We're all exploring the frontier of human connection, discovering what’s possible and what community can and should be. In this keynote, Orbit co-founders Patrick Woods and Josh Dzielak discuss our human-centric take on community growth, and how Orbit is building the tools and resources you need to facilitate meaningful experiences for members and meet your business goals.
Patrick Woods: Welcome everyone. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, happy tea time. Hope you're having some good crumpets over there in the UK. Wherever you're calling in from for Nexus today, we're so excited to see you. And I am personally very thrilled and honored that you would choose to spend some time with us today. Welcome to Nexus. This is our first user conference ever, and you're here and you're a part of it. And so today we're going to hear about some product announcements, we're going to hear about some cool stuff coming up in terms of the Orbit model and the content and the community we're building here. We're going to have some moments of play, including some music and some comedians. Most importantly, there will be time for connection because that's what Nexus is all about.
Patrick Woods: The definition of Nexus is a connecting point, the most central location between a bunch of nodes in a network. And we're so happy at Orbit to be the central connection for your community platforms, but we're also so happy that you're here today spending time with us connecting with each other here on the frontier of community growth. Nexus is our first user conference, but Orbit's been live for almost exactly a year today. And we've come a long way since then. To celebrate that momentum, I wanted to pull up some key stats from the old file cabinet here in the back. We've published 78 blog posts and the first edition of our magazine that so many of you have been sharing online, and that's been really fun to see those pictures come in of you taking pictures of Gravity magazine. We've hosted 57 community events, that includes, meetups conferences, virtual gatherings, you name it. We've added 38 integrations to the Orbit product, including many third party tools that you yourselves have built on top of our platform.
Patrick Woods: And Orbit is now used by around 10,000 people who are managing the activities of over 30 million community members across their communities. Not only that, Justin from the engineering team turns out we've shipped around 416 bugs. We'll let Josh comment on that later, whether that's accurate or not. We've rolled back to production around 18 times, and we've grown the team from 11 to 51 amazing people on this journey with us. And beyond that, we've onboarded half a dozen cats and a few kids to the Orbit team along the way. So it's a growing family, growing community, and I'm glad you're here with us. That's a little bit about Orbit history over the past year. And in that context of all the growth we've seen here at the company, we've had hundreds of conversations with you all and people just like you to understand what are you thinking about, how are you approaching building community, how are you driving the field forward?
Patrick Woods: You've given us great ideas about measuring ROI and understanding impact and finding and managing champions and operationalizing community teams. And to me that says you're all with us on this journey of exploring the frontier of human connection together and discovering what's possible when we as an industry come together and share best practices and ideas. And if you're here at Nexus, we know that you're interested in those themes of trying new tools and uncovering new tactics and discussing new strategies to move the practice of community forward. And figuring out what community can and should be. So if you're here at Nexus today, you're certainly interested in growth. And that can mean growth as you as a professional or growth of your community. And what we found is that growth is essential to a thriving community. It prevents stagnation, and it creates new energy and new connections and enables the community to have a bigger impact overall.
Patrick Woods: But growth can mean different things. The context of high tech, growth often means up into the right, and to the moon, and growth at all costs. But in the context of community, growth can be very nuanced. It can mean increasing the number of active members, it can mean strengthening the bonds between the existing members or improving the quality of contributions that each member is making. When we think about growth here at Orbit, we think about growth meaning facilitating the meaningful experiences for community members. That's powerful conversations and discovering and introducing new opportunities. It could be helping someone, finding a job for someone or just showing off something you made.
Patrick Woods: Today's sessions at Nexus really focus on the various nuances of what growth can mean in a community. Today we'll be talking a lot about meaningful conversations and getting very explicit about what growth can mean. Our hope is that today you leave equipped with the tools and the concepts and the ideas to meet your community growth goals and have the impact on your company and your organization that you're hoping to have for the coming weeks and quarters. So to that end, we're excited to introduce you to the all new Orbit model. Now, it not only gives you a way to visualize your community, but it also provides a more nuanced understanding of the community and the connections with them such that you can grow your community in an effective and healthy way. So now I'm going to pass the baton to my co-founder and Orbit's CTO Josh Dzielak to unpack the past and the future of the Orbit model. Josh?
