At JetBrains, pretty much everyone is a developer. From our CEO, all the way through to our Product Managers and QA. Even our head of Marketing has contributed with code to IntelliJ. As such, we get to dogfood our own products quite a bit, which provides us with a lot of feedback for improvements and new features. However, this has it’s drawbacks too. As developers and consumers of the products, we work with them mostly in ways that are “expected”, and often miss that angle where tools are used in manners they weren’t set out to be.
That is why our users opinion, that is, yours, is fundamental, and by far the most important aspect of the feedback cycle. Different users, different companies work in different ways. For us, it’s important to know this. This kind of feedback is often provided by email, support forums or even the occasional blog post or twitter. However, it is sometimes hard to understand certain things without looking at the bigger picture, and that is not always easy to communicate over electronic media.
What would be ideal, would be to sit down with our users and see how they work, the problems they face and what we can do to improve things; to get actual face time. We’ve been thinking about how to do this and come up with an idea, an experiment, that might work, might not. But as they say, it is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
Coming to a location near you
JetBrains exhibits at many conferences worldwide, on different technologies and topics. At each of these conferences, different teams attend. If it’s a .NET conference or cross-platform, we have members of the .NET team and some of the cross-platform tools such as TeamCity and YouTrack attend. If it’s a Java Conference, members of the IntelliJ attend. When exhibiting at conferences, you usually need to arrive a day or two before and leave a day after. Also many conferences have limited exhibit hours so often you end up with free time on your hands. Being in a country, where you have already had to cover travel expenses, seems like a great opportunity for meeting with customers.
As such, we are reaching out to our customers who would like to have the developers of the products they use daily, on-site to share with them their experiences, the challenges they face, the good, the bad and the ugly.
This is not a sales meeting, nor is it about training
These sessions are not about training nor sales. Those fall into different categories. These sessions are about having a relaxing two-way communication with customers. For this to be successful, we need both parties to genuinely be interested. From our side, only developers that are voluntarily willing to take part in the program will do so.
What is the process?
We’re playing this in an Agile way. Since this is an experimental program, we are still trying to shape things, but much of the decisions we need to make depends on how successful the program will become. In other words, we are not going to set up a sophisticated application process before we know there is sufficient demand for it. Right now we are going to use the tools that are at our disposition, and luckily we have one good one: Social media.
Before every event comes up, once we have most of the logistics and people coordinated, we will let all our customers that are on Facebook or following some of the Twitter accounts know we will be in town. If you are interested, you can contact us to set something up. To begin with (and most likely in the long term), it will be based on a first-come first-served basis. Once we have the quota complete, we will let all whom applied know.
If it proves to be successful, then we’ll look into setting up a more 21st Century automated system. Until then, we’ll play YAGNI.
We have many developers, Product Managers and QA members genuinely interested and committed to making this work. We hope this feeling is mutual.
On a side note, although this isn’t exactly the same, we do have a JetBrains Community Night coming up at DevCon in London, on the 29th of Septemeber where we’ll be meeting with customers. If you’d like to come, please make sure you sign up as places as limited