This year’s DevMob was different compared to all the previous DevMobs: there was tangible equilibrium between iOS and Android, with both platforms showing maturity in terms of tools, design metaphors and developer attention.
Sponsors & Venue
This year, the swag was particularly nice (thanks to the Alphero team). The sponsors also contributed with very interesting talks, availability and engagement throughout the weekend, and a wicked Lego Death Star draw!
It was Wellington’s turn to host, and the chosen venue was Samuel Marsden Collegiate School. I give it the thumbs up: the food was great, there were plenty of rooms (and each had a projector), and we were even allowed to use the amphitheatre.
An evolving conference
Over the years, the conference evolved from being focused on iOS only, to sharing the spotlight between iOS and Android. This reflects the marketshare and the user base of the two platforms, and the ever growing number of developers interested in them. As one of the attendees who hasn’t missed a single iteration of this event, I’m happy to see such organic growth. It’s also good to see that the Microsoft folk have not given up, and keep attending these gatherings and contributing with incredibly useful insights (Azure being one such example).
My observation (potentially wrong) is that, year after year, the iOS talks have become a bit more abstract and more high level (a good incentive for me to return). At the same time, the audience has managed to keep some practical sessions on the board:
- the show-and-tell sessions took a UI/UX spin
- the demos contained products that are more and more polished (even though their authors consider them “rough”)
- the live coding sessions were focused on concepts that a newcomer would probably struggle to fully understand, but would still find valuable
If a couple of years ago Julius was struggling2 to attract a handful of devs to take part in a blue-sky discussion, this year all the Android sessions had full rooms. Refreshingly, Google’s Material Design was at the centre of most discussions. The tools and libraries that people spoke about covered everything you can possibly think of: from analytics, networking, and storage, all the way to dependency injection and reactive programming.
I’m sad to see that Android developers still have to battle with basic things such as networking and resource loading. Michael Rueger from Xero gave a very good talk about the way their app tackles this area. I definitely think his talk should be shared at one of the next Wellington Android Development Meetups. While I’m talking about Xero, Glenn Parker was particularly active and even shared some interesting work they have underway. The Poweshop folks also contributed a great amount, confirming that Wellington is the place to be for Android developers. Not to be outdone, I shared as much as I could about the way that we do things at Trade Me.
No doubt about it, Android is a first class citizen and there’s some outstanding work being done in this space.
New in 2014
Back in 2009 when Jade Software launched DevMob (under the NZiDev moniker), the questions that people used to ask were along the lines of “how do I code, test, deploy, market my app, all at the same time?”. After just 5 editions, this question has transformed into “how do I run a distributed team? how do we collaborate with designers and testers? how do you manage an app’s backlog?”.
This year, I believe two themes were new to the stage: mobile development at scale, and an in-depth look at how to build mobile software. The gimmicky apps were pretty much absent, confirming that the mobile gold rush is well and truly over. For a change, Layton and Karl did not have to too many questions on how to build the next million dollar app.
Surprisingly, managing scale was probably one of the most talked about things this year. So much so that the group ended up creating a follow-up session after Luke Gumbley‘s “Backlog management / Feature planning” talk.
Team building, maintaining happiness, and dealing with ownership, all got tackled by the audience. The information flowed freely and openly thanks to the trusted environment that makes so many people return to this event year after year.
It wasn’t just the management side of things that was new this year. The sessions went deeper into the product life-cycle with topics such as API design, security, functional testing and mocking, UX, continuous integration and more.
I was happy to see large development houses (Cactuslab, JSA, Powershop, Trade Me, Vend, Xero, etc) share intimate details about how they tackle many aspects of the SDLC. The fact that non-coding topics permeated DevMob 2014 is encouraging for future iterations of this (un)conference.
Until next time
I missed out on the socialising that traditionally happens after the first day of the conference. I suppose that’s part of the deal when the event is hosted in one’s home town.
If I got anything wrong, or if you wish to pass any feedback, you can reach me on twitter.
1 To learn more about (un)conferences you can visit Nat’s website, buy this Kindle book, or, my favourite option, just take part in one!
2 Julius is no longer struggling to attract new people to his talks. He now just needs to find a way to keep Sam awake. (Okay, this photo is cropped and you can’t see the 30 people sitting behind Sam, but it’s funny nonetheless.)