Josh Dzielak: Well, thanks Patrick, and hi everyone. I'm Josh, and I'm going to tell you about the Orbit model. To start, I'm going to talk about the history of the Orbit model and for those of you who are new or who just aren't familiar with it yet. Now, it was created in 2014 just as a whiteboard drawing and just as an exercise in exploring the community to try to figure out who's really where and what do different members need. In 2016, I used the Orbit model to help plan the programs of the developer relations team in Algolia. And in 2019, Patrick and I co-authored a blog post called why Orbit is better than funnel for developer relations. And it seems like this hit a nerve with a few people who thought that maybe the funnel wasn't the right way to think about building developer community.
Josh Dzielak: And fast forward to 2022 where we have hundreds of companies and thousands of people who have read the model and many who are practicing it every day. Now, before I go into what the changes are, I want to just take a minute and explain what the model is, again, especially for anyone here who's new. So we say that the Orbit model is a framework for building high gravity communities. And a high gravity community is one that retains and attracts members. It's a community that's able to receive new members and then move them up to higher levels of involvement over time. A high gravity community has to optimize for a member experience that's really, really good. It has to create a context where members get valued by participating more and putting in more of their own time. And last but not least, the Orbit model also has a way to think about the connection between community and business outcomes. And I'll be getting into that in just a bit.
Josh Dzielak: Now, one question you might have is why are we updating the Orbit model? Well, as you've heard before, Orbit is used by thousands of organizations now, and it's used to manage millions of members. That's a lot different than a few years ago when we created the model. You see, now we have such a rich data set where we can see how communities form, how they evolve, and how they grow over time. That's one of the inputs that we used to build the Orbit model. And the other input is your feedback. The Orbit model is an open source project, it's been on GitHub since 2019. And that's led to a lot of conversations happening in issues, in PRs. But that's not the only place, we also get a lot of feedback in our Discord community at our community events and in many of the one-on-one conversations we have for you.
Josh Dzielak: So a lot of the changes to the Orbit model are really thanks to your feedback. There are three main changes that I'm going to highlight today. One is that there's now a way to calculate gravity. The second one is that there's a better system for mapping how members fit into Orbit levels. And the third is that we have a way to quantify business impact. We have a way that's stronger than before to talk about how the Orbit model connects to outcomes in the business. Before I dig in and tell you a little more about those changes, I want to say that we're announcing a brand new website today for the Orbit model. This new website has definitions, explanations, calculations, and examples of all of the different concepts in the Orbit model family. So I highly encourage you to check that out after the keynote.
Josh Dzielak: To give you a little bit of information before you get there, I'm going to tell you about the change to gravity. Now, gravity can now be calculated. Before gravity was an idea, now it's actually a metric along with an idea. And what does the metric mean? Well, it's the measure of the rate at which member involvement is changing in the community. If gravity is going up, it means that more members are getting more active quickly or quicker than before. If gravity is going down, it means that members are coming in but there's nowhere for them to go or there's nowhere for existing members to go to deepen their involvement. Now, we thought very long and hard about gravity and what should go into the metric. For us, there are three different things that are really the test of a good metric. One, if it encourages the right behaviors, two, if it's difficult to game, and three, that if it can be used to benchmark.
Josh Dzielak: We think gravity is very important as a benchmark across communities because, well, one, there isn't a benchmark that exists today. And two, it's very important for community builders to be able to have conversations about what's working in my community, and how am I measuring the outcome of that? And creating a sense of together what do we think a good community is? What is a good rate of involvement for a community based on different stages of its growth? Now, I'm going to tell you about two more changes before I go. The first one is to the Orbit levels. The Orbit levels have long been a foundation of the Orbit model, and there's four of them. The names for the levels are building, contributing, participating, and exploring. However, we've made one change to the first Orbit level, and we've renamed it from building to leading. We think that leading better reflects the role that community members at that level are playing.
