The Relicans

loading...
Cover image for Community Management That Cares with Michael Tharrington

Community Management That Cares with Michael Tharrington

mandymoore profile image Mandy Moore ・30 min read

DEV.to Community Coordinator Michael Tharrington talks to Relicans Host Danny Ramos about what it means to be a community manager, especially for platforms as large as DEV and Forem and how his previous role as a caregiver helped prepare him for his current role today.

Should you find a burning need to share your thoughts or rants about the show, please spray them at devrel@newrelic.com. While you’re going to all the trouble of shipping us some bytes, please consider taking a moment to let us know what you’d like to hear on the show in the future. Despite the all-caps flaming you will receive in response, please know that we are sincerely interested in your feedback; we aim to appease. Follow us on the Twitters: @LaunchiesShow.

play pause Launchies

Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome to Launchies, proudly brought to you by New Relic's developer relations team, The Relicans. The Launchies podcast is about supporting new developers and telling their stories, and helping you make the next step in what we certainly hope is a very long and healthy career in software. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of The Relicans podcasts on developer.newrelic.com/podcasts. We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.

Danny Ramos: What's up, everyone? My name is Danny Ramos. And today, we are doing another amazing episode of Launchies. We have an amazing guest, so many amazings right off from the intro. And today, please welcome Michael Tharrington. Yeah, the crowd goes wild. [chuckles]

Michael Tharrington: Hey.

Danny: Michael, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself.

Michael: Sure. My name is Michael, and I am the Community Manager at DEV or Forem as we're now called, but I act as the Community Manager for DEV.to. I'm coming from Pittsboro, North Carolina, which is about 15 minutes away from Chapel Hill. It's where UNC Tar Heels are located, in case anyone is a fan of basketball.

Danny: [laughs] We have a huge basketball fan base that listens to Launchies.

Michael: [chuckles] Hey, it's that time of the year; it’s March Madness. It just seemed like the appropriate reference. Also, Michael Jordan went to school at UNC, so that's our little claim to fame around here.

Danny: Nice.

Michael: I live in North Carolina. I have multiple pets. I like to play music. And that's a little bit about the things that I like outside of work.

Danny: Yeah, totally. Before we even started, you were talking about how you had your special mic plugged in, and it's the mic you use to play music. Is that something that came before quarantine, during quarantine, or you’re just now experimenting with? Or is it a passion you've had all your life?

Michael: That's a great question. It is a passion I've had my whole life, but I really was just a guitar player for about 10 to 15 years and never really bothered trying to sing and play. And then when I hit 30 about two years ago, I said, “I'm really going to buckle down and learn to sing some songs while playing.” So I started playing and teaching myself, and then I managed to find a few friends to play with. And now I still play guitar, but I mostly sing in our band over playing guitar, which is kind of interesting.

Danny: Yeah, you just so completely pivoted.

Michael: I've completely pivoted. My cousin gave me this microphone, and I've had it for about a year. And I've been recording music on my own now because we haven't really been able to get up as a group except for just a handful of times outside.

Danny: When 30 comes around, it's just complete pivots in life. [laughter]

Michael: I was like, oh, I need new goals. I need something to work towards. I'm only getting older. I really want to record my own music. I really want to write my own tune. So I've done a little bit of that, and I keep moving the goalpost back. So after Covid, I think the big goal is to start playing regular shows, which will be really fun.

Danny: Yeah, absolutely. Man, I cannot wait for regular shows to happen again. That's one big thing I miss, live music and being outside, [laughs] just mainly really being outside.

Michael: Oh, absolutely.

Danny: So you have told me that before we even started with this interview that -- let's start here: what does it mean to be a community manager? Especially for a platform as large as DEV and Forem, how do you manage that? How do you manage the community?

