us software developers used to flock on different IRC channels maintained by various developer communities helping us interact and support each other. The sole purpose of these IRC channels was to build trust among the developers and the software product.
The same is being done nowadays through both formal and informal discord and slack channels maintained by different developer communities. For example, Microsoft Developer Network maintains channels on both Discord and Slack.
These chat channels play an important role in building developer communities by providing a platform for software development companies to directly interact with the developers by sharing the latest trends, features, code examples, technical guides, tutorials, etc., thus building trust with each other.
In this article, I will explain, in brief, the role of technical writing in building and maintaining developer relations.
What is Developer Relations?
For any software company that develops tools for software developers, building and maintaining relationships with these developers is very important.
Ultimately, software developers are its customers too. In the developer marketing world, this is often called as DevRel or Developer Relations.
Being a way to engage with software developers, understand their needs, and gain their trust to build a long-term relationship with them, DevRel is an important aspect of any software company’s marketing strategy.
There are many marketing strategies and activities a software development company has to consider to reach developers, helping it to increase the adoption of its products and services, eventually, by positive word-of-mouth marketing and developer contribution and feedback. Some of these are:
- Technical content writing
- Organizing conferences and meetups
- Conducting webinars and live coding sessions
- Interacting with developers on chat channels hosted on Discord, Slack, etc.
Before the web became a huge phenomenon, companies like Microsoft and Redhat built and maintained their relationship with software developers by providing them with paid information licenses related to various APIs, programming languages, etc., through CDs and DVDs.
MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) was the biggest developer community (and it still fairly is), and paying to be a part of it was a proud achievement among peers.
These days software companies maintain dedicated blogs and websites to provide all the necessary information developers need to use the tools provided by them for free.
Below are the developer communities of a few popular software companies:
To publish content for these blogs and websites, these software companies need technical writing in developer relations.
Technical writing in developer relations is one of the means to reach developers by providing them with necessary resources such as technical tutorials, guides, documentation, etc.
Who is Responsible for Maintaining Developer Relations?
Maintaining developer relations is a collaborative effort of technical, marketing, and community professionals who work together as a team along with a software development or software engineering team to build and support a thriving developer community.
A developer relations manager leads the team along with technical evangelists or developer advocates, community managers, and technical content writers.
Below explains briefly the roles of each DevRel team member:
- Developer Relations Manager: identifies opportunities for engagement with the developers.
- Technical Evangelist or Developer Advocate: engages with developers at various developer events, conferences, and forums.
- Developer Community Manager: builds, nurtures, and maintains a community of developers around a product or service.
- Developer Relations Engineers: support software engineers and developers by providing working examples of the technology or tool.
- Developer Experience Writers: write content for developers’ use, such as API references, code samples, etc.
- Technical Writers: create engaging technical content such as API docs, technical manuals, technical how-tos, technical articles, etc.
What is Technical Writing in Developer Relations?
Technical writing in DevRel is simply writing content for a technically sound audience, such as a software developer, software engineer, system administrator, DevOps engineer, etc.
Usually, technical writers’ content clearly explains how to install or use a specific software product or service.
This can be explained by writing technical content such as user manuals covering product APIs, installation guides, and troubleshooting guides.
For example, refer to one of my technical articles, “How to Install ERPNext 14 on Ubuntu 22.04 server hosted on Digitalocean?”.
Creating technical content for DevRel doesn’t only mean you need to know the technology, but you also need to be a marketer writing such content which promotes the technology adoption among developers.
How Does Technical Writing Help in Building Developer Relations?
I love to read about the new features in my current tech stack and about the latest technologies, software tools, software development frameworks, etc., on informational websites such as Hackernoon, Smashing Magazine, etc., during the weekends.
Technical, informational websites like Hackernoon, Hashnode, Dev.to, and many others have built themselves into developer communities on the basis of the quality and quantity of their technical writing.
Many software companies maintain a blog on these websites to publish technical content regularly to reach both newbies and experienced software developers for developer marketing.
Below are a few points on how technical writing helps build developer relations:
- A software company that understands the importance of technical writing in developer relations reduces the confusion and frustration in developers by providing accurate and consistent technical content that is easy to understand
- Complex technical concepts can easily be communicated with your developers, helping them understand
- Easy-to-understand technical writing improves the productivity of your software developers, eventually allowing them to focus on successful software product development
- Quality and regular technical writing builds trust and credibility with your developers hence increasing adoption and loyalty to your software products
- Also, technical writing helps you reduce long-term support costs and improve developer satisfaction
5 Best Ways to Build Developer Relations by Technical Writing
I have been building web applications using Ruby on Rails since 2005. I still remember how watching a tutorial video on “How to Build a Blog in 15 minutes using Ruby on Rails” by its founder David Heinemeier Hansson got me hooked on this web development framework.
Here are the 5 best ways you can follow to build developer relations by technical writing at your software company:
- Produce high-quality technical documentation: Clear and concise documentation helps your developers understand how to use your product.
- Publish technical blogs and articles: Sharing technical insights and best practices for your software product through blog posts, articles, and whitepapers establishes trust and credibility among your developers.
- Host technical webinars and video tutorials: Build and nurture a community by engaging with your software product developers through webinars and live events.
- Publish technical case studies: Demonstrate how your product has helped other developers solve their specific problems.
- Create technical FAQs or knowledge base: Provide easy-to-access and find information on common technical questions and issues related to your software product.
This article discusses the significance of technical content writing in developer relations.
Technical writing is crucial in building developer relations by creating clear and concise documentation, tutorials, guides, technical blogs, articles, code samples, and demos.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a technical writer help a software developer?
A technical writer helps a software developer by producing easy-to-understand, clear, and concise documentation, such as how-to guides, API guides, etc. A software company that invests in quality technical writers always builds and maintains healthy developer relations.
Should my software programmers do technical writing for my software product?
This is a common dilemma faced by many software companies. As a software product owner, it is up to you to ask your software engineers or programmers to do the technical writing. However, I personally suggest either building an in-house DevRel team or outsourcing the technical writing to someone experienced.
Featured image by ThisIsEngineering (Pexels)
About Chetan Mittal
Chetan is a Ruby on Rails consultant and technical writer with 20+ years of experience building software products and strong technical qualifications to understand the subject matter he writes on deeply.
Learn more about Chetan at chetanmittaldev.com and connect with him on LinkedIn.
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