The 6th instalment of the Wellington Android Meetup took place today. I decided not to write about the content (I wouldn’t do justice to the presenters, and the audience contributed so much content, that I’d surely forget to mention something important), instead I wish to write about just how “fragmented” Android is … in Wellington, New Zealand.
We had four speakers. Two men: Matt and Lucas; and two women: Jayna and Leonie. That was not planned, it just happened.
We had two fairly technical presentations that encouraged us to improve our technical chops and solve problems in more beautiful ways, and two that challenged us to think about what we like, what brings us joy, and what we are prepared to do from the goodness of our hearts.
People in the room
I glanced around the room and I was so happy to see how diverse it was. So many skin colours, genders, ethnicities, and ages!
In the room we had students, unemployed folks, business owners, developers, designers, testers, and even Windows Phone developers! There were people working for startups and people working for organisations with 500+ employees!
There were women. Not just sitting on chairs but engaging in the discussions. Driving them and asking the tough questions. Challenging the speakers and the audience. Recommending better ways to do things. As it should be!
I bring this up because I think back of where we started. I looked at some old photos I took and I struggle to find the women. I looked at the GDG Wellington reports I sent, and I blush seeing a mere two women attending one of the early sessions! Today, almost 20% of the audience were women!
But we are not stopping here. Tonight Lucas announced that we are planning a GDG Dev Fest W. The plan is to create a safe place for an evening, a day, or a weekend, where women can come and learn about technology without fearing that they may get laughed at, looked at in a condescending way, interrupted or ignored. Get in touch with Lucas or with myself if you want to help.
The Android community in Wellington is fragmented in the best possible way. This diversity makes the meetings more interesting, the points of view more diverse and more relevant.
I was the proud host of tonight’s gathering. It this kind of fragmentation that keeps me going, that motivates me to try harder, that makes me proud to be a small part of this incredible community. Our group now has more than 200 members, so I am hopeful that we have not seen the best of what this incredible bunch of people have to offer!
I am so proud to have helped organise what is likely to be an amazing Google I/O Extended event!
If you appreciate Google technologies, are keen to view a bunch of very interesting five minute talks, and stay up to date with Google’s announcements at I/O, and meet more like-minded people, then you should register here! Make sure you fill in the RSVP and you may take home some very attractive swag, too.
I am especially proud of my friends and colleagues Kate, Konnie, Gili, and Matt for helping coordinate this event.
Many thanks go out to the sponsors who’ve been providing support to our group: Trade Me, Powershop, Uber, and Victoria University.
I’m proud to announce the formation of Cocoaheads Wellington. For those who are not aware, Cocoaheads is an international Club for Cocoa (iOS & Mac) developers and designers.
The gatherings happen every 2nd Thursday of the month, from 7pm to 9pm. They are usually followed by a trip to a nearby restaurant or pub.
The first meeting will take place on the 12th of February at the Trade Me offices in Wellington. If you’re a Cocoa Dev / Designer then you should confirm your attendance here.
I intend to outsource the location. I’m currently hoping to convince one of the local Universities to host, but maybe another Wellington based organisation would be keen to put their hand up? If you know of any potential venues then please reach me via Twitter.
In terms of structure, I will propose when we gather that we break up the agenda in 3 parts:
Follow up on the previous session
Presentations (five to ten minutes each) on pre-agreed topics
Q&A, tips or tricks, current issues or problems to ask the audience about
If you’re passionate about iOS or the Mac, you are keen to share your knowledge or learn from others, you live and breathe development or design, then I hope to see you there!
It’s true. The Android developer community in Wellington is strong and mature, if tonight’s first Android Meetup is anything to go by.
Android Meetup Attendees
Just over 30 people took part in the first (of hopefully many more to come) Meetup that I was proud to facilitate and host together with the rest of the Trade Me Mobile team at our Market Lane office. We will try to make sure this becomes a regular event, especially now that the GDG Wellington was created.
The turn out was fantastic (we had to supplement the available slots at the last-minute). The show of hands confirmed that the majority of attendees were developers but we also had designers, testers and business folk. This diversity definitely helped during the Q&A sessions…
The theme of the evening was Material Design and the agenda was simple. I gave a quick intro, then we kicked off properly with a presentation by Matthew Shearer (our Lead Android developer) about the challenges that we face at Trade Me when tacking Material Design in our app, followed by an interesting Q&A, then the spotlight was given to Glenn Parker (Xero) who showed off a few ideas/early mocks for their product. Other people in the room mentioned that Material Design was high up on their TODO list but they just haven’t gotten around to it.
The evening continued with food and drinks followed by an open discussion around the future of this group.
Where to from here?
We are very keen for this event to not be owned by one organisation. Instead, we’ll aim to put in place a roster so that other teams around town can host it and offer more diversity not just in terms of venues but also in terms of hours. We even floated the idea of doing it over lunch sometime to cater for those with young kids or who have engagements in the evenings…
As expected, the attendees behaved really well and communicated freely. There was no awkward job/hiring talk, nor any immature comments of any kind.
Toward the end of the event we brainstormed a few ideas for future sessions. We’ll vote on the group and we will decide what we will talk about next time (late January or early February). As this picture shows, people found the event valuable for the time they invested (2 hours) so I will call it a success!
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.
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.
Many thanks to the hosts Nat, Janine, Tanya, Julie and everyone who contributed to making this event a success.
If I got anything wrong, or if you wish to pass any feedback, you can reach me on twitter.
Notes: 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.)