Michael: That's a great question. And I think community management can really mean a variety of things. And I can tell you a little bit about how my job has evolved at DEV, even within the role of community manager. But just to talk about some basic things that community managers do, one of the first things that I really ramped myself up on was support work. And what I mean by that is just making sure that community members on the site felt safe and knew that they were supported or could get in touch with a person on the other end if they wrote us via email or wrote a post commenting about something on the site that there'd be a human on the other end that will answer them and help them figure out their problem. So that's the way that I think of support.

I also just briefly said safety. Well, on DEV.to, we have a code of conduct, and as the community manager, it's partly my responsibility, it's partly everyone’s responsibility at DEV, but really one of my focuses is to make sure that we're able to enforce that code of conduct and create a safe, inclusive place that champions diversity and that encourages people to be kind to one another. And the way that I do this is in a number of ways: I manage and recruit moderators for the site. We have people that we call our Trusted Users, and they have abilities that allow them to really easily flag problematic content to us, whether that's that content is problematic because it's spam or something that just doesn't fit on the site or if it's actually a full-on argument between users. These abilities that the moderators have make it easy for them to flag this behavior to us and to lightly step in, take care of things themselves.

One of my jobs is to interface with all the moderators, recruit the moderators but also to think critically about the tooling that we have to make this happen. And I regularly make feature requests to our technical team to come up with new features to make this all work better. For instance, I guess about a year ago, I put in a request for users to be able to block other users but also to just be able to mute other users. There are two separate things at play here.

Danny: Yeah. Like, I want you to exist, but I don't really want to hear about you. And then block is like; I don't want you around me ever. [laughs]

Michael: Exactly. So it’s taking critical stock of all the things that we have available to us as users and moderators to make a safer site or just to improve the experience, really. And then looking at all of that and listening to the community and making sure that I've voiced these requests that they have, and it helps shape our roadmap. It helps shape how we're going to design DEV or Forem to be a better, safe community.

Danny: Absolutely. I love that. I can't imagine how difficult it is to listen to the community when DEV is as big as it is. I'm imagining you’re on a balcony and everyone on DEV.to is below you, and you're going one by one. You're like, “Okay, what do you think? What do you think? What can we do to improve this website?”

Michael: Yeah. It is challenging because it is such a huge group, and people obviously have different opinions about the direction that we should take DEV and about how strongly we should moderate content and all of that sort of stuff. So it is tough. I'll tell you one of the things that helped me out for a long time was -- and this goes back into my history as a community manager for DEV. But a year ago, my job was more comprehensive and also involved promoting content on social media. And so that was one way that I was just constantly combing through all of the content on the site. And I was able to keep tabs on what people were requesting via post. I also share connect channels with all of the moderators. So we have close to a thousand moderators, and we have multiple channels that I work with them in. And whenever they have new ideas or have questions, they'll drop them in the channel. And that can also be a great way to get ideas from some of our power users on the site or people who are regularly there and have ideas.

Danny: Totally. That sounds great. What is the recruitment process to find a moderator? Because it feels like you're very much finding people who use DEV a lot and then empowering them to give them a little bit more access to the website. Is that something that DEV really focuses on, empowering people within the community? Or is it just like, oh, these people are on here a lot, so they'll see stuff more frequently?

Michael: You're right. We do regularly look through the community. And I'll tell you; there are multiple ways that we go about this. And just to be clear, we recently hired two community associates who are helping me out with this. But as part of our shift, we'll look through reports that come in from the community each day, which can be a community member can report spam, a community member can report abuse, and this is available to any community member on DEV. If you go to one of our articles and you scroll down to the bottom, you'll see that people have the ability to report abuse. So being on that end and seeing the reports come in, we really have a good idea of folks that are helping us do this. And so oftentimes, recruitment efforts come from finding the people who are reporting lots of abuse and then bringing them into our fold.

