Gamifying Developer Education With TwilioQuest | Cloudinary

Gamifying Developer Education With TwilioQuest

Margaret Staples, staff developer educator at Twilio, introduces TwilioQuest – a free learning platform that takes developers through gamified adventures.

Along with Tessa Mero of Cloudinary’s Developer Relations Team, Margaret elaborates on the platform and its successes, as well as its recent initiatives for extensions from the developer community.

Tessa Mero: [00:00:00] Welcome to MX Matters, where we discuss all things media experience and the trends shaping the visual economy. I’d like to welcome you, our guest, Margaret Staples. Thank you for joining us today or joining me today. Everyone. Um, yeah, I’d love to hear. What do you do? What is your role?

Margaret Staples: Who am I even? I’m Margaret staples and I work for a company called Twilio, um, and we do lots of things.

Um, mostly we make communications APIs. So if you were creating an app and you want to add some sort of communication to that, be it text messaging or WhatsApp or Facebook messenger or email or voice, or with all of the communication things that aren’t in person. Uh, we have APIs for [00:01:00] that. At Twilio, I specifically work in a teeny tiny team.

Uh, that way it makes our educational video game, which is called Twilio Quest. Um, and I both create, uh, I both write code within the game. Um, and I also run our community things.

Wonderful. What sparked Twilio quest and how has it evolved over the last. So four years

it’s more than four, more than four, but yes, yes.

Okay. So, um, the Twilio, none of the history didn’t used to exist, but it was born out of something called the developer education team. And the developer education team was originally tasked with creating and maintaining our documentation and also running our training programs. And Twilio Quest was originally created to be the curriculum for those full day training programs that the education team would run.

And in its first incarnation, it was actually just a webpage that was a gamification of a collection of micro [00:02:00] tutorials. Um, and every micro tutorial would accrue experience points. And you had like a little avatar that you could like that if you got loot drops, you could like equip your avatar. But it was really just a website with like some, uh, 16 bits gamification elements to it. Um, and that was actually created by, uh, my, my fellow Twilio human Kevin Whinnery. Um, and, uh, it was actually, it’s really funny cause like in Twilio we’re, we’re, we’re very much, one of our, one of our mottos is keep it weird. Um, and so specifically on the developer network, which is the team of teams that I work on, we’re a little bit notorious for like, wandering off of the beaten trail. So Twilio Quest is one of those things that we asked if we could do and were told no, and then did it anyway. Um, but then after it existed, it was actually so popular. Um, unsurprisingly developers, like nerdy things, surprise, surprise, um, that it actually became something that we invested in more and more [00:03:00] year after year until eventually it became its own team. And it’s actually a legit like video game, video game. Now, like you can install it and, and on, on Mac, on, uh, on Windows, uh, on Linux and you, you install it as a standalone video game and you run around, um, and you, uh, you play a video game and in the course of that video game, you learn things, in addition to accruing experience points and loot drops and stuff.

Tessa Mero: I respect that so much. And. I just feel it’s, it’s amazing that I got to see how Twilio quest evolved over the years since it launched. And I’ve been to so many conferences and seen Twilio at so many conferences and these Twilio quest workshops get very popular people. Um, some individuals love learning in a gamified way.

So this is. Amazing what Twilio

Margaret Staples: is doing. And this year we actually, we actually did something super cool that you’re aware of, but I’m [00:04:00] going to say it out loud for audience humans, who might not be. Um, we actually came out with an authorizing toolkit for Twilio quest for human beings. That’s me want to.

Content within Twilio quest who don’t work at Twilio. So, uh, we, we made it available to our community earlier this year and sort of like a preview beta thing. And Tessa, you were kind enough to work with me through directly on creating some of our first, uh, external Twilio quest created levels, which is just so amazing.

Thank you so much for that support. It was really exciting to work with you. Definitely.

Tessa Mero: An easy way and a free way to be able to create your own content, whether it’s developer related content or other, other types of content. So I’ll definitely check out Twilio quest extensions

Margaret Staples: free and open source.

Tessa Mero: Have you found any, um, challenges with Twilio request extensions and, and something they promise to overcome over time or maybe specific to Twilio quest [00:05:00] itself?

Margaret Staples: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, uh, Twilio quest has it’s its own fun, weird collection of challenges. Uh, we, we kind of backed accidentally into creating an educational video game.

I mean, that was not Twilio’s original. Michigan. So we’ve, we’ve wandered into a problem space that, uh, isn’t one that any of us had thought that we would be engaging with, uh, professionally. And so it’s been a very, it’s been a learning journey for us. So, uh, part of, uh, creating these offering, uh, this. Pass for people, um, has been exploring the different ways that Twilio quest can be useful.

Um, so we’ve, uh, been partnering with like boot camps and like code camps and, um, actually, uh, like even, even like, uh, primary and secondary, uh, educators to figure out like how this can be an educational resource that is useful to educators in a variety of different contexts. And each one of those contexts.[00:06:00]

Own set of challenges. So in addition to getting to work with you and Joel with the Cloudinary team, um, I also have gotten to work with some, uh, community humans, including some, uh, junior developers. Hi Arthur. Um, and also, uh, we we’ve been working with a legit professional curriculum designer because one of the bigger challenges that we’ve been tackling is, um, as very large.

Community taught and self-taught developers. Um, we’re not necessarily going to automatically know what makes a great learning experience for a wide variety of, of learners. And so it’s been wonderful to like unpack some of the, the lessons that actual curriculum designer who, who that has been her entire professional career, uh, can bring in and integrate into this, uh, virtual gamified environment.

