Why Ask a Developer?
We love learning about individual developers! But it can be misleading to rely too much on anecdotal evidence. That’s why we also use data like that collected by Evans Data Corporation, SlashData, and our own surveys. However, running an idea, question or assumption by a member of the audience (MOA) can still add value. In this case, our MOAs are your audience, too — developers and other IT professionals.
While there may be as many answers as there are developers, often interesting trends as well as hard-to-find nuances emerge. Unsurprisingly, stories told at a human scale often appear as overarching themes or trends at a population scale. That’s why we asked celebrity developer and Twitch Live Coder Jeffrey Fritz to ask fellow developers some of the questions technical content marketers most want answered.
Meet Tyler Leonhardt
Fritz caught up with Tyler Leonhardt, a fellow Live Coder team member on Twitch. He’s a software engineer on the PowerShell team at Microsoft. He maintains the PowerShell extension for Visual Studio Code, along with a bunch of other cool editing experiences.
What are the hot new topics you would like to see covered, whether it’s blog posts, some documentation — What kind of things light you up that you’re excited to see?
When it comes to blog posts and documentation and stuff, I think there’s two categories that I like a bunch. One is a quick start, so something that takes less than five minutes, that just kind of allows me to dip my toe in and kind of see what I’m actually looking at. What is X thing that I’m looking at.
And I like something that we do on email@example.com –– any sort of interactive experience. So one of the things that we’ve been lighting up for a lot [with the] PowerShell samples that you’ll see on firstname.lastname@example.org is this “Try It” button. You can click on it and it’ll actually open a shell right there in your browser.
So that’s another awesome way to make something as simple as documentation more of an interactive experience rather than something that’s one-directional.
So when you do think about content like that, that is interactive — Just at a glance, what makes it appear developer-friendly to you?
Developer-friendly… I suppose one of the things that I would see as developer friendly is, “All right, so now I’ve tried it without having to install a bunch of stuff.” Now that I’m like, “All right, I’m ready to graduate from that first phase, how can I leverage this into something that I already use today?”
So an example might be (and I’m just pulling this out of thin air), “All right, I’ve tried it right on the website in this interactive experience there, now I’d like to take that and bring it into my tech center,” whether it’s bringing it into VS Code or dropping in some sort of sample right into my GitHub repo, or something like that.
You’ve captured my attention. I’ve paid the price of that 10-15 minutes. Now help me integrate your product into what I am already used to.
Do you also look for those next steps, things at the end of an article of, “Hey, try this now. Download the sample”? Those types of things?
Absolutely. I can’t remember the last time I opened up a blank file and just started to write some code (for example). I’m usually working off of some kind of template or some boilerplate or something like that. And so, if we’re talking about a language here or if we’re talking about something that does require some sort of structure to it, having the ability to download a sample or something like that and build off of that, it’s just a much better experience than for me to have to just skim through a bunch of docs and try to figure out how to go from zero to a hundred.
…. Having that recipe, having that lamp post that says, “Here’s somewhere that’s maybe like what you want to accomplish and you can customize it from there and get your problem solved.”
… Because at the end of the day, I came to your documentation, or blog posts, or something like that. I came in with an expectation that this could potentially solve a problem that I have in my life, in my work life or whatever. So, I need you to tell me how your thing can help me, and obviously you, as the doc or blog post writer, have to.
That sounds like a good description of what makes a “how to,” right? There’s recipe-based pieces of documentation, how to do this. Now, what if there’s something you want to go a little bit deeper on, right? You really want to not just read the article and understand it, but you want to understand how and why something happens. Do you look at a tutorial? How do you get in and get a little bit deeper on those things?
Well, that’s a tricky one, especially because, depending on the layer of abstraction, it’s possible that behind the curtains is possibly way over my head. And could be deeply, deeply technical. As an example, I’m thinking of Azure cognitive services. For me, as a developer who has no degree in machine learning, it’s just an API and I know how to do X, Y and Z, and I can get what I want.. But behind those curtains is a whole lot of stuff that is way over my head.
So when you are looking at blog content, tech content from some sort of company out there, or maybe you’re going out to Reddit or even Code Project and you want to learn about something new, how often do you expect to see something new? What makes it feel fresh?
That’s interesting. So I’d say the place [where]I get a large chunk of what I deem to be a new thing is on Twitter. I’m on Twitter probably way too often.
I’ve also seen a lot of really cool, new things presented at meetups or tech conferences or something like that. And as far as what makes it feel new, that’s a very interesting question, because I feel like there’s a little bit of emotion in that aspect as well, in that how it’s presented, and feeling as if this could potentially change the way I normally think about something — that to me at least leads me to think that this is probably something that’s new, something that’s exciting.
I guess what it boils down to is if I am given something that makes me think differently, then that’s at least new to me.
Are there other places online where you see great tech content?
[That’s] a good question. When it comes to new content, I’ve found myself landing on a bunch of blogs that kind of are spun out from email@example.com. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Occasionally, we’ll go onto my GitHub feed, like actual github.com, onto my feed, and just kind of see the people that I’ve followed over the years creating new repos and interacting with different, new open source repos. And then I’ll see so-and-so sent a pull request to some random name that I’ve never heard of, and then I click on that and then see that it’s like some crazy library in Rust for making something. And then I’ll read more about that. I guess that’s more so on the generation of finding projects, not necessarily documentation on that.
I like being able to walk through that, and jump from project to project, technical influencer to technical influencer, [who] are working on these things, and seeing — here’s the latest things they’ve written at the most raw level. Here’s the code they wrote. Here’s the pull request with the description of the change and getting that content,because it’s in that nice feed format. That’s definitely something compelling. Very cool.
And most of my life these days for work is on GitHub, so it’s already a familiar environment for me, at least.