Alternatively, we also each week put together Top Seven Posts that are the top seven authors from the past week. And very often, I'll use this as a way to find people that I'm sure are involved on the site and creating good content and reflective of the type of people that we want. So it's easy for me to give them what's called “Trusted User” status, and that's basically our word for a moderator. We call it “Trusted User” status because, at one point, we were giving people moderator status, but we felt like that put the onus on the individual that they really had to be very involved as a mod. And one of the things about changing the title to “Trusted User” is it just generally I can make someone a “Trusted User” and give them the quick spiel about how to use these abilities to moderate the site, but it's less of an ask. When you're given moderator status, you feel like you have to do all of this stuff. When you're given “Trusted User” status, the understanding is a little bit like, “Oh, okay, I'm trusted. I can now do these things. I now have the ability to report things quicker and that sort of stuff.”

Danny: Right. There's not a list of work that they feel like they need to accomplish because they’ve become a moderator.

Michael: Right. Less of a responsibility and more of, “Hey, you're trusted.” You now have the opportunity to help us in these ways. And I guess that partly digs into my recruitment. When I'm going to recruit someone to do something, I generally like to have a conversation with them and reach out to them personally and ask for help in that sort of way. So there's another tier of moderator that I haven't talked about here, that's the Tag Moderator tier. And these folks have the same abilities that trusted users have on the site, but they also help us with categorizing posts on the site and making it so that things are easier to find on the site, if that makes sense. For instance, the tag mod for the tag Java would be able to scroll through everything that's tagged on Java and make sure that it fits there. And if something doesn't fit, they can remove the tag. But their job is more involved. They like to help us grow certain topics on that site and help us create the rules for those tags. And so generally, when I'm recruiting Tag Mods, it's a more personalized experience. I'm looking for people who are creating good content under that tag and people who want to be pretty heavily involved.

Danny: So let me ask, how did you end up into this community of tech? I remember you saying that you studied creative writing at university, and then you ended up in Scotland. Can you break down that little part of your story there? And then how you eventually got into this world of tech and this community at DEV.

Michael: Absolutely. So, yeah, like you said, I studied creative writing in university in English. I thought that at the time, I might go on to write a script for a movie or a video game.

Danny: Okay. We're going to talk about that too. I went to film school, so we're going to get there too, but keep going, keep going. [chuckles]

Michael: So basically, I had a long-time girlfriend in university. And when she graduated, she got into vet school in Scotland, and I graduated with a creative writing degree. And I said, “I don't know exactly what I'm going to do.” So I moved over to Scotland with her while she studied to be a veterinarian. And that was awesome. I worked a bunch of small-time jobs, and we lived in a really small place, like a one-bedroom house out in the country.

Danny: Oh wow.

Michael: And that was really cool. I loved it. I worked at a coffee shop for a couple of years; then I worked at a bookstore, and then finally, I was a caregiver for mentally disabled adults at a facility called Garvald. And I loved that job. That was really cool. It's still not a direct move to community management, but I felt like it prepared me in some ways.

Danny: Well, yeah, because you have your little community there, and you need to probably give some direction.

Michael: Exactly. It was really cool. It was like living in a family, which it felt like there are some similarities. But then to say how I got into tech, I moved back to Carolina after living in Scotland, and I got a job at a company called DZone, which stands for Developer Zone. And it's not unlike DEV in that developers can go on DZone and can post articles about what they're learning about. And my job there was really just as an editor. I was just editing tech posts. I was helping out people who maybe didn't speak English as a first language and was helping them clean up their posts. And I would have a bunch of emails back and forth with them and say, “Hey, I changed these words. Does this still make sense?” And most of the time, they wrote right back and said, “Thank you. Thank you very much for helping me out here.” And I really enjoyed that experience, and my role there grew, and I became their community manager and was just speaking to community members, helping them out, and translating all of their requests to our team, and figuring out what we could do. So I did that for a while, and while I was there, I discovered DEV. I landed on the site, and I really liked what I saw and thought, oh wow, if this place starts hiring folks, I really want to go here.

Danny: For me, I come across so many different sites or things like someone who probably writes. It's like, oh, if I could work with this director. It's really cool that you just landed on DEV. You were like, “Oh, I want to work there,” and then just found your way there.

