Senior Developer Relations Program Manager at New Relic, Mia Moore talks to Jonan about how it’s healthy and cool to be friends with your boss, bringing their vision of the perfect DevRel job to fruition, and Furby hacking for fun!
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Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome back to Observy McObservface, proudly brought to you by New Relic's developer relations team, The Relicans. Observy is about observability in something a bit more than the traditional sense. It's often about technology and tools that we use to gain visibility into our systems. But it is also about people because, fundamentally, software is about people. You can think of Observy as something of an observability variety show where we will apply systems thinking and think critically about challenges across our entire industry. And we very much look forward to having you join us. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of The Relicans podcasts on developer.newrelic.com/podcasts. We're so pleased to have you here this week. Enjoy the show.
I am joined today by my friend, Mia Moore. Hello, Mia.
Mia Moore: Hello. I like that you purposely did not include that you are my boss. [laughs]
Jonan: Oh, I didn't, no. And from that perspective then, I have already violated the first rule of bossdom, which is you cannot be friends with your -- it's just not allowed.
Mia: Well, I appreciate that we're friends, and we have a working relationship. That's nice.
Jonan: I think it is absolutely possible, and I think the notion that that shouldn't be a thing is patently ridiculous. We spend so much of our lives at work. Why wouldn't you want to be friends with the people you work with?
Mia: I think that's ideal if possible, but it's also not always possible. So...
Jonan: That's true.
Mia: I really like our team, but we can talk more about that later. [laughs]
Jonan: Actually, I do want to talk about that, the part where it's not always possible. The kinds of things that we are able to achieve on this team, I feel like are rarely possible in a workplace. I'm pretty excited to be on The Relicans, and it only exists really because of you. So thank you for that.
Mia: I'm one of many, yes. Well, I feel like every single person on the team is so crucial to it, and you put them together, so I feel really lucky to be a part of this, and I think we're making really cool stuff happen.
Jonan: That is the subterfuge that is management [chuckles] where you're like this is not the leader you are looking for. I just made this magic team out of nothing, is what people will think. But in reality, what you do is you put people who are better at the craft and smarter than you in the same room, and you stand back and help them be better without doing any of the work.
Mia: I think that's the hardest part. I wouldn't be able to be as hands-off. I'd be like, “So, how's it going?” I don't think I'd be a good manager. [laughs]
Jonan: Yeah. It's something that I've had my own struggles with, with managers over the years. To varying degrees, I have had better and worse managers, but the ones that stuck with me are the ones that I was friends with and still am. So, I don't know; maybe I'll write a management book someday that can get trashed in the business circles.
Mia: [chuckles] I don't know; management is so interesting because it's like your whole career hasn't really necessarily been leading to management. You haven't been taught through your career how to get better and better at it necessarily. It takes a lot of external reading and thinking and noodling on things to really figure it out.
Jonan: Yeah, it does. I have read so many books, so many books on the thing, and so many books that could have been blog posts, to be sure, but there are some gems in that pile.
Jonan: So let's talk about you, though [laughter] instead of me. How did you end up doing the work that you are doing, a little bit of your background?
Mia: Sure. So on the DevRel team at New Relic, I am the Senior Developer Programs Manager, which is basically a fancy phrase for I'm trying to help everyone else on the team do the work that they do even better. I really see myself as a conduit for if you are making content, I want to help you make your content more effective. If you are trying to collaborate with someone, I want to help you connect those dots. And it's interesting because in DevRel, people come from all sorts of backgrounds, but I think the primary one is an engineering background, a technology background, and I did not come from that; I come from a marketing background. But when I found myself in DevRel, I really enjoyed so many parts of it that I just wasn't getting out of marketing, even in tech marketing.
Primarily, I really love being able to talk with people who are customers face-to-face. I was working at IBM and doing marketing for a very big company like that; I would never get to meet the people who are actually using our products. So it's like, well, I think this is a good campaign, but I have no idea. I've never talked to anyone that uses a government-level product, which is the team I was on at first. So it's been really very different, especially when we were face-to-face and we were able to go places to say, “Hey, you use this product. How do you feel about it? What's some feedback I can bring to the team?” And really get that hands-on experience because I love community. That's going to be a big topic, probably this episode. I love the whole community-building experience, but it's really harder to do in that marketing role when I wasn't getting that direct feedback.
So when I found out about DevRel, I was like, this is really cool. I think I can apply my skills here in a very interesting way, and I was luckily able to do that at IBM. And then whenever I was looking for my next role, we had a conversation at first, and I was like, “I know your job role says you want this; here’s what I do.” [laughs] And I feel really lucky that you listened to what my vision for my next job was, and also you saw the value in the skills that I offer because some people did and some people didn't in my journey. There are a couple of times I had to be like, “I see interview number two as a whiteboarding interview. I can do that, but it won't be good, and you won't enjoy it, and I won't enjoy it.” And, I don't know, I can tell you how technical I, am and it's not enough for a whiteboarding interview. [laughs]
Jonan: Honestly, it should never be part of any interview. I have a huge problem with whiteboarding portions of interviews. But I do have to say that you made a very compelling pitch. And I knew that a role such as yours needed to exist on the team. I think actually in DevRel in particular; there’s a huge amount of value in having that be an embedded role that there are a lot of unique needs for a DevRel team, and there are so many different balls in the air at any given time on a team of our size. How many pieces of content are we producing a week? I know we're doing at least 100 hours of video.
