How to market to programmers (and how not to)

Not like the other

Last year I started my new job here at Mindscape. I outlined my feelings on this topic here.

Not only is starting a new job terrifying, but I was going to be the only lady in the company – and would be marketing for software developers, to software developers [Co-founder note: This is not for the want of hiring female developers, we wish there were more of them and is why we sponsor events like the Girl Geek Dinners etc].

Now, I have it under good authority (source: trying to market to developers for 2 years) that programmers are probably the most difficult group of people on earth to market to. I honestly think that it would be easier to convince Sad Keanu to be just a bit less sad than to convince a programmer to even have a look at your new product/service/amazing thing.

So upon starting this new job, I had no idea what to expect in terms of my ‘only girl’ and evil marketer status.

The only girl thing? Easy. Here’s what I discovered:

  • Eating pizza every week is not a good idea. Guys like to do that despite the fact that after a lunch of pizza you’re rendered incapable of doing much more than stare at your screen with half closed eyes, wishing that you were actually a cat and your only responsibilities included sleeping in the sun and staring at at your owner, plotting certain death.
  • I’ve been threatening since the beginning of time to implement yoga Wednesdays into our week to ease the strain of sitting at a desk all day, but I’m never greeted with much enthusiasm. In fact, I’m mostly greeted with nervous silence. I can guarantee if the females out numbered the males here they could be coerced into making it happen but as yet I’m on my own for this one. Maybe I should bribe them with pizza… and perfectly even slices of cake.

Enter technophobe!

 

Confused Otter.

This is how I felt surrounded by programmers.

Never mind trying to effectively market to programmers, I couldn’t even keep up with their lingo on the Twitters!

I needed to ask a million questions a day, everything from ‘what does commit mean’ to ‘why does anyone have to support IE anyway?’.

But when it came to marketing for Raygun, there came a point where asking questions just didn’t suffice. After ‘what even is an exception!?’, the only way to learn was to actually use Raygun myself and see what errors look like, and how to handle them.

Welcome hildawg.com! The time had come to buy the much coveted hildawg.com domain name and make the move from a WordPress hosted blog to one I could maintain all on my own, and use with the Raygun4WP plugin. 

 

MyFirstError

It was a happy day when I sent My First Error. Which sounds like a Fisher Price product.

 

And now the hard part is deciphering the error messages that get delivered obligingly into my inbox daily.

Considering I’m a noob with a blog there are a lot of them.


i_have_no_idea_what_i_m_doing

Codecademy to the rescue

Luckily I’m surrounded with plenty of support from my workplace and the internets to learn the great secrets of programming. In particular, Codecademy has been a huge help with teaching me the basics. And it’s free!

In my spare time, I’ve already built my first interactive web page with HTML and JavaScript (I actually made one 8 years ago at Uni, but I don’t count it because it didn’t actually work), as well as learnt the hows and whys of these languages. After that, Codecademy also offers courses in jQuery, PHP, Python and Ruby.

Although it may sound like it, I’m not endorsing Codecademy for reasons other than I just think it’s rad. There are SO many websites and resources out there to help out beginners like me. In particular, the rise of non-profit organisations and effort to support women in tech is very encouraging.

So, between the plethora of help resources I find online, and the patience of everyone at Mindscape in answering every question I ask without ever making me feel inferior for not knowing something, it gets easier and easier to understand how to fix things on my own blog, as well as extend advice to friends.  Hell, I got so excited that I’ve encouraged friends with kids to get them started now.

One. Other. Thing.

Now, I mentioned before that programmers are likely one of the most difficult audiences to market to. And when I said that, I meant actually nearly impossible. Developers are smart. They’re resourceful. They’re probably annoyed by your marketing copy and are extremely immune to advertising. Traditional marketing techniques just don’t work for this audience, and there’s no choice but to think beyond the status quo.

