“Give Me a Good Visual Experience”

It’s easy to put developers in a box. And, while trends are supported by the anecdotes we are generating in this series, the delight is in the details. So is the insight. Developers like Julia Nash crave an uninterrupted visual experience. Maybe it’s because she came to love programming through gaming and game development.

Julia doesn’t mind native advertising. In fact, she prefers it. If she trusts the publisher and the information is valuable, she’d rather have a uniform visual experience and discover the content was sponsored once she’s clicked on it—not before.

Side Gig––Game Developer

Tell me about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do (role), where do you work (if you can say), and what attracted you to a career as a developer?

I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and I still live here. I like Dallas. I have visited lots of places for my job, but I still really like it here. I love the thunder storms.

I’ve worked for IBM for about 4 years. Until recently, I was an AI Solutions Engineer. My current job is a suite a roles. I am an acting Offering Manager within the Cognitive Applications sector. Our sector works on developer outreach and the website our content is published on is called IBM Developer, formerly known as Developerworks. The offerings that I manage are IBM Cloud Private, IBM Edge Computing, and IBM Multicloud Manager for developer advocacy.

I also watch over Security since I have a passion for it. I am the Lead in Digital Syndication for IBM Developer and the Project Manager of the IBM Developer Mobile App, which you can find for free on the Appstore and Google Play. But formally my title at IBM is defined as “Software Developer.”

Even with the many hats I wear, I still find time to develop after work. My beginning in programming was with the Adventure Game Studio engine. I made a slackbot that crawls events across the world for my product. Then I made an application for tracking my syndication efforts using Cassandra for storage, but it wasn’t GDPR compliant so it was never placed live. I recently put together a Kubernetes trivia game from a mass of codepens strung together that is on IBM Coder. I am currently focused on building an RPG game in Gamemaker Studio.

There are a lot of areas I’m passionate about, including edge computing and security. I get to do them all. It’s a fun job. I like the marketing side as well—especially the guerrilla marketing aspect―and making things friendly to developers.

What developer community(-ies) to you participate in and why?

StackOverflow (SO) because of things like spaCy NLP, or dumb mishaps with responsive design, or figuring out issues I’ve encountered in development.- SO is a saving grace for time spent troubleshooting, for sure. Also Dev.to (it’s just fresh), Codepen, Smashing Magazine, Feedly—I love all of these websites on the regular. I use to be on Medium reading a lot, but the changes in the paywall made me stop even visiting the website.

I love Udemy. I know a lot of developers have backlash against Udemy, but I know a ton of developers who have benefited from Udemy, too. I have over 200 courses on that platform. I like the variety of time length on the courseware and the volume of courses offered. I am a huge, huge fan of CodeAcademy, which has taught me a ton in my development knowledge. I have a Premium account on there. I also have an account on C9 IDE and use Plunker regularly when I just want to try something out real quick.

I like IRC––channels there like freenode. I also like to go to CodeProject for the info.

What is the newest tech you are using, learning, and/or excited/curious about?

Edge computing. Anything to reduce dizziness and that sinking feeling in the stomach when playing an immersive VR game gets a checkmark from me. Also, anyone who has played The Sims or Elder Scrolls as a PC gamer knows about the terrors of latency and slow frame refresh rates and will appreciate the benefits. C# with Gamemaker Studio 2 engine as well.

I have played Earthbound (Mother 2) most summers of my life and have a huge passion for homebrew games and 2D design. Actually, I just bought a custom Gameboy Advance with AGS 101 brighter screen mod and a built-in brightness adjuster when I woke up this morning for playing the Mother 3 fan-translation game. I am making a game in Gamemaker about a girl named Aqua that I built by the pixel. I’m experimenting with Adobe Illustrator as well as doing small Unity projects.

Where do you go for info about developer tools?

That’s Google Search to GitHub, basically. I have 100+ stars in GitHub. I like searching GitHub and landing on a project that looks interesting and reading its README. I also use Udemy courseware introducing the tools to simplify a process, Makerspace meetups on web development or machine learning, and my development mentors at my company.

I’ve done a lot of capture the flag exercises for security, and Google dorking is one of the first things you learn to do intelligently. Usually, I wind up in GitHub. I stay pretty loyal to my tools. I use Plunker for my browser IDE. If I want to experiment with a new program or setting up, I go to my cloud IDE, C9. If I’m doing actual development, I’ll stay locally and go with Sublime. I haven’t transitioned to Atom. I just really like Sublime. I’m pretty loyal, unless I’m using a different operating system— then I might go to PyCharm or something.

What type of ads related to tools for your work attract your attention? Why?

