The OG of Developer Advocacy - TeamB

January 24, 2024
The OG of Developer Advocacy - TeamB

I saw an announcement last month for the latest release of RADStudio 12. RADStudio is a product of Idera’s Embarcadero subsidiary. I had a long history of using Embarcadero products. Well… CodeGear products. No, Inprise. Actually Borland products. Yup, there’s been a lot of name changing and acquisitions and divestitures in the space of developer tools over the years. Unfortunately, in the shuffle, they ended up discontinuing all the products I used, supported and advocated for - like JBuilder (Java) and 3rdRail (for Ruby).

Today I’d like to talk to you about support and advocacy - and about the O.G. of developer recognition and advocacy programs - TeamB. I was a proud member of TeamB for many years, starting in 2002. I treasure that memory, and still value the network of friends and associates I gained during that time. (Hey TeamB folks! I know some of you read my blog 😉)

If you use the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine”, you can find a simple page that outlines what TeamB was all about.

TeamB was created more than 10 years ago as an experiment in encouraging advanced users of Borland products to answer other users’ technical support questions. The original plan was deceptively simple:

  • Identify your most knowledgeable users.
  • Find those among them who most enjoy sharing their know-how.
  • Organize them into a team.
  • Offer them free product and benefits in return for their time.
  • Let them loose to answer other users’ questions.

Today, the team is composed of a mixed group of people from backgrounds as varied as the industry itself; former university professors, project managers, hotshot developers, and consultants. More than ever, Borland’s community of users depends and relies on TeamB to receive timely and accurate answers to their questions. It is not uncommon to read a message in the newsgroups thanking TeamB for solving a problem that was threatening to delay an important project or task.

Because TeamB members are not Borland employees, they tend to be outspoken with their opinions on virtually all aspects of Borland’s presence in the market, including but not limited to product development, marketing, and support. Being, for the most part, developers themselves, TeamB shares the concerns of the developer community. If there is an issue of concern to the developer community, it has likely been brought to the attention of Borland by TeamB.

It describes the origin of TeamB on CompuServe, “more than 10 years” before… well this page was captured in 2000. That places it before 1990, and definitely before Microsoft’s MVP program, which is widely, and incorrectly, touted as the first in 1993.

Today, we have Microsoft MVP, AWS Hero, Google Developer Experts, Oracle ACE, GitHub Stars, etc. Most of these programs have a similar bar for entry. A nomination by an existing member of the program, or an employee of the company.

These programs exist because support is a difficult problem even for huge multi-national corporations. These developer advocates are recognized experts. But not only that. Coupled with their deep knowledge is a need to be helpful. (They also don’t get into flame wars.)

If you are a developer looking at your career options, and wondering how to advance, when you love being a developer, and your only options seem to be in management of some kind… consider focusing your efforts on becoming a developer advocate. This is a kind of peer recognition that will help when those discussions about salary increases come up at annual review time. It speaks for itself on a resume, too, if you find you need to move on to continue to grow.

And if you are an entrepreneur, wanting to hire a developer as an employee or consultant, finding a developer advocate is a bit like panning for gold and discovering a diamond in your pan. Grab them and hold on to them. They are rare and precious.

I have a limited number of free consultation spots available for the people reading my blog. But do it fast, because I’ll be closing the door on the free sessions next week.