Kristian Freeman

Authenticity and producing content as a Developer Advocate

As a Developer Advocate, you spend a great deal producing content. Videos, podcasts, blog posts, etc. This blog post briefly explores three recent takes on DA work as it becomes increasingly popular.

First, I want to mention something interesting I read recently. A study done in 2012 found that the human brain is pretty effortlessly able to determine authentic laughter and inauthentic laughter:

In a 2013 study, McGettigan, then a postdoctoral researcher at University College London, and her colleagues scanned the brains of 21 participants while they passively listened to clips of laughter elicited by funny YouTube videos or produced on command (with instructions to sound as natural as possible). Subjects whose medial prefrontal cortex β€œlit up” more when hearing the posed laughter were better at detecting whether laughs were genuine or not in a subsequent test.

This isn't covered in the study, but I suspect that this phenomenon extends to a person's authenticity as a whole, not just in their laughter. Inauthenticity feels bad. And if you're trying to sell people on things as a Developer Advocate, or even just educate them, authenticity goes a long way. I'm not a scientist, and I may be misreading the study or extrapolating from it for my own means... but isn't that what all good thought pieces do :)

Two habanero-level takes -- not too crazy, but maybe outside the norm:

  1. Good equipment does not equal good content

I see a lot of people spend $(literally2k+ or more) to completely revamp their recording set up for videos and podcasts. New cameras, lighting, microphone, etc.

The thing is: your content will still suck if you suck at making content. Sorry. But if you aren't comfortable behind a camera, or if you can't organize your thoughts, a $2k Sony camera won't fix it.

In fact, I think that "good gear" is a really oversaturated signal. It used to be that it was often someone who had been creating content for a long time and was finally upgrading to some better gear. Now, I see people making their first, second, or third video with thousands of dollars of gear.

I would rather see someone with shit gear and a great ability to tell stories, to teach, etc. Gear does not maketh the advocate!

  1. You will make better content being yourself versus being someone else

Every DA has been in a situation where you are making content that is not your style. Corporate blog posts, webinars, whatever it may be. It always sucks. It's boring to make, and it's boring to watch.

I'm fortunate at Cloudflare to be able to make videos in my style. If I didn't get to record off-the-cuff, laid back videos, and then sweat the editing details hard (unfortunately, this is my style... whether I want it or not). I don't have to script if I don't want to. And if I did, the content would suck! I've tried it myself in the past.

You have to be able to make things in your own style, or in the worst-case, find a way to adapt your style in a way that doesn't feel bad. If you can't be authentic in the stuff you're producing, people will know.

#career #dev