DEV Community

Brian Rinaldi
Brian Rinaldi

Posted on • Originally published at


Can DevRel Be Done Without Twitter?

I've been in DevRel(ish) roles since 2010. The idea of developer relations was pretty new back then and only a handful of companies even had DevRel roles. But what we did have at the time was Twitter.

I joined in June 2007, shortly after it became an independent company. When I was first introduced to Twitter, the idea seemed silly. Long-form blogging was in. What was the point of these short posts where I couldn't say much with substance?

What sold me on it ultimately was that there was a fast growing developer community on there. Soon I was connected with a ton of developers and joining in conversations on the topics of code and careers. Over the years I made a lot of amazing connections via Twitter. Some folks I have met on Twitter have eventually become IRL friends. However, it was also an invaluable tool as a Developer Advocate and Community Manager. If you wanted to reach the developer community (at least in much of the world, if not all of it), Twitter was the place to be.

Twitter's importance to DevRel

Let's be honest, up front – Twitter could often be an echo chamber. That being said, it played an important role in the careers of many folks in DevRel, including mine. In my case, this was not because I had a huge audience (I had a decent following but never huge), but because of its outsized role in the developer community.

Twitter was the place to:

  • Get the pulse of the developer community. Part of our role as DevRel is to help the company stay on top of trends in the developer community, and Twitter was the best place to do this.
  • Promote content and awareness. Whether it was your blog post, video, conference talk or event, Twitter was the easiest and cheapest (assuming you didn't pay for promotion) way to build awareness in the developer community.
  • Make connections. Twitter was often the easiest way to find and connect with developers at a company, a conference or to find speakers for an event.

Each of these activities play an important role in doing the job of developer relations. Twitter was a key piece to the aspects of the role that involved building awareness and building community.

The great collapse

I don't need to tell you what happened to Twitter. Honestly, I'm tired of reading about you know who. But, suffice it to say, while Twitter isn't dead (yet), things kind of fell apart.

On a personal level, I stopped using Twitter. My final tweet in December:

My final Tweet in December

If we're being honest, things on that site and with that company only got worse from there.

Let me be clear that I am not judging anyone who stayed and who remains active. We all get to make these choices for ourselves and, in fact, this post is largely about how difficult a decision that can be professionally. To me, creating content, whether in the form of blog posts or tweets, has value and I could not continue to give that to the benefit of someone who is not in line with my personal values (similar reason I quit Facebook back in 2016).

Nonetheless, I'll admit that I didn't delete my account. I have over a decade worth of connections on there and losing access to DMs on Twitter was a price I was unwilling to pay just yet.

On a more general level, activity on Twitter, while certainly not dead, seemed way off its peak even back in December and engagement in tweets seemed even worse. I have no way to gauge it right now, but most folks I've talked to about it seem to imply that this remains fairly accurate. Even if it is still probably the most one of the most active places to engage developers, a large chunk of the audience appears to have left for places like Mastodon, LinkedIn and other venues. Even my occassional use of DMs has shown that there are many folks like myself who, even if their account is still active, very infrequently come back only to check messages.

The cost/benefit of losing Twitter

To answer the question I posed in the title of this post, of course you can do DevRel effectively without Twitter. That doesn't mean there aren't costs to dropping it.

If you had a sizable audience already on Twitter, you'll see reduced audience and awareness to your content, including your whatever messages you are amplifying for your employer. Depending on your role, the audience on Twitter may or may not be important. In my current role, it's importance is minimal but I have seen awareness of some of my personal projects, such as the events I run, so if my livelihood depended on maintaining that audience, my choice would have been far more difficult.

This last item also points to its impact on your own marketability, especially to companies who may deem the Twitter audience to be important or to your ability to market yourself should you be looking for a new role.

However, there are benefits that can outweigh these costs for some people. Personally, I didn't realize how much time and mental energy Twitter took from me until I quit using it. This blog is back to life with weekly posts in large part because the time and attention I afforded Twitter can now be redirected (plus it offers a creative outlet that fulfills similar needs for me as Twitter and in a much more fulfilling way). Actually getting back to blogging, has brought some professional benefits as well in terms of my own visibility in the community.

For those gaps blogging doesn't fulfill, I've found Mastodon to be a good replacement. If you are looking for the reach and potential "virality" of Twitter, you won't find it there, but you will find an active and growing developer community. It will require less of your time and dedication, which can be a positive, while still bringing good interaction (personally, I post less frequently but tend to get more interaction in the form of replies than I did on Twitter). For better or worse (I think for better), it's not Twitter.

Others I've spoken to have found that LinkedIn can offer them some (or all) of the awareness they'd once found on Twitter. Your mileage may vary on either Mastodon or LinkedIn, but there are other platforms that can potentially help fill that bird-shaped hole in your DevRel career.

Top comments (18)

andypiper profile image
Andy Piper • Edited

[disclaimer: I'm what the current owner of the platform may refer to as a "disgruntled former employee"]

[qualifying statements: I joined Twitter as a user on Feb 21 2007; got my first full-time / "titled" DevRel role through having been on Twitter, in 2012; joined Twitter as an employee in March 2014; and left the platform as an employee and as a user in November 2022]

To address the question posed in the post title: absolutely DevRel can be done without Twitter! It started well before Twitter (if you date it to the ~Guy Kawasaki at Apple days), and can continue with or without Twitter.

