In the forty-seven years since I wrote my first program, I can honestly say that I’ve never met a developer that I didn’t like. In all those years I have created many different types of applications and met tens of thousands of programmers in buildings, in cities and at conferences across the planet Earth. While source code and hardware are two of the things that most developers have in common, there are many other tangible differences that uniquely identify each of the more than twenty-one million professional developers building cool systems and apps. Beyond programming professionals, there is a greater number of humans (and bots) that are also creating solutions using automation – sometimes called citizen programmers, solution developers, occupational programmers, and other non-traditional software engineering designations.
Of course, there are popular platforms and programming languages that bring developers together. And, the Internet has helped bring us even closer together. Yet, the global developer population is very diverse in many ways. One of the key aspects of building a robust developer community is to identify your developers.
When I’m asked about developer sizes, I usually smile and reply with something like “small, medium, large, extra-large, and massive”. When I was focused on building developer tools, my elevator pitch was “I work for a company that makes the software that developers use to make the software that humans use.”
We can use demographics, psychographics and firmographics to place some developers into manageable buckets. Yet, there are so many other ways to categorize, quantize, and organize developers based on who they are, what they do, and what they create. Some developer qualities can be defined by the types of apps they create, the computer languages they use, the type of devices they target, the social media they are active in, and so on.
A developer program is only as strong as its community. No matter the industry, to have a thriving business you need to reach out to developers who can benefit your product, platform, service, device, etc. Drawing developers into your community with world class resources, tools and activities will create a win-win environment that benefits their careers and your business. A good way to focus your efforts on a target developer audience is by categorizing developers into several, quantifiable “personas” or groups based on social characteristics, tech adoption, industry, and other characteristics.
Developer Personas I have Known – a top 10 list
Here is my top ten list of developer personas for people I have worked with over my career (names have been removed to protect the tech fanatics – you know who you are):
- Machine Language Developer – will only use assembly language and machine code to create fast running reusable functions.
- Just Give Me the Spec Architect – can take any product design concept (detailed on the back of a napkin or in a complete requirements specification) and create an elegant app solution.
- Tool Chain Engineer – lives to integrate disparate development tools into a cohesive build environment.
- Compiler Jockey – loves to create new programming languages and work with the back end code optimizer to make target processors smile (and computer fans turn on).
- Extreme Hacker – able to dig deep into any device, bios or application code to find a problem and create a patch to fix it.
- Weekend Maker – in under 40 hours with no sleep can create a truly wondrous child’s toy using an Arduino or RaspberryPi board and some tiny-C code.
- Old School Coder – creates multi-device reusable libraries using C and inline assembler that can be consumed by any programming language.
- Service Modernization Engineer – can quickly create a new REST/JSON based service API based on any older distributed computing APIs (RPC, DCE, CORBA, SOAP, etc.)
- Cloud Seeder – can quickly migrate an internal application to a public/private/hybrid cloud based infrastructure for every available, industry leading cloud service.
- Hyper Productive Software Engineer – able to produce thousands of lines of production C++ code each week for multi-year projects.
Does the Software Development Industry have a “Library of Developer Personas”?
I have found many sources of developer personas but have yet to find a complete library, compendium, database, list, etc. Maybe this is because there are so many identifiable and not so definable developers. Developer personas can often be specific for an industry, company, architecture, platform, device, service, and other characteristics that align with a company’s offerings. Just as our industry has “body of knowledge” collections like the SWEBOK, wouldn’t it be great to have a Developer Persona Body of Knowledge (DPBOK)? Who wants to help create one?
Discovering Developer Personas Specific to Your Technology – Evans Data Can Help
The value of segmenting your target audience is well known to marketers across industries. Populations don’t exist as a homogenous group but always have variations that color their perceptions and their adoption of product offerings. The same is true for developers.
Software developers can be divided in segments based on many factors. These might be how they make their money, who their users are, which technologies they use, or what their motivations are for selecting a particular technology. They may be discovered as they naturally occur through cluster analysis, or they may be pre-defined to fit categories.
Once developer segments are defined, the value in any persona study comes from profiling those segments. Profiling allows you to recognize distinct personas so you can make targeted appeals to each group. Understanding the personas of your targeted developer segments allows you to:
- Communicate more clearly with each persona
- Provide the tools and technologies each persona uses
- Provide the level and type of support each expects
- Find developers that match the personas for effective outreach
- Understand where each persona can be reached
Today, marketing is becoming a science and setting personas is the first step to applying modern marketing techniques in a world that is more and more individualized. Don’t try to lump all your developers together in a group when there are many differences that can be seen and addressed through identifying personas. Evans Data can help deliver the insights you need to really target each of the segments you need.
What are some of your Developer Personas?
I’m continually putting together a growing list of developer personas across multiple industries, technologies, products and services. If you’d like to share some of our target developer personas, send me an email.
David Intersimone “David I”
Vice President of Developer Communities
Evans Data Corporation