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A Look at dev2dev

A Look at dev2dev

We recently had a chance to talk to just some of the team behind BEA's dev2dev portal and program. Diana Reid is senior director of Developer Marketing. Before joining BEA, she spent six years at Microsoft in a variety of developer-focused roles. Mary Haggard is senior director of dev2dev Online. Mary came to BEA from the Westside acquisition in late 2001 and was also at Microsoft for several years. Jill Steinberg is editor in Chief of dev2dev Online. She was previously editor-in-chief of JavaWorld. As a whole, the entire development team has an average of five to seven years of developer-related experience across the industry.

WLDJ: Let's start with an overview of what dev2dev is, what it's doing, what the content is.
Reid: When we talk about dev2dev, we look at it from a higher level, rather than just the Web site, because for BEA, dev2dev is really our comprehensive developer program. It consists of three key areas, including the online site, community programs, and developer products. We're focused on delivering a variety of resources for developers with a number of different activities and programs in order to ensure their success with the BEA WebLogic platform.

It's really all about us reaching out to developers, building relationships with them, ensuring they have the tools and technologies that they need to get their jobs done, and helping them enhance and grow their skill sets.
Steinberg: It's really a whole support resource center for developers.

WLDJ: When was dev2dev actually introduced?
Reid: We launched the dev2dev online site, which is the cornerstone for the dev2dev program, in February 2002 at BEA eWorld.

WLDJ: And it's grown from there?
Reid: We have rolled out a number of new programs and offerings on a fairly regular basis since then. Things like the User Group Program have really ramped up in the last several months - we now have about 16 of these in the U.S., and will launch this program internationally in 2003. The dev2dev Days Road Show took place in 11 cities this fall, and smaller events will reach another 13 cities this winter.. We also have a monthly dev2dev webinar series, as well as other educational events and programs, in the works.
Haggard: I think one of the things that makes us very different from anything else in the industry is that we pride ourselves on being "by developers for developers." All of our user groups, all of our content, all of our programs, everything that we put together, is from developers who are either at BEA or are close to us but external. We also do a lot of research in the community to find out exactly what they need to be successful with BEA's products. That's something that is very important to us; we are always very tightly tied to our community and making sure that all the resources that we provide help meet their needs and get their jobs done faster.
Reid: We feel strongly that these are the people who are out in the trenches dealing with enterprise development and deployment issues, and have their finger on the pulse of what's happening with new technologies, what the enterprise development needs and requirements are. We want to make sure that we are listening to developers as we build support resources and feed this back into our product development team. These relationships and communications are really important because they will drive a lot of BEA's future product direction.

WLDJ: What kind of response have you had from the community since the launch, how many people have registered, and how long did it take to reach a number that you felt satisfied with?
Reid: Currently we have about 500,000 registered developers, definitely pretty exciting growth. We've had a couple of significant spikes - monthly run rates of 20% or more in growth. It's been a tough year in the industry overall for a lot of the vendors. So while we'd gladly welcome even greater growth, we are really excited about the response we've had in terms of new developer registrations, sold-out dev2dev Days attendance, rapidly expanding User Group membership, and Web site traffic - including unique visitors and time spent on the site.. We're also seeing our developer community contributing content to the site, as well as to new technical books such as the recently published BEA WebLogic Workshop Kick Start (Sams), Teach Yourself BEA WebLogic Server 7.0 (Sams), and WebLogic Server 7 Administration (McGraw Hill) titles, so we are definitely thrilled about the feedback we're getting across the board. When you look at BEA's overall dev2dev program, beyond some of the hard metrics, such as number of registered members or site traffic, we've seen a lot of exciting things come out of our efforts.

WLDJ: Those are impressive numbers.
Haggard: In terms of the dev2dev Online site, the average time that people are spending on the site has actually quadrupled since February so a lot of the content that we have been adding is obviously useful. We see people visiting the site multiple times per month and that is also something that has been growing since we launched. All of the community aspects and the quality of information that we worked hard to build have been sitting well with our customers.

WLDJ: Tell us about the dev2dev User Group program, and how you're tying user groups into the online site.
Reid: We currently have 16 user groups - and each is founded and led by BEA customers and partners. BEA provides an infrastructure and set of resources that supports these groups, and then the regional leaders drive the content and meetings, based on what their particular group's interests and needs are.