That said, as you've rightly identified, for a long time there was a lot of strong resonance between that platform, and dev advocacy. It started as something of a niche platform for the (then) technorati so it was a great place to find other developers and follow tech events. Once search emerged / was acquired in ~2009/10 it became an even better way to find where the conversations were. In the later period it became a great megaphone for getting news out about software releases and events, and a popularity contest for a few folks as well.

In the meantime, several other things also happened:

  • GitHub became the predominant place where code was shared, and in tandem with that, the decentralised and OSS movements created tools like Gitlab and others with their own communities that act as a (slight) counterweight to the gravity of the GitHub galactic spiral.
    • there's a whole side discussion here as well about the growth of formats like Markdown to underpin both CMS and other publishing systems like Forem, as well as documentation and so on; today you're potentially expected to "speak in Markdown" as much as I thought of us as expected to "speak in (X)HTML" in the early 2000s...
  • IRC remained; Matrix happened; Discord and Slack happened and grew. There's a lot more expectation today that projects will have a live and active chat type community based on something like Matrix or Discord.
  • Reddit became... useful for things, especially search (vs the enshittification of Google results)
  • The Fediverse quietly grew and established itself.
    • This is definitely a challenge to the convenience of having a single place to go to take part in a conversation as it might be if you were on Twitter, where there's a single and mostly universal[*] search feature, as well as a single source for hashtags.
    • the culture of the Fediverse and Mastodon is almost explicitly the reverse of the popularity contest / public exposure-driven latter stage Twitter: you're much less likely to be greeted warmly if you slide into a conversation you discover, than on Twitter; the lack of built-in quoting (itself a later innovation on Twitter, based on usage) can make it less easy to build on existing conversations; the risk of defederation or fediblock makes it important to know your audience and be respectful.

Fundamentally, for me, a core tenet of DevRel remains: go where the community is. Don't expect to "own" the community around your Thing (product|project|technology). Earn the respect of the community, in the spaces where it has formed. You can (by all means) host your own Discourse forum or Forem instance, but that's almost certainly not the only place where folks are discussing your Thing. At Twitter, I constantly advocated for my team to be on Stack Overflow, to post on and follow others on DEV, to share via our own social profiles, to hop into the third-party Slack and Discord communities - because the Thing was wider than just "our API as delivered by us", and not everyone always wanted to join our own community forum and discuss things there.

It may be a bit more of an effort to map out where developer communities are, today, but it's also a great opportunity to learn that new platform and adapt to that new environment.

And that evolution is why I love Developer Relations (as part of "my Thing").

[*] search is not a complete index on Twitter, either in the UI or in the API, for a number of fairly nuanced technical reasons, but it's definitely good enough for DevRel use cases, and most others, barring really detailed data science which would need deeper firehose access.


oh jeez. Now I need to post this as a post. I'll link back here!

Here you go!

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Love the feedback. Yes, please post this as a post!

Yes, DevRel started before Twitter technically, but it was still a nascent career option at the time, nothing like the explosion we've seen of DevRel over the past 5 years.

I agree with you that the lack of Twitter makes it harder for a DevRel person to find the community, which is fragmented into a lot of places (Fediverse, multiple Discords, multiple Slack communities, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc.). In my view, it is worth it, both in terms of adhering to my own values but also in terms of expanding my horizons. I do understand though why it is such a difficult choice for some folks to make.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I think we're in an era of more complexity due to the points you've mentioned.

Things are somewhat more distributed in a way that makes the job tougher, but there is better tooling for the connective tissue.

DEV is here as well to help distribute and consolidate some of the knowledge 😀

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Yeah. I think DEV can play a bigger role as well (though it already had become a critical tool to most DevRel folks I think). It definitely means being in many more places/communities than before, which has it's benefits as well.

jexp profile image
Michael Hunger

I agree with most of your points. For me Twitter was an invaluable tool for more than 13 years of dev-rel work.

Most importantly for finding interesting posts and projects shared by our community members via Twitter search and supporting and amplifying them.

But also sharing things we were working on, our events, projects, hackathons. Answering user questions. We even had a Stackoverflow to Twitter bot by a community member.

Connecting, interacting and learning from the dev-rel, product, java and database community was another big one.

We also found great team members via Twitter and last but not least the awesome global and personal queryable Twitter graphs and network analysis in neo4j was super cool and useful.
I definitely miss it, but don’t want to be in Elons cesspool. So Mastodon, Discord, Discourse and Blogging are the ways I’m engaging now.

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I think anything can be replaced.
Twitter's been the place you go if you want attention fast, but that's mostly because of the community, and because it's one giant blob of community it's probably harder to do things like target developers than it is on somewhere with notional interest groups like Mastodon.
Developers are the sort of people who try technology out, and we'll end up settling down with something better.

I don't know about LinkedIn though, that has a lot of the same problems as Twitter - it's owned by a big company, it's profit-motivated and it's full of its own kind of negativity. Where Twitter has its hate speech, LinkedIn has insincerity and an endless supply of sycophants.