Michael: Yeah. I think the timing and everything was just great. And I don't know at the time if there were loads of folks that had community manager roles out there. So I felt like that gave me an in, being a community manager for another dev-focused website where devs are writing their own articles. So I felt like that gave me a good in. But it was definitely one of those situations where I wasn't looking to get another job or anything like that. I just went on to DEV and saw that they had the role open and said, “Okay, I'm doing it.” [chuckles]

Danny: That's awesome. Have you always had this interest in helping people, or do you think this aspect of your life really grew at your time in Scotland when you were helping with your small community there?

Michael: You know, I'd like to say that I've always had an interest in helping people.

Danny: You’re like, “I've always been a genuinely good person.” [laughter]

Michael: I'd like to say that. I don't know if that's always the case. I definitely think Garvald pushed me in that direction. It made me feel more confident about it. It also just showed me that in a weird, selfish way, it feels good to be good and nice and help people, you know?

Danny: Oh, I completely agree with that, yeah.

Michael: I'm like, if I could build a career around that, then I've really won because then, for one, I'm making money and able to live off of it. [laughs] But two, I just would feel good about what I was doing. So that was the desire there.

Danny: I think there's something, what you said, selfish in that way because it's nice when you're being helpful that there's that instant gratification where someone's like, “Wow, that was really helpful. Thank you so much. You were awesome.” It immediately makes you feel better. It makes you feel good about yourself. You're like, “Man, I am awesome.”

Michael: It does. And you can walk away from your day knowing -- when you go back through the things that you did, the checklist of the things that you did to help someone out, you feel accomplished when you do that sort of thing.

Danny: Yeah. When you think back, you're like, what did I do? And then you're like, oh yeah, I helped this person. I helped this person decipher their posts to English. And now they have two ways to express what they were thinking from their blog or their technical writing. So I think that's really, really cool. So there we go, listeners, that's how you have a very fulfilling and happy life. Just be nice to people, and it'll make you feel good about yourself. [chuckles]

Michael: Exactly.

Danny: So you are at DEV. I keep hearing DEV and Forem, and now DEV has become Forem. Can you give some clarification there? Because also, I hate to admit I had never used DEV, or I was never on the platform until recently. And I feel like I've completely missed out on something that's been like, it's really fun and exciting, but also very helpful.

Michael: No worries. Yeah, I'm glad you brought this up because I realized that it's not helpful that I use those two words and alternate between the two of them. So DEV was DEV before there was Forem. DEV is just a site for developers or DEV.to is the site for developers to go, and it's basically a community of developers. People can post articles about what they're learning or really about anything developer-related. They can post these articles and share them with other community members. You can follow community members. You can follow tags that you're interested in, all of this good stuff. So Forem is the technology that allows you to create, or it's the technology that allows you to create a community platform. And we had to go through this process where we generalized DEV where we made it so that other folks could basically customize their experience on DEV.

So Forem is the platform that DEV is built on. It's basically, we've generalized the DEV community and made it so that really any community out there can build on the same platform. So we have several different communities live out there; two that I work with are the Web Monetization community and New Relic's community, The Relicans.

Danny: Ay. Shout-out to The Relicans.

Michael: Yeah. So those are just a couple of the communities that we've built, but there are several other ones. One day, I hope to build a music community on Forem, kind of the Indie music community too.

Danny: That would be sick. Even a Forem for creative writing.

Michael: Yes, absolutely.

Danny: Well, that sounds really cool. Is there a reason you found yourself taking on music rather than continuing this previous writing passion? Was music something you were always interested in, and you were just like, “You know what? Now I'm going to do it.” I feel like I've asked you this, but I feel like there's something a little bit more to dig deeper into.

Michael: I've always really been interested in music, that's for sure. But it does touch on some of the same stuff that creative writing does. I took poetry courses, and writing poetry, and writing lyrics are not that dissimilar, I don't think. I think that those two are definitely related. But yeah, I've taken my creative writing learnings and have written some songs using those learnings. And most of what I like to write lyric-wise is really in character. I'm not necessarily singing lyrics that are so much true to me. They might be true to me in a way, but I like to sing in character. I like to write songs that tell a story.