In terms of where things fit, we're working on a number of ways that we can feed the regional offline groups back into the global online community. Some of the things that we're building out are "mini-communities" and pages on the dev2dev site for user groups, as well as creating online discussion forums to extend offline meeting topics. From a grassroots perspective, a lot of what we're doing with the user groups is talking directly with developers about our technologies. As an example, some of our engineering and development teams are working with the user groups to get their feedback on the next version of WebLogic Server or to understand how people are using WebLogic Workshop. We are also getting our user group leaders involved in WLDJ and in writing articles for dev2dev. And, we will bring all of the user group leaders together at eWorld 2003 to do some additional brainstorming on how the developer community can leverage some of these technologies and share best practices.

WLDJ: Tell us a little bit about how the content of the site is put together.
Steinberg: The majority of the content on dev2dev is unique to the site. We want to provide original information for developers that they won't necessarily find in other places and that is specific to BEA and partner technologies, as well as general J2EE programming tips. We have a section called the Code Library where we deliver code samples. We also offer full access to the BEA product documentation and evaluation downloads. In addition, our community section provides details on some of the programs and activities that Diana mentioned earlier, including user groups, developer events, the BEA University Program, newsgroups, and others.

WLDJ: Which areas are the most heavily trafficked?
Steinberg: We're finding that developers are extremely interested in getting sample code, product documentation, as well as training and troubleshooting information. They are also interested in the original technical articles we have - such as one we recently posted on migrating the dev2dev site from WebLogic 6.1 to 7.0.

WLDJ: Who are the primary people building dev2dev?
Haggard: Besides Jill and myself, we also have a senior technical content guy - Will Iverson, himself a J2EE developer - who looks at what the strategies for each of our progress areas should be in terms of the technical content we should cover. He works with the BEA teams and external writers to make sure we cover the product in-depth and highlight the right issues.

Our own Web site development team is also a key resource - a team of several developers led by a long-time J2EE veteran, Peter Ziatek - who build out the infrastructure and code behind the site. As I said before, "by developers for developers" is sort of our mantra, and our team works with all of the WebLogic Platform technologies every day, and does a lot of work to document the site. The articles that we've written detailing how we are using WebLogic technologies in our development efforts, or migrating from one version to the next, have been some of the most popular content on the site.

WLDJ: There are at least four groups that come to mind that can benefit from dev2dev: WebLogic developers, BEA partners, people who are not BEA users yet but are interested in understanding more about the product, and BEA itself. Let's say I work for a company and we have implemented BEA for the past two years. I register at dev2dev; what are some of the immediate benefits?
Haggard: The highest value offfering is access to our evaluation software; they can get full copies of all BEA products with very generous licenses to use for their development efforts. That's definitely our number one benefit. In addition, we offer a variety of premium content, special offers and discounts on development resources, publications and training content or software from different partners, and sample chapters from new books from key publishers.
Reid: Yes, as I mentioned previously, we have relationships with all the leading technical book publishers and have been working with them to get texts developed on a number of BEA technologies. We then offer sample chapters to developers who register in the other membership program, as well as some very steep discounts on purchasing those books.
Steinberg: An additional benefit of membership that sort of ties everything together is the monthly dev2dev Dispatch newsletter. This newsletter provides a snapshot of the most popular content on the site and highlights new events, programs, or content as well as special offers just for dev2dev members, such as discounts on training, publications, and conferences. This is a great way for developers to stay up-to-date on what we are adding to our site and what opportunities they have for information from the developer program.

WLDJ: Let's say that I have just become a BEA partner and I am a business development manager, or a product manager for one of the third-party vendors who integrates a product with BEA. What benefits does dev2dev have for BEA Star partners?
Reid: While BEA dev2dev isn't a direct subset of the BEA Star Partner Program, we do offer a variety of opportunities for partners to plug into what we're doing with dev2dev, including building technical content for the site, conducting joint webinars or training events, getting involved in regional user groups, and offering evaluation software and other tools for dev2dev members.