Josh Dzielak: We've also added the notion of steps to the Orbit levels. Every Orbit level has three steps. One for members that are just arriving at that level, another one for the members that are comfortable. And then another one for the members who are really demonstrating the highest amount of behavior at that level or who are really the example members at that level. And what this does is gives us more granularity to think about the member journey. We don't just have 4 way points, but we now have 12. And the last change I'll tell you about is impact. Now, we use the word impact to describe the relationship between the community and the business. The question of community ROI comes up all the time. And in the Orbit model, we don't think of the ROI coming from just one source, we think of it as coming from many sources. And each of the sources we call a flywheel.
Josh Dzielak: Flywheel is something where community activity is leading to a business outcome. And that can be in sales, marketing, success, support, product, engineering, really anywhere across the company. And that's why community is so powerful and can have such a large aggregated impact on the growth of all of our companies. We think very deeply about how to integrate the concepts of the model into the product. I want to remind everyone here that the Orbit model is a major influence in how we design the Orbit product. A lot of the concepts such as love and reach and gravity are in the product today or you'll see them coming very soon.
Josh Dzielak: Next, we want to take some time to dive into more about what's new in the product and where you can see it going in the future. Gravity is the force that's bringing everything together. And with the metric, you'll be able to calculate the gravity of your community. Gravity also has another special function that I haven't talked about yet, which is the relationship to growth. A high gravity community is able to grow in a sustainable way because there's room made for new members as other members get closer to the center of the community. To tell you more about community growth, let me pass it back to Patrick.
Patrick Woods: Thanks Josh. So today we've been talking a lot about this idea of growth, about community growth. So before we get into specific features of Orbit, I wanted to take a moment just momentarily and think just a little bit about what community growth means and why now is the time for this idea, for this trend. And I think it comes down to this idea that software is no longer sold, but it's adopted. So for one, the purchasing power and the control of the sales conversation has completely flipped from a very sales dominated orientation to one where the customer, the consumer has knowledge they have power, they have information. If you think about when you are going to buy either some SaaS software or a new toaster oven, what do you do?
Patrick Woods: Well, you probably don't pick up the phone and call a sales rep to get an overview, you probably go and look perhaps on Reddit to see who's got the best reviews, to see what people are actually saying. You may go scroll through Amazon and see what the reviews say. You may search Twitter, you may search for blog posts for people tearing down the different options and exploring and providing a feature matrix of what's great and what's not. And the reality is people want to hear from other people, they want to engage sales sure at a certain part of the process. But if you think about the early explorations of folks buying software or buying tools really, it's about this idea of I want to hear from other humans about how they're using it and how they feel about the product in general. What that means for companies, it's this idea that for companies to remain competitive and to drive adoption, they really need to excel at education and experience and community in addition to all those traditional sales and marketing techniques.
Patrick Woods: When we think about these ideas of Orbit, we think about the distinction between a go-to-market strategy and a go-to-community strategy. See, every business has a go-to-market. They have big spreadsheets planning out the funnel and budgets, and there's various teams that are aligned around capturing value for the market. Which makes sense, that's what businesses have to do. But more and more, the companies that are winning, they're adopting a go-to-community strategy, which takes into account all of these different aspects of adoption and education and community and connection that we've been talking about today. So as we think about the companies that are effectively implementing a go-to-community strategy, the ones who are best in class out there building community, growing community with a high gravity approach.
Patrick Woods: And what we found is that the traditional tooling like old school sales and marketing CRMs, they just don't have the right data model or the mental models to support this new adoption-centric go-to-market. And so that's why we think the world needs the community growth platform. To understand the key pieces of a Community Growth Platform or CGP, we can compare them to some extent with the traditional CRM. A traditional CRM, it's built around the sales funnel, it's built around tracking job titles and roles and notes about sales conversations and understanding which companies are downloading white papers and what the potential deal size is. These are all important aspects of operating and running a business, but they certainly don't provide the detailed granular look at every single individual in a company's community. So as CGP when we think about the key parts, it's about understanding every individual within the network, how they're connected to each other, how they're connected to the parent community and brand.
