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February 7, 2023 · 18 min read

Season 3, Ep. 3 – Building a developer community, with Darko Bozhinovski

When Darko Bozhinovski went looking for a tech meetup in his hometown of Skopje, Macedonia, there wasn’t much to see. So in 2019, he started his very own chapter of BeerJS, and had twice as many attendees at that first meeting than he had anticipated. This week Faith talks to him about his journey in building (and growing) a community during COVID, altering career paths, and growing hot peppers.


Read transcript

Faith (00:05):

It’s so fun to meet you in person. I feel like we’ve talked a lot over Slack and email over the years, so this is really exciting.

Darko (00:13):

Yeah. For me as well.

Faith (00:15):

Well, Darko, welcome to the Frontier podcast.

Darko (00:17):

Glad to be here.

Faith (00:19):

So we’re gonna talk about building community and brands as a developer. It’s something that folks ask us about a lot, especially as a freelancer, right? Like, how do I build a brand around myself? That feels kind of icky. I’m not really sure how to get started, and also, how do I build a community to sustain me working, you know, mostly as a freelancer, kind of on your own like, how do you build that community for yourself, for support? So, you’ve done all those things, so I’m really excited to dig into it today, and you’ve also been a Gunslinger for a while. How long have you been on the Gun platform?

Darko (01:01):

Well, I’ve been on the platform for three-ish years, but officially, I’ve been on for about two, because I created a profile, and I basically forgot about it (Faith: <Laugh>.) up until David actually contacted me and told me, “Hey, your profile looks interesting. Maybe you would wanna reactivate the whole thing?” So it sounded like a good idea. I had some decent experiences. It’s been fun for sure.

Faith (01:24):

Good. Well, I’m glad you’ve had fun. I know like, every time there’s something that comes up for us internally, we’re like, “Who should we talk to about this?” It’s always Darko (Darko: <Laugh>.) <Laugh>. So we’re glad that David found your profile and lured you back. And you, where are you based out of?

Darko (01:43):

Macedonia in Skopje. That’s on the southern part of Europe. Southeast? No, that’s the southwestern part of Europe. Anyway, so southeastern. Yeah, sort  of…<laugh> (Faith: <Laugh>.) and yeah, it’s close to the Mediterranean, you know, average Mediterranean culture and all that, so, yeah.

Faith (02:08):

Oh, gorgeous. How’s the weather right now? Make me jealous, because I have cold and hail outside my window right now.

Darko (02:16):

Well, you’re not going to be too jealous, because it’s very gray and depressing outside <laugh>, (Faith: Nooo.) so it’s rain season. We don’t get too much sunlight, so…<laugh>.

Faith (02:26):

Okay. When’s the best time to visit?

Darko (02:29):

Late spring or early fall. Least rain, best weather. Really, really decent nature stuff to see around.

Faith (02:38):

Could you do Macedonia in a week, or would you need more time to see everything?

Darko (02:45):

The highlights, you could certainly do in a week for sure. I mean, the real interesting stuff, if you’re someone into, you know, like hiking and so forth, we have a lot of mountains around <laugh>. (Faith: Oh, cool.) It’s a very mountainous country, so you would probably need a lot more time to do more hiking, but, you know, just to see the highlights, a week is more than fine.

Faith (03:04):

Sweet. That’s one of the only countries in Europe that I haven’t explored at all, so it’s on my list. Hopefully at some point in the next year or two, I can get over there. Maybe early spring, it sounds like. So, you know, you’re a Gunslinger on the platform, you’re a freelance developer. Why don’t you just run through everything we need to know about Darko, and then we can go ahead and jump into some of these communities that you’ve built?

Darko (03:36):

Sure. I’ve been a web developer, or rather a software developer, that mostly does web stuff for close to fifteen-ish years. Now, I’m certainly not counting anymore <laugh>. I’m old. I mean, <laugh> at some point, it doesn’t make sense to count anymore. (Faith: Yeah.) Most of that has been with full-stack stuff, but I find myself mostly working on front end projects, always looking for a technical challenge. I always liked those weird projects that people were, sort of like, you know, scared of, because (Faith: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) they were challenging and so forth. And I was lucky enough to get such projects, and I’m grateful for those because they made me learn a lot. I’m also happy that most of those projects are actually used by people out there, so, you know, it’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of, you know, being actively involved in product work, actually seeing a product being used by somebody, you know, solving an actual thing opposed to, you know, just coding something, and you never know whether it sees the light of day or not.