WLDJ: Let's say that my company is looking to migrate to BEA WebLogic. Where would I start?
Haggard: A user's first question is really, "Can your product solve my problems?" The second is, "How?" We work to answer those questions. One of the things we're finding out about people who come to the site is that most of them are new to WebLogic development. We've tried to focus our content on someone who is getting started. There are complete Getting Started guides, and the webinars do a great job of educating people in a live Q&A format before they start coding. The sample code is there to give them a leg up. We see a lot of new folks up in the newsgroups - and a lot of the BEA developers and staff are up there too to answer their questions and get them going.

WLDJ: In addition to the benefits you offer external groups - new users, current users, and partners - it sounds like there is also a benefit that BEA gets - the feedback that you can incorporate into the products.
Reid: I think you've hit the nail on the head. This is incredibly important to us and we're working to devise a lot more ways to streamline the communications and make sure that our engineers, our product management people, and our support people are hearing what the developers have to say - and then acting on it. One of the things that Mary said earlier that shouldn't be understated is the fact that BEA dev2dev is built on all of our technologies. There is an article up on the site now about how the BEA dev2dev development team moved the site over to Version 7 of our platform. We are absolutely using our own technologies - or the infamous "eating our own dog food." We understand how these things work and what areas are a little more complicated than we might want them to be today, and are feeding that information back into the development team, as well as guiding developers through migration or upgrade processes..

WLDJ: What other enhancements - both online and in the community - do you have planned?
Haggard: One of the most exciting things we're doing is getting dev2dev much more tightly integrated with the products, and offering a really solid set of technical information through the products themselves. We're also going to make a big push out into the development community to find some external writers who can provide valuable content from a variety of viewpoints, skill levels, and perspectives.
Reid: One of the biggest changes that a developer who has been with us for a while has probably seen is that, in the past, BEA had at least five different places, if not more, for developers to hunt and search around for information. What our team is doing is pulling all of those resources together and making dev2dev into your "one-stop shop". If you have training needs, if you have support needs, if you are new at developing for WebLogic, or if you are just looking for some basic development information, this is always going to be your best starting place. We are going to catalog and prioritize a lot of these things for you to make things simple and easy to navigate, and to ensure that you spend the least amount of time searching for the answers you need.

WLDJ: Is there anything we didn't cover that you want to tell our readers?
Reid: I think the key thing that Mary said is that this initiative is truly by developers, for developers. While BEA certainly gets a lot out of it from the perspective of feedback and incorporating things into our products, this is absolutely about helping developers understand where we are going and how to use these technologies. It's about how to grow their own skill set and further their development careers. It's about enabling developer-to-developer communication and building out that community of experts. And it's about providing support and resources so that developers are successful in their jobs.
Haggard: In March I met a BEA developer who said something to me that I haven't forgotten since. He said, "I don't come to dev2dev for fun, I go to E!Online for fun. I come to you because I need you to help me solve my problems and if you do that for me, I will be back." I think that's something that we all think about as we build and run dev2dev, and if that's not what we are doing, we want to hear about it from the community because we want to make it better. People should know that we definitely want feedback, we definitely want to hear from people, we want to know from our community how to make this better.

*  *  *

To submit feedback to the dev2dev team, email [email protected] or use the Feedback form located at http://dev2dev.bea.com/surveys/feedback.jsp.

*  *  *

Also on the dev2dev team:
Scott Fallon
is vice president of developer relations at BEA Systems, Inc. Before BEA, he worked at Crossgain, a startup founded by Adam Bosworth (which was sold to BEA in the summer of 2001). Prior to that, Fallon held positions at Microsoft, including managing the company's breadth ISV program, developer marketing, and product management. Other technology roles included product management responsibilities at Microrim Hewlett-Packard.

Will Iverson is senior content manager of dev2dev Online. Will's development career dates back to the earliest stages of Java. He has worked in a variety of development, product management, and evangelism roles for Apple, Sun, Symantec, and others.

Ryan O'Hara is senior product manager of BEA dev2dev products. He previously ran finance for XML startup Crossgain, was Visual Studio business manager for Microsoft, and has held a variety of other finance and marketing roles. Peter Ziatek is product development manager for dev2dev. Peter oversees all of the development effort that goes into dev2dev and is responsible for all platform upgrades and site functionality. He joined BEA two years ago after spending time at Silicon Graphics and AT&T.

More Stories By WebLogic News Desk

WLDJ News Desk trawls the world of e-commerce technologies for news and innovations and presents IT professionals with updates on WebLogic related technology trends, products, and services.

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