Book review of Developer, Advocate! by Geertjan Wielenga. A collection of conversations with developer advocates about their work, tech communities and the road to becoming a developer advocate.
Geertjan Wielenga is a product manager and developer advocate for open source projects in Oracle, such as Oracle JET and Apache NetBeans.
The concept of the book is simple. In a nutshell, each chapter is an interview with a well know developer advocate. After a brief introduction of the person, there is a series of questions. While some of the questions are specific to each person, many of them tend to repeat. Such as how did they become developer advocates, what advice would they give to people who want to become advocates themselves. How to deal with burnout and frequent traveling, technical problems or difficult questions.
The book contains interviews with 32 developer advocates in total. Here are some examples.
- Scott Hanselman
- Mark Heckler
- Arun Gupta
- Trisha Gee
- Josh Long
- Adam Bien
- Kirk Pepperdine
- Venkat Subramaniam
You can check the full list of developer advocates interviewed in the book.
The book is definitely a very interesting insight into the life and role of a developer advocate. Considering there are 32 advocates interviewed, you can read a lot of different stories and backgrounds. It is interesting to get to know more people from the community. Since the advocates have different backgrounds, it allows you to learn about interesting people, which are not inside of your usual "bubble" defined by your technology stack.
If you want to get involved more in the community, this book is definitely a great source of inspiration as you can read about the journey of seasoned advocates from the bottom-up - their humble beginnings in small user groups up to the huge conferences. It shows that even you can aim to become an advocate - you don't necessarily have to know everything about a certain topic. It just takes time and dedication, but you can eventually get there and the advocates share some useful tips on how to get started.
Since every chapter is independent, you don't have to read it from cover to cover - you can pick people you are interested in or continue later as there is no connection between individual chapters.
One thing I didn't like that much is that a lot of questions tend to repeat. In some cases, it makes sense. In others, not so much. It can be tedious to read over and over the same questions with very similar answers, such as:
- What is the difference between developer evangelist and developer advocate
- What do you do if you don't know an answer to a question
- What do you do if your equipment does not work properly
And some more. The answers are very similar in these cases and it would be sufficient to ask it once or twice. I would be much more interested in more personal details about the advocates, their careers and topics which make them unique rather than all this generic stuff.
Also, the book is quite long, with nearly 800 pages and as I mentioned, a lot of topics that repeat. It would be easier to digest, maybe as an audiobook or even better - as a series of individual podcasts, where you can actually hear dialog between the author and each advocate.
Overall, I think it is an interesting book worth reading, which can greatly motivate you, especially if you intend to get involved more.