Mia: Yes, it's a lot. And also, coming from marketing, I can understand there's usually a gap in most organizations, and from conversations I've had with other DevRel folks, there's a gap between marketing and DevRel because developers are not always fans of marketers. When I came over to Developer Relations, I was really surprised by how many people were like, “Ugh, marketing.” And I get it now, having been on the other side because it seems like marketing is asking for all these little pieces of information that you don't think are important, and you're like, why does that matter? And they seem to ask for it at the last minute and all these different things. But then, if you're on the other side of it, the same thing happens to marketing. You're like, “Oh, we made a blog post, and we want to publish it tomorrow.” And marketing is like, “I have a whole system for that, and you didn't even ask.” So it goes both ways. And I really feel like connecting those bridges is the best thing you can do for both sides because, especially in a technology company, you need to have people who understand the technology working with the people who understand how to get the word out to the people who need to know about it. So the more coordination you have there, it's just going to be stronger for the whole company.
Jonan: Absolutely agree. And I think the pushback against marketers, I could probably have predicted before I worked in DevRel that developers are not huge fans of process, especially what they perceive as unnecessary process. Process has grown on me over the years. [laughs] It makes a lot of things better if you do it well. And when it's not done well, it's just extra pain that does seem to be for no reason. But I think marketers are actually quite good at that thing because they are working with it all the time. If a blog post is going to be published, then you've got some ticketing system that pulls in the social media team, and it pulls in the demand gen team, and all of the people with the tracking code show up and whatever else needs to go into that blog post.
Mia: I like that you describe it like magic like, and then this happens, like everybody just shows up and does their job, which is the ideal, right?
Mia: But the thing is, marketing is repeatable work, and DevRel is not necessarily that. So there's going to be certain things that DevRel does that are repeatable, like we're making video content every week on Twitch. So we know we have hundreds of hours of video to pull from. We know we're doing blog posts on therelicans.com; that’s therelicans.com.
Mia: We know we're doing a couple of different things like that. So we have some processes. But with marketing, it's like all of the major pieces are repeatable processes, so that makes more sense.
Jonan: Yeah, it does, and it makes more sense to me, having worked in marketing organizations for a bit now. But I can both understand the pushback and appreciate the perspective that marketing is able to bring to that like hey, since you put 100 hours into that project, maybe you should not only write a blog post about it but also a tweet. [laughter]
Mia: And honestly, I feel like that's where I come in for DevRel because I love people who are technical. I think there's so much interesting stuff that especially the folks on our team are working on. But then I see like, okay, this blog post would be so much stronger if it had a call to action here or little improvements that I feel like are things that why would a developer know this? This isn't their skill set. They haven't been trained to do this, and the marketing team doesn't have time for it. So I love being able to be there and give feedback like that and try to help make the content that we're making even stronger. I love content. I know that sounds so -- I kind of hate the word content. I have a love-hate relationship with it because it's like, what does it even mean?
Mia: And I think it reduces a lot of the work down to we're just creating something consumable. When in reality, I think most of us hope that our work is a little bit more than just consumable, but that's a whole other conversation. I love the process of creating content, and I love being able to poke inside someone's brain and see what they want to share with the world and how they want to share and being able to help people. At IBM, I worked on the government blog, and I don't know anything about government, but we always had SMEs writing, and some of them were super smart, but writing wasn't their strong suit. So being able to help bring out “What was the message you actually wanted to say? What is your point here?” and make their pieces stronger was really fun for me.
Jonan: Content is kind of a strange word. I am also sort of opposed to that. I like to think that I'm just this builder person. I just build things.
Mia: That's a very developer way to look at it.
Jonan: Yeah, I get that what I want to be doing is adding value to the world. That's what motivates me. I want to be building things that are fun and inspiring and interesting to people, and marketing can help with that. The information that you can gain from an effective campaign and the process around sharing your content more broadly can help you to adjust to the direction of things towards stuff that people actually care to learn more about. And I don't want to be talking to people about things they don't care about just because I, as a sample size of one, think that this particular project is fascinating. I put a survey out the other day on my Twitter with one of the options was I'm going to add APIs to my Snapmaker, this 3D printer, and the other option was I'm going to solder things to a Baby Yoda doll. And I could have predicted the success of Baby Yoda, but it trounced the 3D printer. And I actually think that would be a super interesting project. I'm going to do both of them.
Mia: Well, that's the thing, I think, too, it's not that anything you talk about doesn't have an audience. You just have to find that audience. So I know I voted for Baby Yoda in that poll because I'm very interested to see what terrible things you are going to do to that Baby Yoda.
Mia: But maybe the people following weren't familiar with the brand of 3D printer. They had no idea what that project would end up being like. That doesn't mean that the project would be a failure.
Jonan: This is exactly what happened. You're a very thoughtful marketer. Nobody knows what a Snapmaker is. [chuckles]
Mia: Yeah, I didn't until you said it. [laughs]
Jonan: Oh dear, fatal flaw. See, this is why you're so helpful to us. So you've been around in DevRel and working with community for a while. And since joining our team, speaking of hacking on adorable things, you've started a little project. Tell us about that.
Mia: Yes. I'm trying to level up my technical skills at the same time as doing the rest of my job, which is no easy feat, but it's also something I am really excited about because I would love to know more about what everyone else is doing instead of just going into Twitch streams and being like, this looks cool; I have no idea what's happening. And so one of the things I'm really interested in is I love ‘90s nostalgia and ‘90s tech. And I saw Chloe Condon did a video on Furby hacking, and it was specifically around this newer Furby that has Bluetooth. So you can actually – there is code involved. I don’t know; I’m not a developer.