Faith (04:44):


Darko (04:45):

Besides that, well, I’m a university dropout. I realized that past year three, it really wasn’t something for me, because I really like the practical aspect of programming. Like, but I don’t hate computer science, but you know, there is a certain point at which it doesn’t really do it for you anymore. And, you know, my third year of study was basically that point for me, personally. I’ve been involved with a bunch of community stuff, I’m writing a blog, I’m running a meetup. We’ll get into that a bit more later, I guess. And yeah, in broad strokes, that’s me. I have like, too many hobbies to count, so…<laugh>.

Faith (05:28):

<Laugh>. What’s the weirdest hobby?

Darko (05:29):

Ah, okay. I love cooking hot sauces, and I’m growing my own peppers, actually.

Faith (05:36):

Really? (Darko: Yeah <laugh>.) I’ve never made my own hot sauce. I’ve done a lot of the like…I’ve made my own butter. I do all that, but I’ve never made my own hot sauce.

Darko (05:49):

It’s a fun hobby.

Faith (05:51):

What’s your favorite combination of ingredients in a hot sauce? Don’t give us like, the secret recipe, but just like, ingredients that you put in there.

Darko (05:59):

I’ve been experimenting with various combinations of sriracha recipes. I wanted a bit more sweeter in taste, but without losing the heat, so I’ve experimented with a couple of different peppers, and I realized that just, I think a bit of habanero to the recipe makes it a whole lot, you know, basically achieves that point. So, (Faith: Yeah.) I’ll leave the rest of the ingredients and, you know how much of a pepper you should use in this recipe <laugh>. (Faith: <Laugh>. Yeah.) Or no, you can PM me on Twitter. I’d be happy to answer it.

Faith (06:32):

<Laugh>. Yeah, it’s more fun to experiment and see like, what burns your face off and what you’re okay with <laugh>.

Darko (06:38):

Oh yeah. I’ve had some interesting experiences. It’s not fun when you basically feel, you know, that burning pain over your fingers for a couple of days, because you were dumb enough not to use gloves, but, you know.

Faith (06:51):

Hey, oh my gosh. I always, yes. I always forget, and then I’ll like, rub my eyes or something. It’s the worst.

Darko (06:58):

Yeah. Yeah it is.

Faith (06:59):

But let’s get into something a little different. Tell me what BeerJS is.

Darko (07:07):

<Laugh>. Sure. Okay. So BeerJS has a very interesting history. It’s actually an international event. It started in San Francisco, I think, as sort of this redheaded stepchild sort of thing of JS Con. And it was just, you know, because people wanted to have that kind of a meet up more often, and it didn’t always have to be a conference format, because that requires a ton of preparation and a ton of logistics, and this was supposed to be more informal. And the founder had the idea that it would be cool to have a GitHub repository, and any city around the world could basically fork a copy of that repository and create their own BeerJS meetup. You have branding, you had some support from them, and so forth. But, you know, I think that you won’t find two BeerJS meetups that are really like, you know, too similar, but it’s interesting to know that there are a lot of cities around the world doing their own thing under the BeerJS brand, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s a very welcoming community, internationally. People like to share their experiences. People really like doing it, it seems. So it’s been great.

Faith (08:20):

How often are you doing them?

Darko (08:22):

We used to do them two times per year, because our BeerJS in Skopja tends to be more of a, well, conference, I think. That was largely for, you know, community reasons and how we got started, but ours tends to need a bit more logistics and preparation to, you know, make it work. (Faith: Mmm.) And last year, it was 2022, was the first time we had three meet ups, so this year we’re planning to have like, four to five. We’ll see what happens, whether everything works. But we’re hopeful people like coming to our event, and it’s amazing.