Danny: Right. You're not singing about managing communities online.

Michael: I’m not singing about managing communities online. [laughter]

Danny: That's really cool. I think that there's some good that came out of this whole pandemic and being stuck inside. You definitely told yourself -- although you started playing music before this pandemic, there were times where you’re like, “Okay, what do I do today?” And you're like, “Well, I'm stuck inside, so I might as well work on some music, write some music.” And I think there are some positive aspects of this pandemic where it really helped people buckle down and find a new hobby or continue with a previous hobby or passion.

Michael: Oh, I totally agree. There are not as many excuses to go to now. If you're sitting around in your home alone or with your partner or whoever, there's just not a lot to do. So if you're sitting there watching Netflix all the time, you can only use that excuse so many times as to like, “I can't work on music right now. I just want to chill and watch Netflix.” If you're doing that every day, then it really gets old. [laughter] So, yeah, it's definitely pushed me. It's given me more time to do this kind of stuff and also just push me into doing it more because I'm like, well, I have all this open time. I can't just waste it sitting around doing nothing.

Danny: And shout-out to people who do sit around and do nothing, me included.

Michael: [chuckles] Yes.

Danny: Because I’ve definitely told myself, “I'm going to do all this. I'm going to learn Spanish. I'm going to work out every day,” and then as time has gone by, I’m like, oh, wow. I think I know less Spanish than I started before. And I've gained weight, and it's not gains; it’s not muscle. [laughs] But we’re surviving.

Michael: Yes, yes. Hey, no disrespect to people who are sitting around doing nothing because I'm very good at that too.

Danny: [laughs]

Michael: And I think it's necessary.

Danny: What would you say are crucial tools to create a successful, healthy community? I'm assuming some type of reflection of oneself because we're talking about sitting around and doing nothing but then realizing, oh wait, there are some hobbies and passions that I want to complete. How does your own personal experience mirror into the community that you're trying to build?

Michael: Just to back up, I think one of the things that you have to do as a community manager or someone who wants to build a community is you have to be a self-starter and go and just continually investigate and assess your community. And that means that you have to actively get in there and see what people are doing and look out for things that they might be missing. And if you’re a starter community like you’re just starting up, as a community manager, you have to be prepared to hop in the community and engage people, write on their posts, and encourage them to write more. Comment on other folks’ comments, start conversations like that. You can't be afraid to get in there and do a lot of that work yourself because I think you're setting the tone from the top. You're showing other people who maybe are participating, but maybe they're onlookers; you’re showing them how folks behave in this community. It's not enough to just have a code of conduct that says, “Treat people kindly and respectfully.” And it's not enough to have a conduct that says, “Hey, we're pro-diversity,” and that sort of thing. You have to go there, and you have to show them. So you have to engage as an individual human with other people on the site.

And then also, when it comes to something like being pro-diversity, you have to look out for ways to celebrate diversity. So one of the things that we just did at DEV was we just had a She Coded event.

Danny: Oh, right. I saw that.

Michael: Where women could post about their stories, their coding stories. It wasn't limited to women. We also have She Coded Allies, and They Coded as tags; they're open to people as well. But just continuously reminding people or celebrating things on the site and reminding people that, hey, this is a really inclusive space, and this is something that we really champion. And it's not enough just to say it, but you have to continually do it and show it.

Danny: Right. And that goes back to allowing it to be a safe space to not only embracing that but also defending it when it's time.

Michael: Exactly.

Danny: I think this could also be scaled down if someone is interested in creating a meetup or has a small community at their school. It doesn't need to be on the scale of DEV. These are very basic fundamentals in running a community that, if you abide to them it could really create a healthy and positive group of individuals. Encourage them, be amongst the group, not just being like, “Hey, can you do this? Can you do that?” But also be about it.