Mia: It seems like a bad idea to put Bluetooth in a Furby, but I am going to do something with that; but I also wanted to do some hardware hacking. So I looked up the original 1998 Furbies and how you can get them and how you can change things. So today, the day that we're recording this, I'm going to be skinning my Furby on stream, which sounds terrible, and I do feel a little bad about it.
Mia: I'm vegan, so I don't skin anything, but you have to skin them in order to take the guts out and put new guts in. So I'm doing some stuff with Raspberry Pi. I think I'm going to try to put Alexa in it and then maybe somehow make it interactive with Twitch chat. I would love it if Twitch chat could control the Furby. So those are my ideas. I don't know how it's going to go. I think it's going to be a wild adventure because, again, I don't know what I'm doing whatsoever, but there are other people who have done things and documented it. That's how I knew what parts to buy because I don't think I could start from nothing and be like, well, here's a Raspberry Pi, but I need a speaker. Well, what kind of speaker do I get? Luckily, there are other people who have done some of this journey for me, and I'm just piggybacking on it and hopefully making something cute by the end of it.
Jonan: Make sure you expense those parts. This is one of the joys of DevRel.
Mia: But I want to keep my Furby. [laughter]
Jonan: That's a good point, yeah. Well, you could keep your Furby and keep your speaker too. I have no problem with footing the bill to encourage more Furby hacking on the stream. This is my favorite kind of project to undertake, one where I am thinking, yeah, that's probably possible because I've read a couple of blog posts, and I have an inkling of what I'm trying to achieve. But it's just this exploration and this adventure, and I get to follow my curiosity. I think that's far more interesting content for people than the kind of content where I'm just reciting maybe from memory all the things that I already know. Learning along with people brings me a lot of joy.
Mia: And also, people are so nice, I mean, not always, obviously. There's a toxic side to community, but people so far have been very nice about Furby hacking stuff. And I've noticed that folks are turning into my stream that have way more technical knowledge than me, which I wasn't expecting what I'm doing to be appealing to them. And so they tuned in, and I did a Furby research stream, and it was literally just me looking at what other people have done with Furby hacks and exploring stuff online and being like, oh, I wonder if we could do this. So there was a time where I was like, “Do you think we could make it interact with Twitch chat in some way?” And I was like, “I don't know if that's possible. I have no idea what's possible.” And immediately, three people were like, “Absolutely, you could do that.” So I was like, okay, they're telling me it's possible. Let's go. And I love that. I love the community aspect of it and getting that feedback. And it also feels like I’m being supported even though this is a project I'm undertaking ultimately by myself, but I have the support of people who know more than me and are totally willing to help me figure it out.
Jonan: That's why they are there, too. They want to see that excitement. I think it’s not even necessarily about someone already knowing or understanding a project. It's just about having fun with your friends at some point and coming along with them on a journey.
Mia: I love it. It's been really fun so far. So even though I'm very nervous about how this Furby skinning is going to go and if I'm going to break anything and whatever, I'm excited because I think ultimately it will be really fun. And even if I mess up, I do have a backup for me. [laughs]
Mia: So, we'll figure it out as we go, and hopefully, I won't do anything that is completely irreversibly damaged to this thing. That's the thing too. There's a limited number of 1998 Furbies out there. So I don't want to destroy any of them. [laughs]
Jonan: I have two of them somewhere in my garage, so we've got a couple of extra backups.
Mia: I asked my mom if we still had mine from 1998, which is actually the --I got the same model of Furby whenever I bought them from eBay. There are cuter ones now, but I was like, no, this is the one I'm nostalgic for. And I asked my mom like, “Do we still have that somewhere in an attic or something?” And she's like, “No, those things were creepy,” like immediately shut down no; we don't have them. [laughs]
Jonan: They're so creepy. I remember I had him on a shelf in my dorm room when I was in college, and they would talk to each other in the middle of the night. They had this ability to wake each other up with their infrared forehead, third-eye sensor, [laughs], and they'd be like, “Ooh,” and talking to each other and wake me up.
Mia: Yeah, I just brought it onto the video because this is the one I had when I was a kid, the little pink, and it's got gray fur with almost like leopard spots. It's one of the OG ones that they released the first year that they came out. So I have two of these now in my possession, which is really exciting. And yeah, I put the batteries in this, and my husband was like, “Are you sure you want to do this?” [laughter] And I was like, “I know what's coming. I know how to take the batteries out. It'll be okay.” But this one actually doesn't function. So when I put the batteries in, it was very anticlimactic, and we were like, “Oh man, it's just a shell of a Furby.” [laughs]
Jonan: I remember at the time that it was actually a really exciting toy because it was learning to some degree like, they teach each other and they learn.
Mia: Yeah. It’s not like AI or anything, but it turns out, too, the robotics inside of it are pretty advanced, which is one reason that people like to hack with them. I don't know much about robotics, but I was looking at some diagrams of the inside, and it's pretty advanced for how affordable of a toy it was, especially compared to other -- there was the Poo-Chi and a couple of other robotics-themed toys at that time. But this is like the truest, coolest one, apparently.
Jonan: Yeah. I had one that was similar-looking to yours with the leopard spot one. And then I had another one that was a solid color. Now, this being an observability podcast, we do have to say observability once an episode.