Faith (09:00):

Well, and I hear that you had three times as many people show up to the first one as you expected (Darko: <Laugh>.) How did you market it? Like, how did you make sure folks knew about it?

Darko (09:12):

We actually didn’t <laugh>. We didn’t do, well…

Faith (09:16):

People just knew?

Darko (09:17):

Well, no, it’s ridiculous actually. Like, the first meetup we had was in a co-working space, and I was, you know, for better or worse, most of my friends, acquaintances, are in the industry, and it was enough to, basically, just share some information with. “Okay, we’re trying to do a meet up, and if you show up, there’s going to be free beer,” and I suspect that the free beer had something to do with the attendance numbers <laugh>. (Faith: Yeah.) But yeah, it was interesting. We had fun. Interestingly, people, just after the event, started asking, “When is the next one going to happen?” Which was something that we didn’t really expect to happen. So there was this enthusiasm for seeing this thing happen again. And, you know, sort of, as a pilot, you have to try it out, see whether people like it. And it was, literally, my first time trying to do an event.

Faith (10:07):

It’s trial by fire. Oh my gosh.

Darko (10:10):

<Laugh>. Yeah. (Faith: Wow.) Well, you know, I started doing it mostly out of personal frustration. I didn’t really want to travel for events and meetups anymore. I just wanted to have something close by, and, you know, the best way to deterministically solve something is to do it yourself.

Faith (10:28):

Hmm, that’s right.

Darko (10:29):

You can’t really expect someone else to do it. So, you know, I started that thing, and it’s not really as easy as going to an event for sure and enjoying the full event. It’s always in the work. You have to be mindful of a bunch of stuff, because you’re organizing it and so forth, but I’m happy that it happens.

Faith (10:48):

I feel like most things that I’ve taken on outside of my work life have been because it was just like, something that I wanted that didn’t exist yet. So I was like, well, I guess I’ll just make it <laugh>. (Darko: Yeah.) I’m always curious to ask folks who are like, in the events world in some way, what their experience was during the pandemic, right? Like, you could, you probably had to take a break for a few years. What was it like to spin things back up? Did you notice a shift, kind of, post-pandemic? Talk to me about that.

Darko (11:22):

Most of the BeerJS communities around the world basically ceased doing anything, because, I think, in spirit it’s more, it’s a better fit to it being a live event. It’s not something that you should be doing online. It’s…no. Different people did it differently, of course, and it worked for some communities. For ours, it didn’t really do it. So we took a break and around the end of 2021, we started getting emails on our official email for the meet up about, you know, companies trying to sponsor us again, because people started asking for events. You know, we sort of accepted the pandemic was going to, sort of, you know, become more of a background noise thing than being like this omnipresent problem we had in our lives. (Faith: Yeah.) And, you know, regulations seem to be a bit lightened up around having events, so…

Darko (12:22):

Using that interest as a starting point, we decided that we were going to have a meet up in 2022 and, you know, just continue with stuff. There was some renewed interest for sure. I think, before the pandemic hit, we had an attendance of 90 as a record, and the first event in 2022 had 140 people. (Faith: Wow.) So there was interest for sure, yeah? (Faith: Yeah.) We did make an effort with social media and everything, but, you know, but by this point we were sort of used to the idea that we were supposed to advertise in some way, that…we’re back, we’re doing this thing again, you know? (Faith: Mm-Hmm <affirmative>.) It’s not dead and whatever. (Faith: <Laugh>.) And that sort of had an effect, you know, 140 people, the full whole. Basically, the budget for the beer ran out pretty quickly, so, (Faith: <Laugh>.) you know, kudos to the people, I mean, we tend to be really fast beer drinkers around here. Anyways, so, (Faith: <Laugh>.) but yeah, past that point we were, sort of, very motivated to, you know, continue doing this thing, and we did two more events, and both broke the record for attendance. (Faith: Wow.) And yeah, the second one was 160, and the last one was…I stopped counting around 200, and I decided that we’re not going to count people anymore. <Laugh>. I mean, you sort of–

Faith (13:48):

<Laugh>. Yeah, 200 is, yeah. I feel like you’ve, at that point, it’s an official event, and you can just, you know, call it good. (Darko: Yeah.) If somebody’s listening, and they’re like, “Man, that sounds like so much fun, and I wanna know if there’s a BeerJS in my area, or maybe start one,” where should they go? Where should they look?

