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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. The best kind.
Now, time to go throw some exceptions around (with glee).
I’m pleased to announce that today we’ve pushed a big update to the Web Workbench extension for Visual Studio.
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 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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
Robbie the Robot wants you!
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.
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).
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 email@example.com to grab one of these rad T-shirts while we still have ’em!