Author Archives: Brandon West

About Brandon West

As a Developer Evangelist for SendGrid, Brandon's focus is on empowering developers to build things, gathering feedback for new features and improvements, and fostering a cooperative developer community for anything that needs email integration.

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Articles Posted by Brandon


The 4 S’s of a Good API Demo

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Guy Kawasaki’s “The Macintosh Way,” is packed with good advice and is a quick read that you should absolutely check out. You can get The Macintosh Way as a free download. In it, there’s a chapter called “How to Give Good Demo,” where Kawasaki suggests that good demos should be short, simple, sweet, swift, and substantial, and that starting with a script that satisfies these requirements is the foundation for success. As sound as Guy’s advice is, we face different limitations than he faced in 1983. Our audiences have a way to tune out a bad demo instantly by grabbing

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Open Source Documentation: One Year Later

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A year ago, we open sourced our documentation, with the hypothesis that it would improve the docs by adding feedback loops and removing barriers that discourage contribution. We also wanted to share what we had learned during the process. I’m glad to say that so far the results have been good, and the decision to open source our documentation continues to help us improve it as a product. Where We Are Now We’ve had 59 different contributors to the docs repo since we open sourced it, with around 15 of those contributors being community members rather than SendGrid employees. Considering

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The 3 C’s of Developer Relations

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A lot of people ask what a Developer Evangelist does, and the answers can vary a bit depending on which company they work for, and how the team is placed within the organization. Regardless of the tactics in place, all of them are based on a few core principles of Developer Relations, which I call the 3 C’s: Community, Code, and Content. Community If you don’t have a way to reach developers, your Developer Relations program isn’t worth much. At SendGrid, our main strategy is “give first”–the more successful start-ups there are, the better off everyone is. As Tim has said

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4 Common Antipatterns to Avoid in Your Documentation

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Design patterns are powerful things. They help us short-circuit a lot of trial and error by relying on the past experience of others. They provide a common lexicon for communicating complex concepts. And, applied thoughtfully, design patterns improve our understanding of our craft as well as its effectiveness. And you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned software. Design patterns exist for many disciplines, and the core concept originated in architecture. One of my personal favorite pattern languages comes from the book Presentation Patterns, and it describes common solutions for problems encountered when preparing for and delivering technical presentations to audiences. Teachers also

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Technical Debt is Not a Bad Thing

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If you work around developers, you have probably heard the term “technical debt.” It’s a widely used metaphor that is useful when considering how to build and maintain software. The term was coined by Ward Cunningham, a computer scientist who created the idea of a wiki and contributed heavily to the development of object-oriented design patterns. But even though the metaphor is widely used in the world of software development, I meet a lot of people who don’t understand what technical debt is and why it matters, or people who are completely unfamiliar with the term. What Is Technical Debt?

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How I Evaluate A Developer Evangelist Candidate

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Interviewing a developer evangelist is tricky because there’s a variety of hard and soft skills required. An evangelist has to be a strong developer, but also has to wear many other hats, work horizontally across departments, and be an engaging and helpful participant at events. If you’re wondering what the day-to-day duties of an evangelist might look like, check out the blog post I wrote after my first year as an evangelist. Standout Qualities I don’t give candidates an engineering test. I don’t care if they know which sorting algorithm is the fastest and I’m not going to ask someone

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Why Mind Maps are Awesomesauce

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About a year ago I started using mind maps to help me organize presentations, meeting topics and blog posts and I’ve found that it works really well for me. Mind maps help me take broad, abstract ideas and turn them into concrete, real world examples that I can use to help tell a story. What is a mind map? It’s basically a branching diagram. From wikipedia: A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts

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