Darko (14:06):

To the GitHub repository. I can share a link. There’s this perfect BeerJS/Meta repository that has a set of instructions on how to start. It’s really simple. Chances are, you already have an event in your city, and you can just go ahead and support them. So yeah, get involved. It’s great <laugh>.

Faith (14:25):

Cool. Awesome. We’ll share that link in the show notes. Another thing different than community building, but kind of along the same lines of like, how do you kind of build a brand for yourself as a developer, you’ve started a podcast recently, I hear. So talk to me about that. What’s going on with the podcast?

Darko (14:44):

For a bit of background, I’ve been, last year I decided to make a career switch. I decided that, you know, classical product work wasn’t going to cut it for me anymore, and I decided to get into DevRel work, and developer experience, and so forth. One of the things that, I think, fits me as a medium, as a format is podcasts. I…the motivation was that whenever we’re, you know, we’re sitting at a table, and there’s like, 10, 12 people or something, and we’re having beers or whatever, there are often situations in which somebody starts talking and asks then follow up questions and so forth. And the table basically listens to us, and that keeps on repeating, and repeating, and repeating. And, sort of, dawned on me that, okay, this could be a podcast, because it sounds fun, and maybe people will like it. We’ll see. So I’ve recorded four episodes so far. I haven’t fully published a single one yet. That’s going to happen towards the end of this month, probably around 30th of January or something. (Faith: Awesome.) That’s the schedule, at least. (Faith: <Laugh>.) But <laugh> yeah, you know how it goes with this thing. So, I mean, you’ve been in this game far longer than I am, so…

Faith (15:59):

<Laugh>. It takes a while. I have, you know, obviously we do the Frontier here at, and I also have a couple, kind of, solo podcast projects as well. And it’s funny; like, doing this, doing the Frontier podcast feels like way less pressure, even though there’s tighter deadlines. But it’s because the deadline, kind of, sets me free, in a way. It’s like, well, there’s an episode coming out in a week one way or another, so just figure it out and make it happen.

Darko (16:32):

No, I should probably do the same. (Faith: <Laugh>.) I need a calendar for this thing for sure <laugh>.

Faith (16:36):

Yeah, for sure. I mean, both podcasts and meetups are really, kind of, work intensive, right? Like, these are not just passive things. These aren’t like, passive income generators, right? For other folks listening who are interested in maybe pursuing one of those projects, what advice do you have for them? What do you wish you had known before creating events, or hosting events, or creating a podcast for yourself?

Darko (17:08):

You really have to know you like it, because, you know, for everybody the motivator is going to be different. I mean, you know, we all like, are driven by different things, so that has to be unique for everybody. Still, it’s…planning is necessary. You know, you always have to, at least, anticipate what’s your event about, plan for the logistics of it and everything. But keep in mind, that this is a very spontaneous and chaotic thing, realistically, and things get chaotic. You better get used to the chaos and, you know, roll with the punches and so forth. You can never plan for everything, for sure. Sometimes, you know, technical difficulties, microphones, projectors stop working, people freeze on stage, you know, and that’s ultimately the organizer’s problem. So if you think about starting an event, keep all of this in mind and try to have fun. You know, ultimately, you know, you should have fun with this thing. It shouldn’t feel like that much of a chore.

Faith (18:17):

That’s really good advice. I think that gets lost in the shuffle a lot, and I think as long as you have a plan B, that inevitably will create fun for everybody. And, you know, it doesn’t really matter what goes wrong. I also always giggle when there’s technical challenges at dev conferences or events, because the classic joke is like, everybody thinks that you can fix their printer or fix their projector. And it’s like, no. I write software. I am not, I’m not like, a hardware expert. Okay, podcasting. What have you learned that you wish you had known at the onset?

