Don Goodman-Wilson is developer advocate for the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions at GitHub.
But what is the difference between being an advocate and an evangelist?
“Evangelism for me is very much a one-way communication. It’s me shouting from the rooftops… advocacy incorporates that, but it creates a second channel of communication that flows the other way. So a developer advocate, to me, is somebody who advocates on behalf of a product to the developer community, not just evangelises, not just shouts from the rooftops, but helps them find the right solution, which we hope in most cases is the product we are advocating for, but it might not be.”
One of Don’s greatest triumphs during his career is surely the creation of the DevRel Salon in Paris. He’s now hoping to recreate the success of this initiative in Amsterdam, where he is now based.
“In Paris there are a lot of developer-facing businesses, I guess you might call it B2D, business-to-developer. But there wasn’t a lot of developer advocacy going on, or developer relations, or even developer marketing. So I began the salon with the twofold purpose of creating a community where people who practise developer relations can gather, can meet, can share information and can complain together – oh, we love to complain! And now we’re here in Amsterdam to replicate this experiment and see if we can do the same.”
Asked whether DevRel should still care about open source in the era of API economy, machine learning and artificial intelligence, he is adamant that it remains incredibly relevant and is certainly no relic from the past.
“On the one hand, I work for GitHub – open-source is very relevant to our business, so yes, of course I’m going to say something like that, but from a personal perspective, having grown up with open-source software and being a child of the ‘90s, it’s very hard for me to imagine a world without open-source software. It’s very hard for me to imagine a continued level of innovation happening in the software world without open-source as a driving factor.”
In addition to setting up developer relation salons across Europe, Goodman Wilson is also deeply involved in communities and says companies can learn a lot from them.
“There has to be an alignment between what the company is doing and what the communities that they want to reach are interested in. It’s not always obvious what their interests are, just by watching their behaviour for example, you have to talk to them, you have to enter the community, you have to participate in the community, you have to become a part of the community. And when you do that you can better understand the shared values and the shared interests of that community and that makes creating a commercial product tailored to that community much, much easier, because it removes the friction of attempting to understand them from afar and allows you to embed yourself there and understand it directly.”