Jonan: So please promise me that eventually New Relic gets implanted in Furby’s head–
Mia: Oh, I would love to do that. Yes, I think that'd be so fun. And I've already seen you put New Relic on a Raspberry Pi, so I know it's possible. [chuckles]
Jonan: Right, it is. And I want to do that with Baby Yoda. I was very disappointed to open up Baby Yoda and discovered that the robotics are not actually that interesting. There's a single motor that spins, and as it spins around, it knocks several plastic parts that are connected to all of the wobbly bits, but it seems like there is one pre-choreographed motion that a Yoda doll can take, and then they just play it either direction or in different portions. I'm sure I can make it interesting. If I crank the stepper motor up to 11, then it kind of dances frantically.
Mia: Oh my God. Poor Yoda.
Jonan: Poor Yoda.
Mia: You're going to do awful things to him. I'm just trying to improve my Furby, and you're out here, I don't know.
Mia: This Yoda is going to not look like Yoda at the end of this.
Jonan: When we get done with our respective projects, we can bind the two of them over the internet, and they can talk to each other. Baby Yoda can meet Frank and Furby over the internet.
Mia: [laughs] What are you going to do with New Relic on your Baby Yoda? What things were you going to Observy McObservface?
Jonan: So the said survey included two options, one of them was Kubernetes on Raspberry Pi, which I talk about quite a lot badly. In my defense, I don't know very much about these things, and I’m fighting hard upstream against a pretty complicated project and installing it in a pretty complicated way. But I want to then because Kubernetes on Raspberry Pi was the second choice; they were neck and neck for a long time. I'm going to probably have a Raspberry Pi inside of Yoda and then make that a Node in my Kubernetes cluster of other Raspberry Pis so I can have Yoda on Kubernetes on Raspberry Pis. And then, I could monitor the Kubernetes cluster using New Relic. And I'm sure I can come up with some interesting things. Yoda only has a single sensor, which is this touch sensor, a capacitive touch sensor on the head. I don't think it's capacitive touch, whatever it is. It's like a little metal plate in the head. You touch his head or even get your hand near, and then it triggers these little movements. But I want to install some kind of a camera or something more interesting. I just want that soothing feeling that comes from knowing a creepy children's toy robot is watching me while I work.
Mia: [laughs] I hope that at the end of this me and Furby are still on good terms, and I'm excited to have this Furby in my office.
Mia: I'm picturing my streaming set-up once I get -- I currently have no background, but once I get a background, I'm going to put the Furby on a shelf, and you'll be able to make it say stuff or something. I don't know. I have thoughts, but we'll see how it turns out. I'm hoping that we're still friends and that I don't get creeped out by it at the end. And I have to skin it, so it’s not going well so far. [laughter]
Jonan: So first step to making friends, skin them. Don't do that; that’s not a great approach [laughter] from a community perspective, probably not strong.
Mia: Yeah, don't skin your friends.
Jonan: Don't skin your friends.
Mia: Maybe that's the name of the episode. [laughs]
Jonan: That's actually going to be exactly the name of the episode.
Jonan: Speaking of naming episodes, I think ‘Don't Skin Your Friends’ is a good way to name an episode. We were talking about this a little bit before we popped into the show here that the podcast naming on Observy is sometimes topical. I tend to take words almost at random episodes that I think are funny to have come up on an observability podcast and combine them into a title which is a questionable approach from a marketing perspective because no one knows what that episode is about really.
Mia: Yeah. But I think the nature of podcasting is it's not a linear conversation. You're not like, “Oh, here's my slide show. We're going to hit points A, B, and C,” necessarily. So I think that's perfectly fine. You're just trying to intrigue people. And I listen to a lot of podcasts that the titles are not necessarily what I would associate with the episodes, but that doesn't mean that they're bad titles.
Jonan: I agree with you. When I think about the way I listen to podcasts, it's mostly just I'm subscribed to a thing, and then when I get into my car, it starts playing on my phone. I just connect it to my stereo and then --
Mia: Yeah, exactly. My podcast consumption has gone way down in the pandemic because I'm not going anywhere, so I haven't listened to as many. And then when I'm in my car, I forget that podcasts exist anymore. [laughs]
Jonan: I only go in my car every three weeks or so when supplies are low; I must go to the store once in a hazmat suit and then come back home.
Mia: [laughs] It's okay. Soon things will change, maybe.
Jonan: Yeah. Soon things will change, maybe. The podcasting bit as a one-way conversation is interesting to me. I've done a lot of podcasting over the years. I have very rarely, maybe a dozen or two times, had people reach out to me and give me any feedback on an episode that wasn't “Hey, link to the show notes is broken or whatever,” which is also helpful, but it's certainly not a two-way conversation. And I've been thinking about this a lot lately because we're primarily on Twitch as a team. And the value of that platform is sometimes hard to express to people, so I've been working on my pitch. But I think it’s about choosing your own adventure media. That's why it's so fun to me because you're in there in your chat, and you're hacking on your Furby, and you come to a point where you're trying to make a decision like, oh, I don't know if I can do this thing. And the chat is there with you. They're guiding the conversation. They're steering the story. It's a collaborative narrative.