So I have had to work really, really hard to create a marketing strategy that works with this very unique audience. Considering nearly all of the textbook marketing ideas are out, I call this plan the ‘anti-marketing strategy’.

Actually, I just made that up then, but I like the sounds of so it stays ;-)

To be honest, there has been days where I’ve had to shake myself out of day dreams of marketing a product that is easily shot out of canons to screaming fans (seriously, if only we could shoot software out of canons), but really I’m glad I get to go to extraordinary lengths for an extraordinary audience.

So techniques that do work include first of all, creating a really great product that doesn’t need buzz words and cleverly worded copy to sell. Engaging with your users, always is a must. Talking with them, rather than shouting through an advertising funnel is always going to be best.

And if you’re going to advertise, use humour.


Advertising which makes fun of other advertising.
 

Advertising which makes fun of other advertising. The best kind.

Now, time to go throw some exceptions around (with glee).

Tagged as General

Essential Web Workbench Updates

I’m pleased to announce that today we’ve pushed a big update to the Web Workbench extension for Visual Studio.

Visual Studio 2013 support

For those of you who live on the bleeding edge, Web Workbench now works superbly with Visual Studio 2013! That’s great for you early adopters but please be sure to let us know if you have any problems on the way.

LESS 1.4.2 support

LESS has been in beta of 1.4.x for sometime and it’s great to see this released. There’s significant additions to the capabilities of LESS and I encourage you to check out the improvements. We’ve rolled support for it directly into Web Workbench so you can compile LESS 1.4.2 to CSS easily.

CoffeeScript 1.6.3 support

While working on updating the underlying frameworks that the Web Workbench supports we spied an update to CoffeeScript. There’s not as much change in CoffeeScript 1.6.3 as there has been in the LESS upgrade, but you can read about the handy bug fixes and improvements here.

Grab it today!

Web Workbench 3.2.972.22809 is now live the Visual Studio Gallery so you can update directly from within Visual Studio. If you haven’t yet experienced the knee-weakening glory that is Web Workbench, you can get the free edition from the Visual Studio Gallery here.

Be a better developer: Octopus Deploy

We’re starting a new series here on the Mindscape blog about tools we use to help you deliver software better. This is part one in an open ended series. This post we’re looking at…

Octopus Deploy Logo

Octopus Deploy is a web based deployment tool for .NET. It is built by the master craftsman Paul Stovell who has gone full time building and selling it to customers around the world (including us).

As I’m sure every .NET developer is aware, deployment for web solutions on the .NET platform is pretty poor. This where Octopus really is like a breath of fresh air.

How does it work?

You start by setting up an Octopus server installation, it’s a simple web based system which is easily installed by a friendly setup process. After that is done the next step is to install a small agent service called a Tentacle on each target server we are intending to deploy to.

Octopus requires that you package your deployments using the NuGet package format which is simple enough to do by calling NuGet as part of your build script. To make that even easier Paul also provides an open source project called OctoPack to help automate it. Once you are creating packages you can let Octopus know about them by supplying it with a feed to your packages, this could be as simple as a local folder containing the packages.

In our case TeamCity handily provides a feed of any package artifacts that get created as part of your builds and we stamp the .nuspec file with the version number of the build so that each build gets its own package created. Octopus plays remarkably well with TeamCity.

Lets deploy

Octopus handles deployments by first having you create a release. You then select the package you want to release and then choose where you are releasing it to. Rather than picking a specific server Octopus works with a notion of environments so you can have more than one server targetted at a given time and so you can easily manage your releases through test to production. In our case we have 2 test environments and the production environment which we release to. Kicking off a deployment causes the Octopus Server to upload the package to your target servers after which is unpacked and any installation e.g. wiring it up to a known IIS web site is done. To cater for any custom requirements Powershell scripts can be included into the deployment and executed at various points when the deployment is being run.

Octopus Deploy Dashboard

How does this save you time?