Michael: Right. I think that's a good point. Something else just jumping off of that because you talked about empowering different individuals, something that I try to do as a community manager some of the time is stand behind the scenes. I don't try and make every announcement myself or that sort of thing. I like to privately message some individuals and encourage them to do different things, and let them take the reins on certain initiatives that they are passionate about.

Danny: That's a genius move, Michael. That is a genius move. [chuckles]

Michael: [chuckles] And then when they go forth, and they succeed in that thing, making sure that they get some praise, public praise if I feel like they're going to enjoy that public praise. If it's going to put the spotlight on them and they're not the type of individual that likes that, then I might just send them some private praise but really taking into account each person that you're working with and their feelings and trying to get them to get passionate or finding out what their passion is and trying to energize them behind that. And that can be a really great tool.

Danny: Yeah, absolutely. I'm stealing that. I'm totally writing it down and stealing it from you. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah. And I feel like there's no direct formula for it all. It's really about keeping your eyes open and watching out for those people that come along that really want to help and take them up on it, work with them on that.

Danny: I imagine that's how someone like a manager or a mentor-ish type of person perceived you on your first day at...what was it called? Garvald?

Michael: Yes.

Danny: They were probably like, “Wow, this guy just popped right in, and he's really down to help out and be part of this family. So I'm going to be in his ear and be like, ‘Hey, good job.’” [laughter]

Michael: I think yeah, encouraging words can really do so much. One of the things that I think about with DEV that we do regularly, like when I think about trying to engage people on your site, we have this whole system for tweeting out folks’ posts and mentioning them as the author each time whenever we do as long as we have their Twitter information on hand. On the small side, it's just saying thanks to them for creating this awesome post and giving them that recognition. But if you think about it too, when you give folks that recognition and they know the pattern, then they'll often come back, and they'll help even more. And that's generally worked well with promoting folks' content through Twitter, I think. When they get that mention, they like it, and then they'll go, and they'll write more interesting posts. It's a good system because they like the encouragement and the recognition. And then likewise, they're creating really great, helpful content,

Danny: Absolutely. There's something to even point out there is that I know for me, I'm looking for more engagement online with just people. So if you reach out to someone and you're like, “Hey, that was awesome. This was a really cool post. Thank you for writing this,” yadda yadda yadda because of the current climate we're in, it's nice to get messages like that because it's nice to feel like you're hanging out again. You're talking to people whether it's online or on the phone or whatever, FaceTime, Zoom. But it's nice to get that engagement with people because it's like, oh man, I haven't talked to anyone in a week, but this is like the nicest thing.” And all it says is, “Hey, awesome post.” [chuckles]

Michael: Yes. And I think just thinking about this strategically; it always feels a little battle as a community manager with how much time do I spend on individuals, giving them feedback and encouragement, just special one-on-one time with different folks? And then how do I step out of that and think more macro, think about the community as a whole, and what's really going to benefit everyone? That's a challenge. I don't claim to know how to solve that one, but that's always something that I'm keeping in mind. I don't have set like oh, I'm going to spend this much time one-on-one with people and this much time thinking macro stuff, but it's always something that you're aware of. As you're spending direct one-on-one time with different individuals, you know in the back of your head you want to step back too and then think on a larger scale what we can do that will greatly affect a lot of people in a positive way.

Danny: Do you find it difficult to talk to the community that you help manage when you don't have a technical background? Do you ever find that difficult?

Michael: From time to time, I do, but I think because I've been in the industry for a good while now, I feel more confident than I did at the beginning, that's for sure. I've learned that not everyone is expecting you to be a developer. There are other people in the software development industry that are non-developers. As long as you're open with developers and tell them what you're here to do, I've never had anyone jump down my throat and say, “Oh, you're not a developer, you don't belong here,” that kind of thing.

Danny: [laughs] Explain.

Michael: Yeah. I guess early on too, I expected that like, oh man, when is it going to happen that someone's going to out me as a non-developer and I'm going to have to explain why I'm here?