Darko (18:55):

Oh, I’m still learning. But so far, <laugh> there is a lot more, you know, logistics and technical considerations you have to keep in mind before you start recording. It’s not as simple as, you know, put two microphones in the room and just start recording. It’s never that simple. Yeah, I tried doing that once. It was a horror show, basically. Create, making something, you know, listenable out of that, because of the echo, and the one microphone caught audio, some audio from the other speaker that it shouldn’t have, and so forth. So, you know, just do your research; ask people that have been doing this, ‘cause I didn’t really do that. I just started; I dived right in and made a bunch of mistakes. Still doing that.

Faith (19:39):

<Laugh>. That seems thematic in your life, is just jumping right in <laugh>.

Darko (19:43):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I tried to do some research beforehand, but at some point, I grew bored, and I’m just gonna start doing it. Yeah, it’s funny enough; it works pretty well for development in general, but, (Faith: It does.) in other areas in life, like, not so much <laugh>. (Faith: <Laugh>.) It tends to be a bit harder. <Laugh>. Yeah.

Faith (20:02):

That’s so true.

Darko (20:03):

In any case, so far, because my podcast is, well, similar to this one, it’s an interview format, you know, it’s trying to be casual, but on a more, you know, technical topics and stuff. Just basically keep your interviewee, you know, talking, I guess. (Faith: Mmm.) Everybody likes talking about their thing, I realized, and the more you allow them to, and the more you ask them follow-up questions about it, better quality content comes out. I have a couple of episodes to compare, and, interestingly, I think one, the first one, because it felt the most spontaneous for myself, ‘cause, you know, the speaker is a, the interviewee is a close friend. I think it’s the best one so far. I’m trying to replicate that and, you know, just adapt, see what works, listen to your work, really listen to your work, find your mistakes, don’t do them again. (Faith: <Laugh>.) That’s it. I’m still learning <laugh>.

Faith (21:05):

Yeah, it takes a while. I mean, we’re like, over 200 episodes into this thing, and it’s still, we learn something new every time. So I think, thematically, the umbrella that’s over everything we’ve talked about today is how to expand your skill set and your presence as a developer, beyond just writing code. And I think you’ve found some really cool ways to do that through events and through podcasting, and we didn’t even mention content creation. Like, you write really excellent guides and blog posts (Darko: Thank you.) about technical topics, and we’ve had you write some of those for us before, and I would imagine there’s folks listening who, you know, so far have spent their careers really just focused on writing the code, right? And maybe are interested in expanding a little bit. So for those folks, if you were to distill like, a first step for them, like, “Okay, you want to expand your skill set, here’s the first thing you should do.” What would that be?

Darko (22:10):

I’ve heard this interesting quote recently. I mean, actually yesterday. I’m part of, for context, I’m part of a developer relations mentorship. That’s a really, really cool and fun thing. We have guest lecturers on, and what I heard yesterday is that content is the final step of a learning process. So the advice here would be, just, if we all learn as developers, we all do like, some project or the other, solve a problem or something, write about that problem. You’ve actually had to research it, you had to learn about it, you had to solve that problem, and somebody else has that problem, probably, out there. Write about that, do a video about that, podcast about it, it doesn’t matter. That’s just, you know, document your process, and that’s already like, good enough. Everything else is details, and improvement, and iteration. Just iterate over it, and that’s it. That’s, you know, all there is to it, to my knowledge, so far <Laugh>.

Faith (23:09):

Yeah, just start with what you know. That’s great advice. Well, Darko, it’s been so nice talking to you; I’m so glad we got a chance to do this today. Where can folks find you, if they’re not in the cantina Slack?

Darko (23:26):

Oh, well, I’m somewhat active on Twitter, LinkedIn; I can share some links for that. I write regularly on my blog, at Those are the places. And thank you for this opportunity, as well. It was fun. It’s my first time being on a podcast, so thank you very much. (Faith: Oh, good!) It was great.

Faith: (23:48):

Thanks for listening to the Frontier podcast, powered by We drop two episodes per week, so if you like this episode, be sure to subscribe on your platform of choice, and come hang out with us again next week, and bring all your internet friends. If you have questions or recommendations, just shoot us a Twitter DM @thefrontierpod, and we’ll see you next week.