Internal DevRel: Colleague Enablement

I work in Developer Relations for a very technical company (Aiven), and I usually describe my job as half explaining my employer's technology to developers, and half explaining developers to my employers. However in the last year or so, I've realised that there is a variation on this theme that is impactful for my internal colleagues: explaining technology and developers to people who are experts in something else. I work with specialists in various aspects of sales and marketing (DevRel reports into Marketing) and my colleagues are genuinely curious to know more about the domain we work in! I thought I'd share more about how I enable my colleagues, and why I think it works for us. Continue reading

Outline your writing to ease the creative process

For most of my career I've been a software developer, but now I'm mostly a communicator. As a manager, I give the right level of detail to many different audiences, and I deliver that in words they can understand. As a Developer Advocate, I explain complex technical concepts in useful, memorable, and occasionally entertaining ways. However the best software developers are lazy and I'm still always looking for ways to get things done with less effort on my part! For writing, the best process I know feels like unnecessary overhead, but it's always worth it in the end so today I'm sharing my secrets: create an outline before you start. Continue reading

Who are you writing that commit message for?

I read a lot of commit messages that make me wonder who the committer had in mind when they wrote it. If you don't read commit messages yourself, I think that can make it even more difficult to think about who the audience is, or when someone would be reading those entries. Perhaps you're writing for nobody, or work in a team that doesn't value the metadata that a single sentence written in the moment can deliver.

Next time you write a commit message, try some of these suggestions as your imaginary audience:

  • Yourself, next week, when you finally get back to working on this thing and can't remember where you were up to
  • Yourself, when you get a pull request review and can't remember which commit something is in that needs to be removed
  • Yourself, debugging how this ended up like this, 6 months from now
  • Your colleague, eyeballing your work to see how you are getting on

Personally, I think of it as a note to myself. Like an alibi, if someone asks you what's already been done, or what this commit that removes one specific line from a long config file. Yes, I worked as a git consultant for a while, the delete-a-single-line with the commit message "Fixed" is always the culprit!

Further reading: https://cbea.ms/git-commit/

Weekly Planning with Obsidian

Keeping on top of tasks at work has been a work in progress throughout my career. However now I'm doing a more managerial role, I also need to keep track of all the meetings and preparation/followup work in my meetings. I find my daily log fills so many pages of notebook that I moved my weekly plan to a separate section - and then to my preferred digital notes tool, Obsidian. If you're interested in my setup, read on. Continue reading

Keeping your finger on the (digital) pulse

Whether you are building your own presence, or representing a brand or employer online, it's useful to know what people are saying! Keeping up with all those possible places you should look for news or mentions can be pretty laborious and when things are busy, it's difficult to keep up with this work unless you have some decent tooling in place. There are some great automation offerings around but here's my very basic strategy.

TL;DR a bookmarks folder in my browser to open a bunch of saved searches all at once. Continue reading

VSCode setup for technical writers

I'm working almost entirely with docs-as-code setups for prose at work these days and while I do use vim for most of what I do, VSCode is increasingly in the mix. It's just about accessible enough with keyboard shortcuts and the command palette for me, and I thought I'd share the extensions I'm using and find helpful. Continue reading

Sphinx front matter and template variables

I'm building a docs-as-code site at work at the moment (you can peek if you like https://developer.aiven.io) and working with ReStructuredText in this setup is new to me. One thing I really missed was the concept of front matter, which I'm not sure is even official or documented but seems to be reasonably widely supported (I promise to save the rant about markdown for another day). It took me a while to figure this out for Sphinx/rst but now I'm looking at it working, I had better write it down before I forget! Continue reading

Use Database Connection Strings with Laravel 8

I've been doing a lot of database stuff lately, and not much PHP, so when I returned to make my first Laravel project for a while, I had to check the docs to remind myself how some of this works. I noticed that the default approach to database credentials is still to use separate credentials for the host, port, and other variables. I'm using Aiven databases (because I work there and managed databases are great for demo apps as well as real ones!) which supply connection strings, but Laravel supports these too. Continue reading