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Meet the Developer: Introducing Mark “Context Is Everything” Downie

September 20, 2018 - Developer Relations, Marketing to Developers - , , , ,
By: Yolanda Fintschenko

What about the developer?

Have you ever wondered about the developer experience of your advertising? If you are marketing to developers, you absolutely should. Our goal with the “Meet the Developer” series is to give you, the marketer, insight into individual developers.  Meet the people behind the code and learn about how they experience the advertising and content you are throwing at them.

Mark follows Scott Hanselman’s blog. In addition to following Scott’s blog, he has contributed as an interviewee on Scott’s podcast, Hanselminutes. Funnily enough, it was Mark’s own blog, poppastring.com, that indirectly motivated him to first reach out to Scott.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Mark about himself and what draws him to an ad or a product placed in his developer community.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Mark Downie, a lead software engineer for a financial services company in Columbus, Ohio. I spent 20 years as a developer. I have worked in many industries, including medical and financial, primarily concerned with the asp.net stack, and the web as both a medium for interacting a site and issuing commands, or creating APIs.

Why is Scott Hanselman and Hanselminutes important to you?

Scott and I –  we’ve never actually met. I had heard of him, because he travels a ton and gives a ton of great talks. He’s one of the first bloggers I’ve followed who is still around. I started to notice him because whenever I was asking really complicated problems on a topic, his blog would come up. I found that to be true for my peers, too.  

I run my own blog, Poppastring.com. It’s a platform to talk about technology and software, and the various ways it can transform the lives of everyday people.

The blogging engine I use is one Scott had developed open source. With the advent of social networks, I thought it would be good to modify this. So, I reached out to him with my ideas, and he encouraged me. After I had worked on improving it for a while, he asked if we could talk about it on his podcast. Now, I’m more connected to him on the interwebs [sic] through this project and other things. We seem to be virtually crossing paths a lot.

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

Definitely .NET Core. [ [There’s] a lot of energy around it. Until this point, I’ve been Windows with just a few forays into Linux and other stacks, but this has given me the ability to start working with other platforms and harness the experience of what I’ve done. It’s exciting. I’m also interested in Azure as a cloud infrastructure—and, of course, cloud in general.

Where do you go for info about developer tools?

I’m a bit of an unusual case, I think, because I still have RSS feeds that are constantly pinging me. I use Feedly to bring things in from MSDN (Microsoft Developer’s Network). I’ve got a lot of information coming from a variety of sources and platforms by using RSS feeds.

The other place I go is to the people I follow on Twitter.  I’ve now kind of tailored my Twitter feed to include just the people in the industry who can help me. Oh, and podcasts. I’ve been listening to Hanselminutes since Episode 1. It is great, very consistent. I listen to other podcasts, though those can be inconsistent, but the ones that have a regular cadence are good. 

What ads for developer tools and services attract you?

It has to be context specific. The ones that I’m drawn to have to be related to the place where I am looking. If I’m presented with an ad that is unrelated to the place where I am looking, I will never look at it. To me context is everything.

If you are interested in a product or service because of an ad, do you click on the ad or search the product/advertiser you see in the ad on a separate browser instance?

Do I click or search? It depends on how the ad looks. If I don’t recognize the product or company, then yes,  I will start a new instance. I may not trust them if I don’t recognize the company name. If I recognize it, I am less cautious, and I will start clicking around.

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

That’s a tough ask for me. Let’s say I even trust the advertiser—I still won’t do it. I may give my email or my social handle.  I don’t hand out my phone number.

Same as above – except about when you are asked for a credit card?

Give a credit card? Straight from an ad, I wouldn’t hand over a credit card number. I would need to have a relationship or need to know that [they] definitely have the product I need, ok, but that’s based on a relationship where I trust the vendor.

What makes you bounce? Meaning—At what point do you navigate away when you visit content or a tool trial that you want, but you encounter a lot of requests for personal information? Email? Name? Phone number? Credit card? Other?

I get frustrated with address info. Filling out address info is not usually something I’ll bother doing. 

Once you’ve been asked for a lot of personal information in order to take advantage of an offer, how do you feel about that brand or product?

I’m expecting that, so the question becomes, “Can I fulfill this anywhere else?” If the answer is no, I’ll put up with it. 

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

Yeah, I have.  I’m rarely clicking and buying. I’ll click, check, reach out to my social network.  Then I will make a decision about buying. And the less friction I have (like not having to give them a credit card to buy (I prefer PayPal), I’m even more likely to interact with them. 


Yolanda is a scientist, writer, marketer, coach and avid runner who lives and works in Livermore, CA.  She founded Common SciSense, a marketing company for technical products, and co-founded founderTRACTION, lean marketing services for startups. 

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