Danny: Yeah. Like, “Wait, someone in here isn't a developer. Who is it?” [laughter]

Michael: Right. But in the five-ish years that I've been doing this, no one has done that. And then on the other side of technology, there's really so much that can be done that is not purely development. Like, I write up bug reports and feature requests, and I'm not a developer. But I still try and think through them logically. I try to give my two cents on why I would make such and such request. While I'm not a developer, I have an intuition about things that are going to be harder to do or feature requests that are going to be harder to create than others. I mentioned the block and the mute feature before. If we've developed a block feature that includes abilities to mute someone's account too, then I feel when I'm making the request for a mute feature, I can reference that block feature and say like, “Hey, this already exists, but the block feature also does this, this, and this. I just want to pull out the one feature from the block feature and create a new mute feature.” [chuckles]

Danny: I think you're on your way to becoming a developer. [laughs]

Michael: You can kind of explain stuff just to give people a heads up or the developer on the other end where they might get this information from.

Danny: I think you don't need to be an expert of the community that you're managing like Stack. It falls back into that human-to-human connection. Is this a healthy place for this person? Are they feeling safe? Are they feeling encouraged? Are they excited to be here? And that's what a big role like a management role is, right?

Michael: Yeah. When I'm thinking about bringing my non-technical skills, like creative writing, into this, it's so much about communicating things. So, for instance, to take it back to the feature request, when you want something created, if you can voice that to someone very clearly what you want and why you want it, then that helps a lot with getting the thing done. So while I'm not the one developing the feature, I can describe very clearly what we need and why we need it that'll lead to something being developed.

Danny: As a community manager, is DEV mostly beginners? And do you have any type of data where it says there is a large majority of beginners on there or experienced? Or is it all over?

Michael: I'm sure we have that data. I would not be able to answer that right now. [laughter] But I think I understand what you're getting at. I will just say I think DEV is a really great community for beginners. There's a mixture of people who are definitely really qualified and newbies. So there's a pretty healthy mix. The site is definitely not geared toward just beginners or toward just expert devs; it's for all devs. That said, I think it's very beginner-friendly because the ethos on DEV is to treat everybody with kindness and respect and try to provide them with guidance that isn't going to belittle the person asking. I think about other sites on the web that have set a different standard where the people up at the top answer all the questions and grumble whenever someone new comes in and asks a question that has already been answered or something like that, kind of thinking of Stack Overflow here. [laughter] Not to pick on them because I know they are definitely making moves to improve the environment there. But just to say that I think DEV again early on, set this kind of ethos from the top that we're going to be very kind to beginners that no question is a dumb question. And if you come here, you can expect to find resources that are very beginner-friendly.

That said, DEV also acquired a newbie-focused community about a year ago called CodeNewbie. And we recently have launched a Forem that is for CodeNewbie. And I think it's community.codenewbie.org, and that community is specifically for beginners. And we're going through the process of trying to figure out how to differentiate that community from DEV. We know that we want it to be beginner-friendly, but we're trying to figure out how to use all of the features that we have at hand to make that very clear to people there and really create a community just solely focused for beginner devs.

Danny: Oh, that's really cool. There were definitely multiple nights, like in the middle of the night, like 11:45 p.m., where I'm working on a project, and there was just an intimidation factor of going onto a website and not knowing what anyone was talking about. And you'd be like, “This isn't helpful,” even though it clearly had the solution because it didn't feel like I belonged there.

Michael: Yeah. And I think there are a few things at play there. For newbie developers, sometimes looking at just documentation and trying to learn that way, it's just way too dry. It's not fun. And it feels way too hard to try and do that. For newbies that are maybe logging on the Stack Overflow and trying to get an answer, maybe they're looking at someone else's question, then they're looking at the answers. It can be discouraging when they look through the answers, and they see that one of the top comments is like, “Oh, this is how it's done. And this question was previously asked here,” kind of said in sort of a gruff way.

