How many times have you signed up to join a community or become a member of a site that had valuable information and they asked you “what is your title?” It seems like an innocuous question designed to understand the demographics of their site visitors. If they are a little more advanced in their approach, they might attempt to tailor their content to you based on your title.

Looking at it from the experience provider side, the title doesn’t turn out to be a very useful piece of information to capture.  When someone says their title is “Systems analyst,” what does that imply? Are they a programmer? A data cruncher of some kind? Possibly in the operations end of IT?  It is really hard to tell. Among the members who have joined the Cisco DevNet Developer Community to gain access to our curated learning experiences there were in fact more than 2000 unique titles entered over a 6 year period!

Initially, we sought to normalize these titles by analyzing similarity or cross-checking with LinkedIn, but still this didn’t help much to segment our audience for the purpose of personalizing content. Also – it takes a lot of time.

So, what should we do? Our goal is to provide direction to two key initiatives:

  1. make sure that when we send out developer information, it is relevant to the recipient
  2. provide metadata so that we can create personalization of content shown on the web site based on audience needs

Our solution was to think about this challenge in a different way. Rather than asking and attempting to infer their role, why don’t we just ask, “What is the primary area you work in now?”  This creates much more relevant metadata for the goal.  We implemented the change to our membership sign-up page, and also created a process to ask existing members when they log in to update their area of focus. Within 3 months or so, we had an actual idea of our real audience.

Now we could stop telling other teams within the company broad generalizations about our primary audience (network engineers) vs. some of the audiences we are working to reach (SRE/DevOps and software developers).  This also means that we can properly resource in our developer advocates, and community teams to spend effort where it will have the most impact. We actually were reaching more of our second two audiences than we thought, and that explained some of the traffic numbers hitting one kind of content type vs. another.

How about your team? Do you still primarily collect titles from your visitors? If you do ask about role, how has that impacted your investment in resources? Send me a comment in the field below.

Find the Cisco developer community that can help you in your role.


Ray Stephenson

Sr Director

Developer Relations