Mia: And that's why I think videos on demand stuff like Twitch don't get as many views because it's about being there live. It's about being able to have some impact. But I will say there's a good amount of lurkers too. So there are people that will never, this is the same as podcasting, there are people that will never give you feedback, that will never give you a comment, but that doesn't mean that they're not enjoying what you're doing as well. I think it's like if you look at Google reviews or Yelp reviews, it's like if you have a bad experience, you're a lot more likely to write a review about it than if you had a good experience because you think the good experience is the norm. So if you're a number and that doesn't necessarily to the streamer say like oh, that's a real person enjoying my stream the way that a chatter does, that doesn't mean that there aren’t people out there that are enjoying it just because they're not participating in the chat.
Jonan: I actually forget that sometimes. I'll look up, and I'll see I've got, you know, I'm still pretty small-time maybe I got 19 or 20 people watching a real big stream for me.
Mia: [chuckles] That's a classroom of people. I try to visualize it in person, and I do this with marketing, too, because when I was marketing my own stuff, I had a blog and things like that. You forget that every little person counts as a person, and that's a small classroom of people. You get 50 people, that's a much bigger classroom. You get 100 people, like have I ever done anything in front of 100 people in my life? 1,000 people? I think when I did Deserted Island DevOps, my talk was seen by about 1,000 people. And I tried to tune that out before I went live because that was my first time giving a talk. And I was like, oh my God, of course, it's going to be way more people than I ever would have done in person. And that's like my graduating class of high school. That's a lot of people. [laughs]
Jonan: Wow. You had 1,000 people in your graduating class?
Mia: Sure did. I went to a 5A school. Well, you probably don't know what that is. I think that's a Texas thing, but big high school.
Mia: Yeah, 5A.
Jonan: They actually give you grades just by the school you go to?
Mia: It’s how they match school up for sports stuff and competitions and things like that, yeah.
Jonan: I feel like that's a thing in Oregon like the 4A.I remember at my high school; we were in the 4A group of high schools for playing football maybe.
Mia: Okay, so maybe it is nationwide, or some states have it, but it feels very Texas because it's like Friday Night Lights like football.
Jonan: Yeah. I mean, that's very Texas. It's interesting, though. I went to a high school with a graduating class of about 200 people, I want to say, and we were pretty good for Southern Oregon. I come out here in the world and realize that growing up in a town of 16,000 people, not all that many humans.
Mia: That's pretty tiny, yeah. So if you ever have 200 people in your stream or in one of the New Relic streams, that's your whole graduating class, and that's pretty cool.
Jonan: I really didn't like some of them, though.
Mia: That's okay. It's not literally them.
Jonan: Oh, okay. [laughter] I'm just teasing. If you are listening, class of Ashland High School, you're all great. I appreciate you. And come listen to the stream; it will be fun. The numbers thing, I think, is probably particularly a problem for marketers because we deal with numbers. In our industry, companies are incentivized to just make a big number, and whenever you can choose a thing to measure about your application, you're going to choose the giant number. We're measuring things like impressions where a Twitter impression represents any portion of any tweet appearing on a person's timeline for any period of time. And so then Twitter gets to say, “100,000 impressions.” And as someone reading that, you’re thinking, wow, our content got in front of 100,000 people. Well, the bottom four pixels of your tweet did. They saw part of the like icon on the stream. [laughs]
Mia: Sure. Okay, I think this is such an interesting conversation with digital marketing versus traditional because we only have access to numbers because things are online now. If you did a billboard, you would hope you got a million impressions. But what does that mean for a billboard? So I think you have to remember that even the stats that we get through social media and other forms of marketing, it's all a guess anyway. And you can't be super precise with it, but it can help you make decisions to better your marketing and to better your messaging and try to reach the right people. So I think what's more important than the individual numbers is how they compare to how you normally do.
Jonan: Yeah. That's the part that I really get excited about coming from this software background and getting to nerd out about numbers and watch communities grow over time and become more participatory and know that our efforts in showing up and creating regular online events with that community and participating in comments sections, liking, and subscribing to each other in the community, that has a tangible effect that you can see with this data in a way that is not obvious to you I think. From an outside perspective, before I came into DevRel, I thought this community is here because we all like Ruby, and we like each other. I'm here at this meetup, and you don't realize really all of the time and energy that goes into making that a success and then iterating towards more success. But that iterative process of all right, well, here's a number. Can we get more people involved? Can we get more people engaged? And we grow the number over time. I'm not talking about sales; [laughs] I want to be clear.
Mia: The thing is, I don't think it's marketing's job to make sales. It's marketing's job to connect your product or your service with the people who want to see it. So it doesn't matter if I get 1,000 or one million impressions if they're the wrong people that aren't going to jive with the product.
Mia: And it also doesn't matter if I get a million impressions, and the product is just downright bad. I think it's a totally different job. It may lead to sales, and definitely marketers should get credit for that because it's an important part, and I want higher-up folks to know marketing does play a role in people deciding to buy something. But I don't think necessarily it should be directly tied to it, kind of like DevRel. We're building communities, and that's not something that's easily quantifiable.
Jonan: I've actually had DevRel compared to that billboard-style marketing like, look, this is an expenditure that we've made, and we are committed to seeing it through. We know that it is succeeding because people seem to like it, and the communities are growing around it, but we can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that is converting into actual revenue, and that's a hard part for DevRel. I think it's restricted the growth of this segment of the industry. It's coming around. We're getting better at measuring the success of these things.
Mia: That's one reason I'm here, right?