Danny: Yeah. That statement: like I said, or as I said before. I don't know. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah. So, we're really trying hard to create a place where it feels really safe to ask questions even if it's already been asked several times before. Similarly, we want to create a space where people can create newbie-friendly tutorials, and there's no fear that someone will jump in there and say, “Oh, why did you create these tutorials? This is so easy,” something like that. And I think the way that we do this is that we really try our best to enforce the code of conduct. And when we see this kind of behavior, we privately message people and warn them and say, “Hey, this is not the type of communication that we're trying to promote. If you keep this up, there's a chance that you may be suspended. So really try to follow our code of conduct and treat each other with respect and kindness.” It's making that safe environment that I'm talking about and also just encouraging people and answering them whenever they have beginner questions.

Danny: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's perfect. That'd be really, really cool to see. Is that already a live website, or is that in the works?

Michael: It's live and in the works. [laughter]

Danny: So it's one of those.

Michael: Yes, it’s live. Anyone can go there, but I know that we're working right now to differentiate it even more so from DEV to make sure that there's just going to be beginner-friendly content there. Well, one of the things is that when you're a beginner, you need a learning path. You don't know what you're looking for to learn. And so we're trying to figure out how we can create learning paths from start to finish for a beginner. So if someone's brand new and they want to start learning Python, what article do they start with, and what article do they end with? Kind of like a list of articles that they can go through to learn things. So we're working on the learning paths, but the site is definitely live. It's definitely meant for folks to create newbie-friendly content and for members that are newbies for them to dig through that content, ask questions and learn stuff.

Danny: That's really cool. That is really cool. Well, Michael, I don't want to take up any more of your time. I really appreciate you coming by and talking a little bit about your story and what you do at DEV/Forem. Is there anything that you want to end with or any plugs you've got?

Michael: I'll plug DEV, and CodeNewbie, and also the Relicans Forem because I'm working with you all on the Relicans too.

Danny: Keep an eye out for your music coming out.

Michael: Keep an eye out for my music, exactly. [chuckles] It's my hope to have a music-focused Forem. So maybe that will pop up down the line. And really, I have no words of wisdom just aside from the generic treat others like you want to be treated. I feel like that's the best advice.

Danny: Absolutely. Before we leave, I need to ask you, since you have the creative writing background, what are some top three movies that you say have the best writing?

Michael: Ooh, that's so tough.

Danny: Or you could suggest books, short story.

Michael: Well, it's funny, one that just came to -- my favorite book is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The movie is also great, but the book is so much better.

Danny: The movie is great. I need to read the book.

Michael: Oh, it's so, so good, it really is because you're given an unreliable narrator, which is just really interesting. You're in their mindset.

Danny: Oh, is it from their perspective, like, Jack Nicholson's character's perspective?

Michael: It's from Chief’s.

Danny: Oh, it's from Chief’s perspective?

Michael: It’s from Chief’s perspective, and that totally changes everything because Chief his mind is clouded, and after meeting Jack Nicholson's character and joking around with him for a while, he comes out of that cloud, and you get to see all that happen through his narration. It's wild. It's really cool.

Danny: Yeah. I need to check that out.

Michael: And movie-wise, I just started watching -- and this was kind of interesting. I don't remember exactly the title. I think it was A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers.

Danny: Oh, right. Yeah, yeah.

Michael: Yeah. I started watching that one the other day, and that was way more artsy and weird than I thought it was going to be. So I recommend checking out that one too. Oh, Whiplash. Whiplash is another one of those movies.

Danny: Whiplash is so good.

Michael: It’s so, so good, yeah, so well-written, so well-acted. If you haven't seen Whiplash, a few years old, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Danny: Dope. Well, thank you so much, Michael.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. Great chatting with you.

Danny: All right, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning into Launchies. See you next time.

Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of the rest of The Relicans podcasts on therelicans.com. In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. You'll also find news there of FutureStack, our upcoming conference here at New Relic. We would love to have you join us. We'll see you next week. Take care.

Discussion (0)

pic
Editor guide