Deploying websites took us quite some time and I’m a little ashamed to admit we used to use the publish command in Visual Studio and manually upload a zip file of the result. Then we would back up the files and do an xcopy deploy via Remote Desktop. Yuck!

Here is what Ive noticed since we started using Octopus:

  1. Packaging and deploying now involves a few clicks. Time focused on this task dropped from about 20-30 minutes to about 2 minutes. This is a huge reduction in the time required.
  2. Deployments are now reliable. It’s easy to miss deploying a file, or automatically overwriting a web.config if you’re doing this manually. Automating the whole process reduces user error and results in more reliable deployments. The time this saves varies on how badly you can screw up on a deployment via human error :-)
  3. The whole team can deploy. For example, the designer for the Mindscape site can now do a deployment easily without needing to wait on available time for one of the site developers to do the deployment.
  4. Better backup strategy. We have Octopus configured so that rolling back a release is super simple and even backing up is automated. When disaster strikes it only strikes for a second.

All of these time and sanity saving benefits of Octopus Deploy have already added up to be a significant amount of time saved for us. Hours. Days. Weeks.

Other benefits

Paul has been working on Octopus for a while and it shows. It’s streets ahead of any other deployment product we’ve seen for .NET developers. I could write quite a lot about all the different features that are now supported but it would be better if you just read them yourself: Octopus Deploy.

What’s it going to set me back?

Currently Octopus Deploy is free for one project. It then moves to $349 USD for up to 3 projects. That’s pretty inexpensive anyway you look at it given the time you will save.

We currently use Octopus Deploy for this website and our crash reporting service, Raygun.io.

This is the first in a series. If you have a fantastic time saving developer tool you think could do with some exposure, post in the comments!

Tagged as General

Get an awesome Raygun T-shirt!

Robbie the Robot wants you!

Robot

To try out our newest product for tracking and fixing errors – Raygun.io!

Sign up for a FREE 30 day trial, and find out how Raygun makes error collecting, reporting and management automatic and easy.

Sign up to raygun for a free trial

Then, if you blog about your experience with Raygun (and your honest experience at that), we’d love to send you your very own Raygun T-shirt (anywhere in the world).

Double-T-shirts

Like these cool dudes are wearing!

They come in lady sizes too!

Hilary-raygun-tshirt

I’m an error blasting machine.

So if you would like to do a blog review of your experience with the mighty Raygun, sign up here for your free trial, and email hilary@mindscape.co.nz to grab one of these rad T-shirts while we still have ’em!

Tagged as General

Nightly news, 8 Feb 2013

LightSpeed

  • Add constructor which allows user to specify the list of stop words used by the Lucene analyzer

Web Workbench

  • Intelliense for Less mixins is now correctly triggered when in a CSS property context

WPF Diagrams

  • Added DiagramConnectionPointBase.HasConnections property
    (details)
  • The drag-panning user operation now respects the AllowInfiniteScroll property.
    (details)
  • Resolved a diagram scrolling bug.
    (details)
  • Resolved a critical selection bug.
    (details)

WPF Elements

  • Resolved a rendering bug in the DataGrid caused by changing the visibility while a custom cell has focus.
    (details)
  • Added DataGrid.AutoColumnWidthBehavior property.
    (details)
  • Resolved a minor charting selection bug.
    (details)
  • Added Chart.CanToggleSelection property.
    (details)
  • Added Chart.CanDeselectOnClickNothing property.
    (details)
  • Added Chart.IsRightClickSelectionEnabled property.
    (details)
  • Resolved a DataGrid auto column width issue.
    (details)
  • Added DataGridColumn.MaxAutoWidth property.
    (details)
  • Added DataGrid.CanAutoSizeColumnHeaders property.
    (details)
  • DataPoint selection logic now respects the IsRightClickSelectionEnabled and CanToggleSelection properties.
    (details)

As usual the free editions of the nightly builds are available right now from the downloads page, and the full editions from the store.

Tagged as General

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