Mia: I want to connect those dots a little better because I think when DevRel started, there wasn't as much connection to folks in marketing. It's like, DevRel people don't know how to do UTM links, and DevRel people don't know how to make sure that they're getting the credit in the digital system and all that to make sure that it's saying people did sign up for a trial; people did buy this product. So I think there has to be that coordination also to represent the monetary value of DevRel. But also, it's like you said; it's an investment in the community. It's like when you make a donation as a company, you just say, “This is something we care about. This is us indicating this is something we care about.” It's a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. Obviously, I don't think any company would have DevRel just out of the goodness of their own hearts.
Mia: I think there's a business reason for it, but I also think you have to just have a little bit of faith in it.
Jonan: I think you do. And I said, “I hope not,” but I should clarify, yes, that would be an ideal world, but it also makes for short-lived DevRel teams, and I want teams to live forever. That means you have to have some kind of demonstrable value to the organization. We're starting to see companies with CCOs, Chief Community Officer, people who are indicating then that their values as a company lie with the community. And I very much agree with your perception of marketing. I want to shout-out to Mr. A. Holt back at Ashland High School, my business teacher, who described marketing very similarly, that it's not about convincing anyone to buy anything. It's about talking about things in a way that people can quickly understand whether or not your values match up, whether or not the things you care about are the things they care about, right?
Mia: Yeah, because marketing is never going to convince everyone in the world that they need to buy your thing. And I just don't think that's what it's there for. We talk a lot about community in DevRel, but it's also community in marketing. I always feel like, in marketing, there's this idea of basically like your champion customer. You're a super fan. And those are people that would spend X amount of dollars with you per year. And those people are so valuable because they're also your advocates. They're also going out and saying, “Oh, I use this product, and I really love it. I used this, and I was so impressed with their customer service. Oh, their social media is so funny.” And that's not something that you necessarily see in the ROI like, oh, this person's spending a whole ton of money, but they're doing all this other valuable stuff. And that's kind of what DevRel is. It’s like you're paying us to try to bring in those people and to try to nurture that community.
Jonan: And you watch then the growth happen for a company, and that conversation happened over at dinner somewhere. Someone says, “Hey, what should I use to measure this thing?” And I say, “New Relic,” in a world where I don't work here. And that person goes to use New Relic, and then there's a direct incoming link to newrelic.com. And the company grows and becomes more successful, and they go out and advocate, and maybe they send more customers our way. But we never end up finding the credit for that kind of thing, and that's fine. I think that to some degree, overcompensating towards measurement can be dangerous for a DevRel team.
Mia: I think we've had a tendency to do that with digital marketing, and that's something I really care about because you see this happen on a smaller scale with creators as well. They say, “Oh, this video didn't get as many views. So it's not worth my time to make content like this.” And it's like, yeah, but you're neglecting that it still got 20,000 views. That's still at least maybe not 20,000 people but several thousand people that watched this at least once and enjoyed it. So I'm all for data-driven marketing. And I think especially if you're a business, it makes sense to do things that make business sense, but you also have to zoom out and look on the larger scale and say, “What are these numbers not telling me, not able to tell me?” Just because we have more access to numbers doesn't mean that's the whole story.
Jonan: And there is I don't necessarily want infinite access to numbers; I want enough to be able to demonstrate to the rest of the organization that the DevRel team is responsible for some number of people who come and sign up for our product. This is basically what I'm trying to measure in DevRel because someone is going to take credit for that, right?
Jonan: When the traffic goes up on the website, and more people sign up, someone's going to take credit, and if it's not DevRel, then DevRel probably starts moving to the bottom of some spreadsheet somewhere where you don't want it to be. So there is value in it, but overcompensating towards that, I think does lose sight of the bigger picture where you have some piece of content that gets less attention than other content that you've produced. Again, not a great word, [chuckles] it’s too general.
Mia: What does that even mean? [laughs]
Jonan: Yeah, it's too general. You have something that you have produced that gets more attention than another thing that you produced, and that ends up guiding you in a direction where -- this is an interesting problem we talk a lot about in software. You have a local maxima trap where you are headed in a direction. Think of an A/B test. You've got two versions of the webpage, blue and red, and red does way better. So you go towards red, and then you adjust the hue of red, and it turns out that green from the beginning would have been twice as popular had you included green in the test, and now you're trapped in the red direction. So there's value in the measurement, but there's also value in just going broad and doing things that are fun. And I find fun, exciting, inspiring content the kind of content I want to engage with in my free time. I'm not necessarily there for those step-by-step dry tutorials.
Mia: Yeah. Well, and I think it's about keeping the humanity in it all because a human could probably look at whatever the color test is and be like, “Oh, I like green best.” You have to have faith in the people that are doing their jobs and that know what they're talking about as well as in the numbers. So it's a balance, it's all a balance, and that's the hard part. The magic sauce is figuring out how to do all that and make it work for you and your team and your organization and whatever it is that your personal goals are too.
Jonan: So you think it’s unlikely that all of marketing will be replaced by robots anytime soon, Furbies.
