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DevRel and community building with the Golden Ratio

hayleydenb profile image Hayley Denbraver πŸ‘©β€πŸ’»πŸ₯‘ Updated on ・4 min read

Developer Relations is a term you might not have heard before. DevRel teams are the bridge between a community and a company. We facilitate feedback, create education opportunities, provide support and assistance to the community, and more. I know that sounds fuzzy, but that is because it is. If you are new to the topic, Mary Thengvall's post will help elucidate things.

DEV Community, I would like to introduce you to the Golden Ratio.


The Golden Ratio is, hands down, my favorite Twitter account and they have taught me a lot about authentic community building.

The Golden Ratio is a community run by Dr. Jen Golbeck. She is a Computer Science professor and has done a lot of research into social network analysis. She and her husband Ingo, affectionately known as GR Mom and GR Dad, have some of the cutest rescue dogs ever.


I followed the account for the dogs, but I stayed for the community.

Today I am going to share three things I have learned from them about creating a positive environment for a community to flourish.

  1. Don't be afraid to have fun.
  2. Root for your community members.
  3. Don't shy away from tough stuff.

Don't be afraid to have fun

One thing I love about the Golden Ratio Community is that Jen and Ingo seem to genuinely have fun with the account. The community follows suit and we are all the better for it.

Whether it is dressing up their most recent rescue as his namesake, Chief Brody of Jaws fame...

or giving their most cooperative dog a series of odd jobs...



...there is always fun going on!

Fun is an important part of setting the tone for a community. When we invite people into a community, we are asking them to spend their limited time with us. Fun can be a fabulous draw and fun can help retain people. Informative, technical, or complex content does not have to equal dry and boring! Dogs make it easy to lean into fun, but a little creativity can go a long way for any technical topic. I fully believe that we can engage with interesting technologies and topics in ways that are memorable and fun.

Root for your community members

The Golden Ratio community has shown me how important it is to celebrate the success and accomplishments of community members. In the Golden Ratio community, there has been a through line of support, encouragement, and celebration. This has included community couch-to-5k programs, amplifying art and other content produced by the community, and more.

The largest-scale example of the Golden Ratio community rooting for and celebrating its members is the recent Golden Ratio Commencement. Across the world, graduates from highschool through doctoral programs are missing out on celebrating with their friends, family, and teachers. Jen Golbeck, who participates in commencement every year as a university faculty member, wanted to do something for the students in the community who were missing out on a milestone.

The community rallied behind its nearly 3,000 graduates. Click the tweet below to see a thread thanking all the volunteers (over 200!) who contributed to the celebration.

Dr. Golbeck gave a commencement address, which included an ASL translator 🀟, and read the names of the graduates. The address is the same, but there are videos for the high school grads, college grads, post graduate programs, etc. You can see the whole project here.

I think this is a really wonderful example of rooting for your community members and engaging the entire community in something positive.

Don't shy away from tough stuff

It has been a true joy to witness old, neglected dogs get a new lease on life. It can be magic.

Click through to see the transformation picture!


But when you are rescuing senior dogs, you do so knowing that there will be heartbreak. GR Mom, GR Dad, and the community have definitely had their share of loss in the last year. Since the inception on the squad, we have lost Maggie (12), Riley (7), Queso (15), and Jasmine (13).

Most of the dogs were seniors, and poor Riley had kidney problems that didn't respond to treatment, but there is simply no way to sugar coat loss.

Obviously boundaries are reasonable and you need not share everything with your community, but authentically engaging with difficult topics can be a gift to your community members. Most of the difficult discussions within the Golden Ratio community have centered around the loss of the dogs, but there have also been discussion about how to compassionately care for older dogs, how to ask for help, and how to deal with disappointment while pursuing your goals.

We are all people and we are trying to do our best. It helps to know you are not alone in the tough stuff. Difficult topics within developer communities might include discussions on imposter syndrome, unethical algorithms, privacy debates, the future of open source, harmful tech culture, racism, sexism, and homophobia in tech, and more. These issues don't go away just because we choose not to see them. Engaging with these issues may be difficult, but that doesn't mean it can't be done and that doesn't mean it isn't worth it.

Final thoughts

I thoroughly recommend giving The Golden Ratio a follow on twitter. It will only improve your twitter feed. You will get adorable dogs every day and you will get an awesome example of a positive community.

I would also encourage you to take a look at the communities that you are in or that you lead. Are there ways to incorporate more fun, celebrate you members, or deal with difficult topics? Ask yourself what you can do to improve the community, and remember that there are some delightful golden retrievers rooting for you.

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hayleydenb profile

Hayley Denbraver πŸ‘©β€πŸ’»πŸ₯‘

@hayleydenb

Software engineer, developer advocate, technical content creator. Believes coding can and should be fun and that teams work best when they are inclusive. I am on the market right now.

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