First lifter event: thanks! and beginning of followup

Hi, all! This past Friday we had our first in-person lifter event, and I wanted to share some background, notes, and takeaways that will hopefully be interesting to all of you.

Tl;dr: we brought together a bunch of lifters in Boston; it was fun, educational, and really energizing for the Tidelift team and the lifters who were there.

What we did and why

We decided a few months ago that it was time to engage more deeply with lifters, and in particular the most active and constructive lifters. We want to be more open and transparent about what we’re building, and to learn more about your needs. Being face-to-face is a great, effective way to do both of those things.

With that goal in mind, we scheduled our first lifter event, and invited sixteen lifters who have been highly engaged in our discussions and product research. They represented several big communities—JavaScript, Java, Ruby, and Python were all present—and many places as well, including lifters from the Netherlands, Canada, and Argentina. Most of the Tidelift team were also there, including our newest hire on the lifter engagement team (Blaine Bublitz, an open source maintainer himself) and many of our engineers who were excited to meet developers of tools they use regularly.

What we told attendees

We split the event into two main parts. We started with three talks and open Q&A to give some deeper background on Tidelift and how we think about it.

@dff led off with some background on Tidelift—why we exist and what we’re doing. Probably most importantly, he dove into our business model—what it is, how it works, and why you should feel comfortable that it’ll work to create income for you.

@havocp followed with a product demo. The focus was showing how the work you do creates things subscribers will pay for—literally, often, showing lifter and subscriber screens side-by-side. (We expect tying these things together clearly will be a big priority for our product team in the future.)

@cdgrams and @amy then followed up to explain our sales and marketing approach. We rely heavily on lifters to get the word about us to their users, and so this talk gave some numbers to explain why that is, and how advocating the Tidelift Subscription to your users benefits you.

What we heard

After we gave this background in the morning, in the second part, we focused on gathering feedback from attendees in two sessions: one about product and one about sales/marketing. We got a lot of detailed, useful feedback.

There was so much detail that it is hard to summarize it all, but a few key things that jumped out at me were:

  • We can do a better job explaining the Tidelift model! We’ll be working hard to improve that.
  • You want more marketing data, showing how your efforts translate into sales leads. We’ll explore how we can do this without drowning you in details that aren’t actionable.
  • Automation is even more important than we’d realized—we’d started that with some API work, but we’ll be pushing harder on it.
  • There’s still a lot of opportunity for communication and education even for very experienced maintainers, like this group, both about boring stuff (licensing! indemnification!) but also about more fun stuff, like maintainer communities that cross language/platform barriers.
  • You’re really eager to experiment with us! We’re still learning how this model might fit into all the things you do with your projects and life, so this is important and exciting.

A highlight for me was how excited people were once things clicked, and it was even better once we started to see some feedback from @ForbesLindesay, @nedbat, and others after the event.

Next steps

There’s a bunch of next steps we’re working on right now. Among others:

  • Making it easy to find other lifters: we heard from several people at the event that they’d happily promote Tidelift to other maintainers, if it was easier to discover which packages and people might benefit. We’re planning to post that information in a more convenient format in the next day or so. (We’ll also be working to publish lifter-focused versions of the “explain Tidelift to your co-workers” materials, but in the meantime those can also be helpful!).
  • Product improvements: too many to list here, but expect to see our product team drilling down on these in upcoming weeks and months.
  • Videos: we plan to film versions of the explanatory talks we gave so that all of you, and potential lifters, can watch.
  • Next event: we plan to do more of these, probably in both virtual and real-world versions. Watch this space :slight_smile:

Thanks

Finally, I can’t talk enough about how energizing and informative this was for the Tidelift team. We really are doing this because we want to do the right thing for maintainers, so having conversations with you face-to-face will always be a great pleasure for us.

That so many of you took the time to travel and talk with us was amazing—we really appreciate it! Too many small, fun moments to catalog here, but suffice to say that the hallway and conversations over food were lots of fun.

Questions?

We will keep increasing the number of folks we meet in-person in the future! In the meantime, we’re here as always for any questions about the event, the company, the Tidelift Subscription, etc.—please don’t hesitate to keep asking questions.

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