My problem with tech influencers

Michele Riva
4 min readDec 23, 2023

In the past few years, I had the privilege and the honor to participate in dozens of conferences as a public speaker. I created content and contributed to open-source software full-time for a while. And here’s why I’ve never wanted to get into the world of content creators full-time.

Mandatory disclaimer

This post generalizes a lot around some common patterns I lived first-hand and may not reflect everyone’s experience. Please acknowledge that what you’re reading is a personal opinion and does not target anyone in particular.

My experience creating content

Creating content is a hard job. I’ve been making different kinds of content for quite a while now, publishing a book, writing tech articles, making YouTube videos, hosting a podcast, talking to conferences, and more.

Even though I’ve never wanted the “content creator” label, I reject it completely to describe the activities I have pursued in the last few years.

That is to say, I understand the challenges and the dedication required to create content regularly. It’s hard.

I joined NearForm in 2022 initially as a Senior Architect, conducting architectural reviews for our clients to let them save millions of dollars each year on infrastructure costs. That was a perfect position for me to learn more about real-world, high-scale problems and how to solve them.

I was lucky enough to be part of a top-level team, where I was definitely the less experienced one. The perfect position for when you want to grow — always be the less experienced in the room.

With my experience at NearForm, I created a lot of content, especially conference talks, and my team eventually became the NearForm Developer Experience Team. We mainly focused on coding open-source software such as Node.js core, Fastify, Lyra (which later became Orama, the core component of my current company), and TC39 (providing polyfills for new JavaScript specifications).

It was the perfect moment for me to move from being a software architect to a developer relations engineer. But I didn’t, eventually landing a promotion to staff engineer instead.

The more I focused on creating content, the less I could concentrate on solving complex, evolving, real-world problems.

My problem with tech influencers

Starting from this point, I want to make a clear distinction between tech influencers and DevRels.

No job is wrong or better than another, but we have to draw a line somewhere.

I had the beautiful honor of working and being friends with some of the best DevRels out there, and the amount of admiration and respect I have for them can not be expressed with words.

I see the problem when DevRels tend to become influencers, leaving apart objective considerations on technology to create “clickbait” (and mostly wrong/controversial) content.

In my experience, being a DevRel involves a wide range of responsibilities. It can include creating introductory content on platforms like YouTube to help users get started with your products or projects. It also often involves assisting clients in integrating your products or projects into their existing systems, understanding their challenges, and providing quick and reliable solutions.

Tech influencers, on the other hand, may not have this strong skillset — and they don’t really need it.

The technology industry is evolving at a rapid pace. If you want to be on the front page of YouTube, you won’t have time to learn technology in-depth, and you’ll only be able to create basic, entry-level content.

For that reason, most influencers will only focus on trading topics (be it crypto, AI, or the latest JavaScript framework) without being able to provide any in-depth explanation of what’s going on or guide you through a process to learn more.

I don’t think I am the only one in this situation where I want to learn more about the latest AI enhancement and I only see videos on prompt engineering on ChatGPT, right?

Most tech influencers are completely disconnected from reality, without any real-world expertise on what they’re talking about, seeking a +1 in their reads and views counter just by providing superficial and — most of the time — controversial (if not objectively wrong) opinions on the latest trend.

The problem lies when these people behave poorly and run other, great engineers into burnout with their content.

Remember when Bun was released and some people criticized Node.js for allegedly poor performance? Well, if you know what I’m talking about, then you know.

That was an all-time low.

Positive influencers

Still, there are some good examples of engineers who are also great tech influencers. But this is how they present themselves — as engineers. They’re working on real-world projects and providing high-quality views of what the world looks like when you’re working for real, without following the latest trend at all costs.

Sometimes these are great DevRels from any kind of company, other times they’re just individuals with a passion for knowledge sharing, and I truly appreciate them and their content.

Wrapping up this post, I realize that the main reason why I stopped making content was mainly due to my insecurities. I deleted almost all of my YouTube videos and I’m slowly doing the same with my articles as I don’t see much added value in them — I was just trying to be more present in the tech community.

I started 2023 with a suggestion to all the people who are just starting to work in this industry:

Well, almost one year later, my advice is the same.

Happy 2024!