Twitter employees are packing up the bus and going out on a listening tour in a bid to win the developer community back. The company’s developer advocates will be visiting nine cities, five in the United States and four abroad, to meet with web and mobile app developers and hear about what they are building, and perhaps how Twitter could help.
The event has been dubbed the international #HelloWorld developer tour, a name inspired by comments CEO Jack Dorsey made at the developer conference called Twitter Flight last October. “Somewhere along the line, our relationship with developers got a little bit complicated. We want to come to you today and first and foremost apologize for our confusion,” Dorsey said onstage in San Francisco in front of thousands of developers and his own employees.
Dorsey encouraged developers to tweet their feedback and suggestions for what Twitter could do with the hashtag #HelloWorld.
Developers on Twitter: please tweet your ideas and requests using hashtag #helloworld. We're listening!
— Jack (@jack) October 21, 2015
And they did. The first three days drew 5,746 tweets, TechCrunch reported, and the hashtag has continued to be used for the desired purpose:
— Alex Singleton (@theAJSingleton) November 29, 2015
— Ky Ekinci (@KyEkinci) November 24, 2015
— Markus Sagebiel (@msgbi) November 16, 2015
Now, the Twitter team is expanding from online and going to meet with developers and other tech influencers in person. This won't be the first global tour for the developer team. Last year, following the company’s 2014 conference, where Twitter announced Fabric, its new software developer kit, employees also traveled to further explain what Twitter had to offer.
The traveling employees not only have Fabric to chat about but also have the larger Twitter story and commitment to developer relations to explain. “I hope they get a clearer picture for what Fabric can do,” Bear Douglas, a developer advocate at Twitter, told International Business Times. “There are all of these individual pieces. It can be hard to see the broader picture and feel like they have the sources.”
Douglas works in a team of about 50 employees in Twitter’s in-house developer advocacy team. Since Flight 2015, she and the team have been communicating with developers on what their services can do. Her team has held “Periscope office hours,” where they invite developer advocates and members of Twitter’s engineering team to answer questions about the developer tools and the main site.
— TwitterDev (@TwitterDev) January 13, 2016
This year, Douglas began publishing a “mobile app playbook,” or tips on how to build mobile apps. “We don’t pretend to have all the answers, and you certainly don’t have to use all the tools we mention — but we’d like to pay it forward, based on knowledge we’ve gathered from colleagues and learned by making mistakes,” she wrote in the first post.
Accessing the playbook and using Twitter Fabric are free for developers. The revenue comes in if the developers opt to run advertising through MoPub, from which Twitter takes a cut of the ad dollars.
But for Twitter, it’s also about rewriting its reputation. The company has had a shaky relationship with developers throughout its history. Even when it promised it would improve, the company cut access to Politwoops, the collection of deleted tweets from politicians. That API access has since been restored.
“It was really important that we show the community we were listening,” Douglas said of her team’s work post-Flight.
Instead of spending just a day or two in each city like last year, the Twitter team will visit each stop for a week. That extension will allow the employees to give a big presentation of their toolkit and invite people into their offices in each location as well as attend meetups and connect with the local tech community. Whether it’s using MoPub for ad dollars or the Twitter API for data, Douglas hopes the developers will “tell us what’s working for them.”