The only role Twitter had which is difficult to replace is that it's a one-stop shop for connections: your peers go there and so do your friends and family.

If people are more prepared to separate their concerns, nothing will be much of a problem.

hunghvu profile image
Hung Vu

It certainly depends on the region you are in (audience/market research). Twitter is pratically non existent in some cultures. Personally, I focus on improving my presence on community platforms like DEV, rather then social medias.

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Yup. I mentioned that briefly. Twitter was prominent in North America, Europe and to a lesser degree South America and Africa. In many parts of Asia in particular it was not important.

danielhe4rt profile image
Daniel Reis

I don't think that you need twitter at all when your company allows you to create other ways to propagate and raise a community, like Discord or Slack.

The point of twitter is that a lot of beginners will be looking for someone to have as a reference but it can also be done in other places.

However Twitter still the main tool for developers reach other developers with hashtags, and creators bring the common interests to people talk with.

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Definitely don't need Twitter! Though I can understand why many people are hesitant to walk away. And places like Discord are playing a more and more important role.

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Twitter can't be replaced by things like Slack because something you say can't be shared with people on other services with one click, which I think is what everyone sees as the power of Twitter. It's like there's a critical speed in microblogging, where if something gets shared quickly it goes viral. Sharing manually with people by pasting things you like into other Discords is slow and a barrier to a lot of people.

abhaysinghr1 profile image
Abhay Singh Rathore

As a DevRel Engineer, I can say that the job responsibilities and scope vary greatly depending on the company and individual. While Twitter is certainly a significant platform, there are many other communities and social networks that may be relevant to a DevRel role, depending on the industry and target audience. This may include developer forums, online communities, GitHub, and more. Additionally, DevRel Engineers may have a variety of responsibilities, such as creating technical content, managing community outreach, and collaborating with developers to build better products.

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Absolutely. It's different at every company. For example, it was easier for me to put Twitter aside because it's not very important to my current role. I've had prior roles though where my Twitter audience was considered a more important asset.

cubiclesocial profile image

There are two types of developer relations (DevRel as you call it): Technical support and informational blogging.

For the first type, GitHub issues is a good place to go for developer relations.

Discord chat is another place. You can easily turn a Discord server into a support portal or even a call center style system (i.e. auto-kicks people who leave the server so that those who show up get direct 1:1 support and doesn't devolve rapidly into politics).

Good tech support developer relations can also be done via email. As long as you respond positively and within a reasonable timeframe, most people will respect that.

Twitter has always seemed like the wrong place to have real conversations with devs about technical issues outside of emergency situations (i.e. all other contact methods have broken down). Limited character lengths means longer posts will take a lot longer to digest and respond to.

For informational blogging such as writing in-depth technical articles that will be indexed by search engines, there are plenty of options from places like, Blogger, WordPress, etc or a self-hosted blog. There's also the option to publish content in other formats such as podcasts or video which can work...but sometimes text on a page is best. For example, I don't think a podcast would work all that well when attempting to disseminate a few pages of code, "Line 10. x = y * 2; Line 11. ..."

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Thank for the comment. I don't think technical support is typically classified as developer relations. DevRel is about developers developer outreach with the goal of "authentically" marketing to and selling to developers (though there's a second aspect of bringing the perspectives of the developer community back to the company). Technical support and support related content isn't the same. For example, a podcast works well for DevRel because it's about outreach, but not well for support because, as you note, it's not the best place to discuss specific code examples.

toddbradley profile image
Todd Bradley

What you call DevRel existed long before Twitter, and will continue to be a thing long after Twitter. As long as humans develop software for money, it’s not going away.

remotesynth profile image
Brian Rinaldi

Gonna disagree with you on that DevRel existed long before Twitter. There were some technology or platform evangelists going back to the 80s, but the concept of developer advocate or developer relations was very new and very few companies had them at the time (mostly the big companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Google). That's a very different scenario from what we have today.

I also didn't argue that DevRel is going away, just discussing how it reaches the developer audience without Twitter, which it had come to rely on.

toddbradley profile image
Todd Bradley

It sounds like you’re making the logical fallacy that because you didn’t personally witness it, it didn’t exist. I worked for commercial software dev tools vendors in the 80s and 90s and there were definitely jobs that today you would call DevRel. I was there! I saw it! And it wasn’t just at big companies. The places I worked were small companies because at the time the market for dev tools was small because there weren’t many developers in the world. We had to have good developer relations because those were our only possible customers.

Microsoft, Adobe, and Google didn’t get large by selling developer tools. They got big selling consumer apps (services, in Google’s case). For that matter, Google didn’t even exist back then so I’m not sure why you threw them into your example.

I also didn't argue that DevRel is going away

You titled your article to imply that exactly that is a real possibility! Unless it was just meant as a clickbait title, and not to be taken seriously…

Anyhow, all this comes off as a lot grumpier than I want it to, but I do encourage you to learn more about the history of the industry if you want to write more articles about the history of the industry.

🌚 Browsing with dark mode makes you a better developer.

It's a scientific fact.