Patrick Woods: It's understanding the impact of their presence and participation. This is essential to driving forward a go-to-community strategy. It's about bringing new like-minded users in and encouraging contribution. These are all aspects and features that a CGP should be able to enable. Now, there are some similarities to a CRM, but what we're finding is more and more is that sales folks are spending a lot of time in the CRM doing forecasting and reporting. But every customer facing team is beginning to use Orbit to take advantage of the functions and features of our community growth platform. So as we think about a CGP versus a CRM, there's a few different distinctions I want to highlight. There's philosophical differences, data model differences, and there's differences in the types of outcomes you can expect from those different tools. So at the philosophical level, CRMs, traditional tools, they're very focused on the sales and marketing funnel, whereas communities they're based on sharing insights and connecting people and driving advocacy and education.
Patrick Woods: Orbit is built on the Orbit model, which is focused on value creation. But this comes down to the data model as the data model layer as well, which may sound a little nerdy. And maybe it is, but we're community nerds. And so when you think about the data model for a CRM, they're premised on leads and accounts and pipeline, and these fundamental building blocks of the sales process. But a CGP should really focus on connections and interactions and who are your advocates and champions and influencers? And understanding the behavior of individuals as well as the interactions and the behaviors between pairs and groups of people. And so when you think about the what's powering your data model under the hood, we've built Orbit from the ground up based on the Orbit model as Josh just unpacked so eloquently. This is a first principle's re-imagining and understanding of the way communities actually increase growth and gravity over time.
Patrick Woods: So the tools should model the reality. And so that's why we've built Orbit on these key fundamental differences in the data model. And finally, the outcomes are really different. For community members, often the main outcome of a traditional CRM or a marketing tool is just lots of automated emails, which no one tends to want. But a community growth platform should enable your teams, your community teams, your DevRel teams, and really everybody in the company to understand the community in a more efficient way based on who they are and who they're connected to but also drive experiences that are relevant to who they are based on their Orbit level, based on their love, based on their gravity and tailor those interactions specifically to who they are and what makes sense for them in their journey with your community.
Patrick Woods: What we're finding is that a CGP is a full bore replacement for a CRM, it's just that over time every customer facing person in a community can be using the CGP to understand and grow the community and the CRM exists there to help you drive those sales, leads, and funnels and processes. So with a clear picture of the goal of the Orbit community platform, we want to talk now about how we're making Orbit even better at helping you build those sustainable relationships with users and customers and really trying to positively impact the whole organization and drive those outcomes across your communities. With that, I'll hand it back over to Josh.
Josh Dzielak: So what's new in Orbit? Well, since we launched Orbit a year ago, we've come a long way in making Orbit a easier, more integrated, and collaborative space for you and your organization. But we know that community still has several challenges to face. According to the 2022 CMX Community Industry Report the three top frustrations for community professionals were difficulty consistently engaging members, 46%, difficulty quantifying the value of community at 38%. And that community efforts are largely manual and not automated, and that was 34%. We've seen these frustrations reflected firsthand in the conversations that we've had with our own user community, and we're taking steps to address the challenges head on. That's why I'm excited to share updates across five key areas that will make it easier to automate repeatable tasks, prioritize key actions, and measure the impact of your community. So let's dig in.
Josh Dzielak: We have new integrations to connect to all of the places that community happens. Community is increasingly distributed. Our own constellation report, which digs into the tools that community builders use daily found that a typical community is spread across six platforms. So that's why we're investing in integrations to bring you all of your fragmented platforms together. We have new and improved integrations that bring your community to you with out-of-the box connections to Bevy, inSided LinkedIn, Reddit, YouTube, and DEV.to. Now the more data points, the easier it is to build a rich member profile to interact with community members and to create more engaging content and events. By bringing this data together from across your constellation of platforms, Orbit can provide you with more meaningful insights to grow your community.