It’s very cool. You

Tessa Mero: can have community engagement and, and I’m part of the Twilio quest discord, and I’ve noticed it’s growing pretty quickly and there’s [00:07:00] more interest in it. Can you elaborate on the success Trulio quest as had with this community engagement with building all this community and working with all these partner organization?

Margaret Staples: Sure. Okay. So, um, because of the way it started out, um, as just the curriculum for our, our trainings, um, that, that, that actually stayed the core of its functionality for a very low, for most of its life. I would say. Up until the end of last year. Um, the Twilio quest community was really more just the developer community that got excited when there was Twilio quest event available.

Um, and I definitely fed into that because I’m an eighties kid I’m very into like the arcade aesthetic. And I would show up to these conferences with a bunch of arcade prizes, and I would let people cash in their Twilio quest points for prizes. And there was a lot of. So Lizzie Adam, there was a lot of just sort of like affection for the concept and engagement with it, but there wasn’t, there wasn’t a community because there was [00:08:00] no, there was no, um, connective tissue to keep these people relating to each other and investing in those mutual support relationships over time.

So with the discord and with our forums and with these offering tools and with our steady cadence of streaming every Tuesday on. At 9:00 AM Pacific time. Uh, we have actually built up a community of mutual support learners and educators that aren’t just engaged for an individual event, but instead are engaged with the idea of making the technical education more accessible to a wider variety of human beings.

Tessa Mero: So now that Twilio extensions is going to be a bigger thing over time, where will they take the game? Are his Twilio quest going to add more extensions on there? And how,

Margaret Staples: how do you see this? So, um, obviously, you know, I don’t predict it. I can’t tell the future, but, um, talking to the team, I actually, I actually.[00:09:00]

Uh, I actually got to meet with a bunch of my team members in person in Seattle, yesterday, mindblowing, Ooh, blowing people in person who knew and, and, uh, it sparked a lot of discussion about where we see Twilio quest and the team going. And we see three main avenues. Roads coming out of the offering tool kit, um, and there, so there’s the, so there’s the internal product growth like, oh, Twilio has just continued to create amazing tech products over time.

And, and there are just tons and tons and tons of them. And so one of the things that we’re doing with the offering, a toolkit is making it more self-service internally. So these different product teams are more able to create Twilio content, uh, for, for their users to, to onboard the, these new technical solutions that they’re developing.

And then there’s also the, uh, the external, uh, community and, and, uh, organization driven development. So like the content that you’ve created for Cloudinary, we definitely see that [00:10:00] being a growing thing. Um, because. Teaching is the best way to learn for our community and creating a gamified option for learning is a great way for any organization to diversify the onboarding experience, to appeal to more humans.

Um, and then the third piece that we’re really excited to see. Grow is we have just started embracing Twilio quest as an educational platform for more than just technical content. So that’s one of the things that we’ve worked really closely with our curriculum designer on is developing some of the first nontechnical educational content within the game, and both with the technical and with the non-technical educational content.

We’re seeing a lot of appetite. In more traditional educational spaces for figuring out how, how we can partner with educators to make this more of a universally applicable and useful educational tool, because it’s free, it’s [00:11:00] flexible. And if we can make it accessible to educators in a variety of contexts, that just makes all of, all of this learning potential more accessible to more humans.


Tessa Mero: I, I definitely agree. And we both have a background in education. So we have this passion and understanding for, for teaching, especially in, in, uh, creative ways. Um, so that brings me to the last question where. Is Twilio quest headed in the next five years. And you did mention that that’s not something you can predict if you had it your way, where do you think it should head in

Margaret Staples: the next five years?

Oh gosh. Um, so one of the things I’m really. Excited about with, uh, with Twilio quest that I’m certainly hoping we can pursue in the next five years is re-engaging in live events. Um, there’s, there’s so much magic that happens when you, when you can get people into the same room. One of the first [00:12:00] things that I loved about Twilio quest was I found that when I put together a training days using Twilio quest, because of the nature of the platform and the choose your own adventure style of, of.

Learning that it provides. I would see people who are like in their first, their first six weeks of a bootcamp sitting next to somebody who’s been an engineer for 40 years. And they’re both engaging with the same learning platform, but they’re able to tackle the pieces that are right for their experience level and what they’re attempting to learn and watching them support each other.

And, and it’s just, it’s just, it’s just magical to be able to create these experiences where people have. Variety of backgrounds and out of variety of experience levels, you can dig into the same thing and enjoy the same shared experience. So I’m very excited to see how that grows once that as, as the world, uh, opens up again.

And as we all are, are able to start meeting in-person again. Um, but also I’m [00:13:00] just very excited to see this grow as a free educational resource. We just need to be able to make a lot more, uh, cutting edge. Educational concepts accessible quickly. You don’t, you don’t want to have to wait until it can be codified in a textbook to learn tech things.

That’s, that’s too slow for tech. Um, I, I love, I love that we can shorten the feedback loop between, uh, uh, somebody finding a new tech thing that they love, and then turning that into an educational experience that a huge number of people can tap it.

Tessa Mero: There’s just so much potential that Twilio quest extensions has to offer for everyone on a global scale.

So this is very exciting and. Yeah, I want to thank you again for coming on the MX matters show and, and talking a little bit about Twilio quest extensions and Twilio quest. So yeah. Thank you so much.[00:14:00] .