Mia: I think they’re trying, actually. So my husband's also in tech, and he's an engineer, and one of his companies was a marketing company for local businesses. So when I graduated, I was like, “Oh, I'm looking for a marketing job. Maybe I can work for your job.” But his job was basically to automate it as much as possible so that they needed as few humans as possible to do the job that they were doing. So where I would charge as an individual several hundred dollars for a social media client for that month, they were able to do -- each individual marketer had multiple clients, like more than you could maybe normally handle because they were writing all these internal tools to make their job easier and automated templates and things like that. And I was like, “Oh my God, you are literally coding me out of a job right now.” [laughter] I think you're missing the human element. I really do. Humans have to be part of it at some point, whether or not there are tools to make the job easier. I think there does have to be a human level. And I also was able to start noticing if I engaged with businesses online; I was like, oh, I think they're a client, and sure enough, I'd look, and they were. I could tell that the tone was not quite human.
Jonan: I think we should probably replace all of our Twitter accounts with GPT-3, this AI that wrote an essay about itself and why it deserves to exist. We should put that behind -- historically, AIs owning Twitter accounts has gone really well.
Mia: That's true but only if they say that they're an AI. [laughter]
Jonan: Was it Microsoft who had one that just got real nasty? It was learning from the internet, and then people were trolling it.
Mia: I don't know if it was Microsoft, but I remember what you're talking about. And yeah, it took like a day for it to get racist because that's what happens.
Jonan: Yeah, because someone thinks it's funny to come along and troll the robot and teach it terrible, nasty things to say to people, and it learns.
Mia: It sure does. And I feel like that's indicative of the toxic communities that can happen on the internet. I love the internet, it's my favorite thing, but there are good sides and bad sides. And it's really interesting to see how those insular communities breed, and that's exactly an example. They took this AI that knows nothing about anything. And they said, “Hey, you want to learn about all these terrible things that we know about and that we believe?” And then they had to take it down because all of a sudden, the AI is racist or sexist or whatever it was.
Jonan: Yeah, it was a monster of an AI. It said some terrible, terrible things to some nice people. But I think that speaks to the community piece. Communities form in some part by magic but mostly by concerted effort and finding other people with common sets of values and interests and putting them together and enabling them to get to know each other and build things. And in our case, we have therelicans.com, which is our community for people to go and learn together and teach together and level up on content creation, especially we're trying to make developers that can help us make developers. That's our theme of our community. And just in that same way, you can have a community of people who are out to hurt people. I mean, not in such explicit terms.
Mia: Well, sometimes in such explicit terms.
Jonan: Yeah, I think they get these negative feedback loops, and that also can grow community because it is about shared values and common interests.
Mia: Exactly. So you can have a community around anything, and that includes the bad stuff. And I talk a lot about Twitch, too, because you're talking about your Twitch pitch and how to explain it to people that don't understand it. And sometimes I get people who have heard of it, but they don't know a lot about it. And they say, “Isn't it really negative? Isn't it really toxic?” And that has to do with gaming culture, which is a whole other thing too. And it gets that from the gaming side of Twitch. And the thing is the people on Twitch who don't moderate their communities, who don't let it be known that that's not okay, you'll see these really big streamers with these fairly toxic communities. And it's not even necessarily explicitly bad, but it's also not a welcoming, friendly place. And it's because they said I care more about -- I'm not blaming anyone for this because your life circumstances are probably different than mine. But they said I care more about having more viewers, more subscribers than I care about moderating this stuff even if the streamer themselves doesn't agree with it. So I don't know, over time, I've become less lenient and more immediate ban if you come in and you say something nasty because it's yeah, I don't really need to keep you around, but I'm also in a financial position where I'm not reliant on them for my monthly salary. I'm able to make those choices where I think a lot of folks are put in the position of I'm making my money online, and it's directly related to how many people like me. So I have to be likable even if you're nasty.
Jonan: Yeah, and it dilutes and poisons communities more quickly than people realize.
Jonan: Because we remember the negative more than the positive. You show up to five meetups, and one time someone says something really terrible to you, and you may not be going back. And even if the other five times people were super nice and welcoming or the other four times people were super nice and welcoming. I think as I've gotten further in my career, I feel the same way that I want a very refined, and tight, and happy, healthy community committed to learning together and letting each other grow and not the kind of community that is going to -- like a very common problem in software is people doing the “Oh, I can't believe you didn't know that,” as though humans are capable of knowing a thing before they have learned it.
Mia: I was born knowing everything about software. I don't know what you're talking about. [laughs]
Jonan: Yeah, me too. I came out this way, yep, just writing binary code. It's really frustrating for me to see, and I know what it felt like as a teenager to drop into that IRC channel and ask, “How do web pages work?” And to be told, “You're a dumb idiot. Get out of here. You're not welcome here. This is a place for people to talk about already knowing how web pages work.” which, to be clear, is not what we are advocating when we talk about curating your community and making sure that the bad actors are removed quickly. And I want to give people an opportunity to come back. That's important to me. I want them to understand what the community is about and take a break and think about it and come back and see if it's really necessary to make fun of that person who started learning to program three days ago so that you can feel smart.
Mia: Well, and a lot of times, I think people forget what it's like to be a beginner. They forget because especially the tech community online can be really snarky, and that can be really fun, but I think you forget how that comes across to people who don't feel like they're part of the community yet. And it feels really insular and not like something you can join. And I know when I switched over to DevRel, that was actually a big concern of mine because, at my college, I felt like the engineering people were -- well, first off, I went to a school known for engineering, UT Dallas. So they got all the funding and all the big fancy buildings and whatnot, and I literally was in a temporary building for some of my classes, so it's like, we're paying the same tuition. But they also had this attitude of well; I’m getting a real degree. I'm learning a real thing, and you're learning whatever business school stuff you're doing over there. And so I was really worried about that elitist attitude coming up when I switched over and that people wouldn't understand what my skill set was or that I could be valuable or whatever. I've just encountered a lot of tech bros usually that see it one way. It's like if you are a developer, you have this skill set that is currently desired, and therefore, you are more valuable than other people, so I was really scared of that. But I haven't encountered that a lot, especially in in-person communities because it's harder to be nasty in-person. I've heard it a couple of times. But I do think that if your community is well-curated and also if you're forced to look at someone face to face, then it's harder to be mean to them.