Josh Dzielak: The next item I'm excited to tell you about are notifications. These are notifications that will let you take immediate action and consistently stay on top of the needs of your members. Orbit is going to take away the prioritization guesswork for you. The next item I'm excited to tell you about is notifications. Notifications help you take immediate action and consistently stay on top of member needs. We want to take the prioritization guesswork away so that you can focus on the most important activities to do with your members. You can now get notified when the first employee from a large organization joins your workspace. A certain number of employees join from a single organization, the first employee, the third employee all the way up to the 50th member. And you can also get a notification when a member has been inactive for two weeks. This is important when it's a member who is frequently active in your community and you haven't seen for a while. That often means that an action is a good idea.
Josh Dzielak: The third item I'm excited to tell you about is automations. Now, automations help you spend more time with your community by getting rid of repetitive tasks and giving you time back in your day. In addition to saving time, they also help you increase the accuracy of your community programs and the data that you run them with. You can now use keywords from activities to tag members automatically and use those tags to segment your community in different ways. For example, if a customer uses words like impactful or powerful in a community message, you can tag them with customer reference. And that will help you follow up and do an interview with them down the road to figure out why they love your product. The last area of product improvements that I'll tell you about has to do with the reports. And it connects back to what I was talking about earlier with the Orbit model. For the first time, you'll have a report dedicated to growth in your Orbit workspace, and you'll also have a report dedicated to gravity.
Josh Dzielak: The growth report will tell you about new members, returning members, and members who've drifted away. And it breaks it down by each of your community platforms, Slack, Discord, Discourse, GitHub, and more. The gravity report gives you a look at how fast member engagement is changing in your community. Effectively looking at the different composition of members in your Orbit levels and how that's changing over time. So we hope you will enjoy these new reports and that they will help you practice the changes to the Orbit model. But there's one more integration that we'd love to tell you about. And for that, I'll kick it back to Patrick.
Patrick Woods: Thanks Josh. So we've been working closely with Stripe to launch the Orbit app in the brand new Stripe app marketplace. The marketplace was announced just last week at Stripe Sessions and will be fully live coming in June. So the Orbit app for Stripe integrates your community member insights and data directly into your Stripe dashboard. So your, your support team, your finance team, sales, everyone in the company that's dealing with financial information will be able to get the full context about every single person in the community right inside of Stripe itself. So how does it work? First, you can get a snapshot of your community, including new member counts and activity charts right inside of the Stripe dashboard to give you an overview of what's going on out there.
Patrick Woods: Also, you can get a complete view of each customer with the latest community data from Orbit. And that includes things like activities and attributes like job title and social reach and love. It also includes notes your teammates have added, and even things like tags that have been added in the Orbit workspace. And finally, you'll save time just in terms of context switching between Orbit and Stripe. So you can actually add notes and tags directly from Stripe and those will show up in the Orbit workspace as well. So you can be one of the first to get your hands on the new app by registering to be notified when it's available in the marketplace in the coming weeks. Those are some of the ways we're investing in Orbit so that your teams can better tackle community growth. But there are other ways we're helping you do that too. We are investing in the Orbit model and improving and expanding its reach every single day.
Patrick Woods: We produce a quarterly print magazine called Gravity that highlights the best practices and big ideas in community building. We publish an annual state of community tools report called The Consolation Report. And so we think a lot about creating content and getting people together and contributing ideas to the field. But we decided we wanted to do even more to build the materials and knowledge that you need to succeed as a community builder. So we're delighted to announce that Orbit has acquired Hoopy. Matthew Revell and the team behind DevRelCon and developer relations are coming over to team Orbit. So Matthew and his folks have created some of the most popular, highest impact, and most valuable resources to help educate and professionalize the field of developer relations.
Patrick Woods: And by coming over to our team, we're confident that we'll be able to help them continue to do the great things that they've been doing on an even bigger scale. So we're excited to partner with them and invest in them to develop new resources and events that equip the industry and move the field forward together. So with that, I'm excited to bring Matthew up and have him share his future plans for DevRelCon and Developerrelations.com. He can tell you a little bit about what folks can expect from his team and what's next for DevRelCon. So Matthew?
