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 Ben Lannon

Fritz caught up with Ben Lannon, a fellow Live Coder team member on Twitch. Lannon is mainly a web developer and is often found working on open source projects on GitHub.

What topics do you look for that you wish folks would cover in their blogs or documentation, or even in white papers?

Most documentation or blogs, or tutorials, or what have you, there’s always the content of how you can do something, here’s how you can do something. But sometimes I ask about why you should do something.

For example, the ethics of a topic. For what I’m interested in, data science and data visualization, you can get a lot of insights from taking a data source from one format and making it digestible. And that could give some positive insight. But sometimes that can have negative insights as well. So you have to sometimes have those thoughts when you’re developing, because as developers, we can make a lot of various things, but you want to make sure you have the best intentions when doing this. And you may want to think about those side effects that may come out of it.

When you look at some of those articles, are you looking for code snippets, images, or just text? Do you like to see it broken up?

So I think the easiest way to make it digestible is to have content in multiple formats. Maybe you are a person that just wants to read content and get an understanding in that sense. But you won’t have code snippets in there. Everyone has their different ways of learning. So don’t make it too bloated — but having multiple ways to learn a certain thing can allow it to be the most consumable across many different learning styles.

When I think about code snippets that I see in articles, it’s really handy to not just be able to see it in the article but also to download it so I can actually get it in a running format,  too, as one of those mediums that you’re talking about, right?

Yes. And possibly even having snippets where it uses a CodePen or a code sandbox for web stuff where you can actually maybe click a button to run the code and actually see it run in real time.

Now, I’m one of those folks that when I went through and read a book to learn a language, I typically had my code editor open next to me. Do you find that you do that —  where you want to be able to edit and try some of the code, or some of the content that’s being described, or discussed, while you’re reading?

So no matter the medium, I think that is a good way of learning. It’s one thing to just read — “Oh, maybe I’m reading something on JavaScript and I’m going into what are Promises and what is asynchronous code,” and getting that understanding. But I think really it won’t click in your mind until you get some of what the effects are.

And having that interactive documentation with a CodePen maybe embedded right there next to the article. That makes it so you can try it, you can feel it, and you get that same experience that you may have had with a full editor open.

And on top of that, it’s one thing to copy the code over to your editor, try it out, but then maybe change some of the variables. Maybe change it to fit in your format. Maybe you want to use this library for a thing that’s different than what they show in the tutorial. So maybe seeing if you can tweak the code a little bit to make your format, and then if things break, maybe look around and see why [they] break.

What makes technical content feel developer-friendly to you?

As I was saying previously, having it in multiple mediums. So maybe it’s a video, maybe it’s some blog posts, maybe it’s audio. Maybe it’s stacks. Having multiple mediums is useful. If this is maybe a video course, maybe having it be a “short” length. If I’m doing this on the side, I don’t want to spend weeks upon weeks learning one thing. I want to get to it — and upon that, I want the code, the resources, to be engaging and help me to continue further. So if I say, “Oh, this is really interesting,” I want to say, “What’s next?… Maybe I want to use it with this project… Or can I maybe use it this way?” If it gives us resources to go further, beyond… Maybe we’re looking through a tutorial, and then maybe there were other resources alongside that. That really gives you the opportunity to say, “Hey, this is something that’s very interesting. I want to keep on going.”

How often are you looking back for that type of content to be updated and to find new things there?

I think it really is dependent on the medium…. If it’s a blog or a 5-10 minute video, maybe a weekly basis would be useful. Because with these kinds of things, I think it’s useful to have consistency with pushing out content. And on top of that, I think it’s good to say, “Hey, maybe I’m using this framework, I’ve been using this JavaScript framework and it’s version two, and now version three is out.” For those kinds of things, it’s good to keep on making sure that the content and the resources are available for the newer version.

Learn More

View Ben Lannon’s full interview here. Have a burning question? Feel free to submit your question and get a chance to Ask a Developer!

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