— Jeff Hadfield (@jhadfield) February 19, 2014
In the mid-to-late nineties, I worked for WordPerfect Magazines. Our charter then was much like the charter of CodeProject — to help people do their jobs better. Then, there were fewer developers in the world. This was even before widespread adoption of Visual Basic. We served thousands of WordPerfect macro developers — the precursors to today’s professional enterprise developers — who produced line-of-business automation solutions using the WordPerfect macro language.
Why do I bring this up? Not all of those macro programmers were on track to become professional developers. Many were simply highly proficient with their computer tools and used automation to make their tasks easier. These folks we called “empowered users,” which is just another way of describing what the BBC article linked above calls “citizen developers.”
What this means to us as industry observers and marketers is this: more than ever, it’s essential to know your audience. While near-ubiquitous computer literacy has changed our world, the citizen developer is not a professional developer and, I argue, is not the mainstream computer/mobile device user, either. Instead, the citizen developer is a savvy, technically literate person who understands the use of technology tools to streamline a task or automate a process. They’re not motivated by the same things as developers; they’re streamlining a personal project or tackling a problem they know firsthand. They’re the kind of person likely to use IFTTT, but not necessarily to teach themselves jQuery.
For most developer marketing professionals, this demographic is interesting to watch, but only as it affects their core audience: professional developers. If your products and services enable developers to allow some customization and automation inside the apps they build, then it’s useful to know how you’re indirectly empowering “citizen developers.”