Matthew Revell: Thank you so much, and I'm really excited to be here and part of Nexus as well. I just want to talk a little bit about the ways that Orbit and DevRelCon and developerrelations.com seemed like a completely natural fit to me. Back in 2015 when I was a few years into my DevRel career, I was looking around for people who could share their experience. But also crucially for me at the time, I wanted to think strategically about developer relations. So that's how I ended up starting DevRelCon back then. But what I think is interesting over the past seven years is how in that time we've gone from a space that was really mostly about people viewing what someone else was doing in their developer relations practice. And let's face it, most people weren't calling it developer relations then, it was technical evangelism or community management. It hadn't really become a thing of its own back then.
Matthew Revell: And they were looking at what other people were doing and trying to shoehorn that into their own company's needs, into their own community's needs with varying results really, not always good. You couldn't just look at what one company had done and hope it would work for you. So what I really appreciate about Orbit is amongst everything else, the Orbit model at the heart of it is this different way of looking at developer relations and develop a community that specifically takes the needs of developer relations and creates a framework for understanding how to measure how to think about develop community instead of trying to apply things from marketing or things from traditional sales management, whatever it might be.
Matthew Revell: And now because DevRelCon and eveloperrelations.com are part of a bigger family, if you like, with the investment from Orbit, we'll be able to do not only more interesting things but reach more people. So I want to talk a little bit about what we are going to do as part of Orbit now. One is I want to make it very clear that this isn't suddenly a big change. This is just an amplification of what we were doing before. This means that we can do more rather than necessarily different things. And so by more, what I mean is we're going to do more DevRelCons. We're already in very early stages of planning a Latin America DevRelCon probably in Brazil. We're looking at India and Kenya as well for in-person events when that's safe to do so.
Matthew Revell: But beyond DevRelCon, one of my own passions is around, as Patrick said earlier, the professionalization of what we do. And so for me, a big thing that I'm looking forward to working on within Orbit is a DevRel academy. That will enable us to train up the next generation of DevRel professionals so that when someone starts a job for the first time in DevRel or when they level up to a different, say becoming a manager, then they won't have to try and guess what to do or ask around their friends or just watch what other people have done. Instead, they'll have a framework for thinking strategically about what to do and an understanding of what tactics will get them to where they need to be.
Matthew Revell: So to me, that's one of the core exciting things that we're going to be able to do. But underlying that is a need for research. Because developer relations is relatively new, we haven't had the academic basis or even the commercial kind of consultant analyst driven basis of deep understanding to inform what we're doing as a profession. And so we are going to be hiring two people in a DevRel analyst role whose job will be to help us further our understanding of what develop relations is there to do, how to achieve that well but also to avoid some of the pitfalls and the traps that other people have come across before. So more DevRelCon, more DevRel newsletter, articles on Developerrelations.com, DevRel academy, and let's hope much more. I'm really excited to be here. Thank you Patrick and Josh for welcoming me and Hoopy into Orbit. And I'm really excited to see what comes next.
Josh Dzielak: Thank you Matthew and thank you Patrick, and thank you everyone for attending the Nexus keynote today. Please do join the chat to meet other attendees and ask any questions that you have. Patrick and I will be hanging out there all day as will many members of the Orbit team.
Patrick Woods: Yeah. And don't forget to register for one of our workshops tomorrow. So there are seven different interactive workshops that are going to equip you with skills to build and nurture and increase the gravity and growth of your community as well as identify champions and even lean into your community-centric pitch deck.
Josh Dzielak: You can also draw by the gravity booth to request our new imprint magazine series or drop by the Orbit model booth and learn more about the Orbit model updates.
Patrick Woods: And stick around after the show, we'll be hanging out in the chat and vibing to a live DJ session featuring Dharma Club. And of course, costumes are optional, but they're highly encouraged.
Josh Dzielak: So from all of us here at Orbit, thank you so much for attending our very first user conference, and I wish you a wonderful time at Nexus.