I like text ads that don’t have “Sponsored” by the text or that even remotely tell me they are ads. I don’t like disclosure. I would rather the website look clean and beautiful than have little notes to me with opacity at 0.4 being “Sponsored by” or “Sponsored Ad.” I can and will preview that web address I’m being sent to and see where it goes.

I have a finite amount of things I can look at while working or outside of work every day in a few precious hours of time. I do not want to look at text telling me there is something there leading me somewhere else online when I know it’s a link. I can lead myself and check the web address by myself if I want to visit that link.

I like ads that I don’t feel like I need to run through Virustotal before clicking when I look at the URL in preview as well. If it’s an image ad, it needs to catch my eye, be futuristic or modern in design, or be colorful or fun.

I don’t want the webpage I’m viewing to not look pretty! I don’t want something that says “ad.”  Native advertising that fits in is my jam. I like it more if there is no disclosure. I click on it, and I figure it out. If it helped me, I don’t care if it was an ad. I guess it reflects more of a front end design perspective, which is where my heart is.

Do you click on the ad or search the product/advertiser and view it on a separate browser instance instead?

I’m happy to click on the link. It has to do with how it looks. There are websites with questionable content where the dev community knows there might be viruses, so you might have run it through Virustotal. So different websites are known for not having great security. If I find content there, I’ll check every single link.

But sites like CodeProject, they have high standards. In CodeProject, I’ll click on the link because I know they care about their community. It’s all about knowing who the publisher is and how the community views that publisher. I know if it’s safe or unsafe to click.

How do you feel when you visit content or another site you are interested in, that was advertised to you, only to find that you have to give a phone number to get what was offered?

I think it’s a scam. Then I don’t examine if it was a scam or not, I just move on.

For the sites that I do give a phone number, it’s almost like an embarrassment for the company. I’ve done that, and the person on the line who’s calling me, I feel like it’s embarrassing for that employee. It’s almost like I’m on the phone comforting them, because my first question is, “Why are you calling me?” Then they start stumbling, and then I find I’m comforting them. I think it makes it embarrassing for that company and that person calling me. I feel pretty empathetic for the person on the other line.

I’ll just ask them how their day is going, then say I’m not interested. I do think about why their company is making them do that. There’s not even a relationship and they are making their employees reach out to someone without giving them something constructive to work with.

Same as above – except when you are asked to give your credit card info?

I qualify the content and intention of why I am interested in the first place for the ad. How many hops are we talking about here? If it happens in one click and opens an ad and asks for my credit card? Any person is going to think twice about giving their credit card information. For APIs I’ll think about it pretty deeply. If you have a free tier, and then you’re being charged––it has a pinch.

At what point do you navigate away when you visit content you want, but encounter a lot of requests for personal information? Email? Name? Phone number? Credit card? Other?

It’s usually when it’s the credit card and I qualify that I don’t want it ‘that’ badly. Sometimes I have put pen to paper and done a pros and cons list even.

Once this happens, how do you feel about that brand or product?

I feel disappointed or sad about the changing state of the internet, appreciate open source technology and my websites that I know that have open source content, and apathetically indignant or affronted. It’s like “here you go, oh, I’m sorry, I’m taking it away.” A lot of Medium’s content has started doing that. I just stopped going there.

Have you ever found a technology and purchased it based on an ad run in your developer community? Why or why not?

No, because normally purchases have been through corporate. But, if I’m onboarding a new tool, it’s being presented to me by an instructor. That’s how I got C9 actually. It was a development tool presented to me.

As ads go, whenever I see ‘sponsored ad’ I just roll my eyes. I haven’t paid for the services from an ad. But if the tool is introduced in a course, yeah, I’ll get it if the instructor advises it.  Essentially, based on a recommendation from another developer—that’s when I purchase a tool.

Is there anything you’d like to say that I haven’t asked?

I think companies are trying to be friendly to developers, but that gets lost in their business goals. But, I think things are changing about companies’ attitudes toward developers, because developers are being seen more and more as decision makers. The trend is that marketing and advertising is becoming more friendly to developers. Or, at least, that’s what I hope.

That’s a Wrap

Julia sees a hopeful future as tool developers and marketers embrace what the data shows—that developers influence purchases. Marketing content that helps her understand how to do something she is interested in or needs to do for her work is marketing that Julia is willing to consume. Her biggest influence for acquiring a tool or product? Other developers, specifically those that she engages with to learn how to use a resource or tool. To engage Julia, place your content natively on a trusted developer-to-developer community website. She’ll click, and if she thinks she needs it to succeed, she’ll commit! Just don’t mess up her view.