Jonan: I mean, it's a very common approach to conflict resolution. Develop empathy by actually getting to know the other person, being authentic with each other, and understand that they are also human.
Mia: Imagine that. [laughs]
Jonan: Yeah, I know. Who would have thought that that would work? We on Observy have some traditions that are occasionally followed, but one of them is that you tell us about something that you predict will happen in the future. So I guess in our context, maybe it's DevRel, maybe it's community, maybe it’s marketing. What do you think you would predict will happen in the next year? So when we have you back on the show one year from now, we can say, “Mia, remember how you thought Furbies were taking over marketing around the world?”
Jonan: We can poke fun at our old selves but not really. I'm actually genuinely curious. What do you think, anything in our sphere, is changing over the next year?
Mia: I feel like there's a lot of new social media networks launching and by new, I guess I don't want to say -- that makes me sound really old [chuckles] I'm referring to things like TikTok, and that's not even that new, but TikTok, and then there's this one I just learned about called Dispo and things like that. And I feel like in a year's time, we might start seeing people actually migrate to one of these as a primary platform because I think people are getting tired of things like Twitter. I think people are tired of seeing certain features that they've wanted on Twitter not be seen. And what I think is ideal is if we could all just go back to LiveJournal because that had really good privacy permissions and making sure that you don't have to have two separate accounts if you want to tweet something more private. You're able to just lock it behind a friend's-only post on your LiveJournal. I would love it if we all went back to LiveJournal. But I feel like the spiritual successor of LiveJournal is coming. I don't know what it will be, but I'm interested to see if we have a mass migration to another platform.
Jonan: You know what's really interesting is that's exactly what I loved about Google+ like, probably the greatest feature in social network ever.
Mia: You and five other people. [laughs]
Jonan: The fact that they had these circles, and I could put my boss in a circle named friends that was different from my other friends so that when I shared an article I could exclude certain people from that conversation, I really liked that actually or include people across different groups. I want something like that, internet, get to it. You know what I don't want so much? It’s Super Tweets. Is that the new Twitter one? [chuckles]
Mia: Okay. People are hating on it, and I think it's interesting because I don't like this trend where every social platform is trying to do the same stuff that every other platform is doing. Like Instagram is doing Reels, which are a TikTok thing, basically a TikTok competitor. And every platform has Stories now, which I think is so silly. But I do think it makes sense because they're losing potential income to places like Ko-fi or Patreon. When people make really informative Twitter threads, they're like, “Oh, pay me monthly for these Twitter threads that I do if you like my work,” when Twitter could be getting a cut of that. So I think that makes a lot of sense.
Jonan: Oh, I think it does too. I think that for me personally, putting my Yoda content behind a paywall might be double-dipping, but I'll think about it. I'll think about using these Super Tweets. What I really like is creatives being able to generate revenue streams that can support them irrespective of the places that they work.
Mia: Or if they even have a place that they work. It's so cool that we've created an economy that we can now exist just online and get paid for doing cool stuff online. I love that.
Jonan: I love that too. My son aspires to be a YouTube creator someday. You mentioned earlier the gamer thing, and I have a parting thought on that. I was sitting with my youngest daughter, Rook, who's about two. I'm playing Hades, and Rook says, “Help, help button,” and she helps when playing, which is quite a hectic game, by pushing random buttons. So we've gotten one of the old Wii U controllers out of the box, and she sits on my lap and plays on this one. And then I was commenting to my other kids. I said, “Oh, we're raising a little gamer.” And they're like, “Oh, dad, that's an insult now. You don't want to say that.” Maybe there's hope for the future that people are starting to, as they get on the internet at a younger age, understand more the damage that can be done by a toxic population in a community, hopefully.
Mia: Yeah. I think the gamer community is an interesting example. We could have a whole podcast about just that because there's such a history there, but I think people are realizing the harm that toxicity does in the community and how it can damage. The reason that people are there is just to connect over a shared love of something. I think that's interesting. I'm really curious to see how it goes. There were many years that I did not feel comfortable identifying as a gamer even though I played games because of how bad the community was.
Jonan: I love games, and I definitely identified as a gamer as a child, but gamers need to rebrand. I know some marketers who can help with that.
Jonan: So, any parting thoughts for our guests?
Mia: No, thank you so much for listening. Follow me on Twitter. I'm @xomiamoore. I'm xomiamoore everywhere. Please follow me on Twitch. I have a very small audience. We do Furby hacking and 100 Days of Code, basically trying to level up my technical skills. So it would be really cool to see you there.
Jonan: Come teach and learn with us on Twitch. It's super fun. Thank you for coming on the show, Mia. I look forward to coming back in a year and having a conversation again.
Mia: Yeah, it was a delight. Thank you for having me.
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. Right now, we're running a hackathon in partnership with dev.to called Hack the Planet, where we're giving away $20,000 in cash prizes along with many other fabulous gifts simply for participating. You'll also find news there shortly 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.