Friday 1 February 2008

Thoughts on Android Code Day London

I spent today at Google London participating in an Android Code Day. The structure of the event was pretty simple. Roughly, it was:

  • 2 1/2 hours: presentation and questions.
  • 2 1/2 hours: "hacking".
  • 1 hour: networking (no, the OTHER type of networking, you know, the one that involves humans communicating - not machines).
I don't intend to report on the details of the day - but I have some observations. I attended the event in a non-professional capacity and in that regard I was definitely in the minority. Many of the attendees were there to assess the platform, rather than code against it. Many of the questions boiled down to "how are you going to stop the manufacturer/network operator from screwing this up for everyone by doing X?". I think working in the mobile development industry must make you jaded. Our host, Jason Chen, was great. He had an excellent blend of technical and presentation skills and also a great deal of patience. I suppose its given for a developer advocate to have these traits but there was one other thing I liked about Jason: he was genuine. A developer advocate is supposed to be enthusiastic about the product - its a fundamental part of their job! But sometimes this can be taken too far and results in a credibility drain. With Jason this was certainly not the case. Unfortunately, there was not enough Jason to go around. For an event advertised with a focus on coding, I was disappointed that there wasn't more Google staff attending to assist developers. Somehow I managed to break the debugger bridge between Eclipse and the Android emulator on my laptop and it wasted a lot of my time. It would have been nice if there was a group I could join that was discussing how the integration between Eclipse and the emulator works, perhaps it would have helped me solve my problem. Instead the groups that formed were oriented on different types of apps: locational, multimedia based, etc. I'm sure this was great for some, perhaps the majority - it just didn't work out so great for me. On a related note, I think the general lack of focus for the coding portion of the day was a problem. There are probably lots of different ways you can run an effective session aimed at developers but simply letting them loose for 2.5 hours isn't one of them. A live tutorial that you can code along with would have been cool. Perhaps something that picked up where the online notepad tutorial left off. Another idea would have been to prepare some sort of incomplete application the developers could download over the wifi and amend. Couple it with a list of small features that the developers can attempt to implement within the session and I think you have a much more compelling activity. But hey, this is the first time I've been to a "code day" so what do I know? I don't really fit the target profile. It was fun to see some of the Google offices. They are quite colourful. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak briefly with a couple of Googlers, especially Jason. Although I had a few negative things to say about the event in this post, I still enjoyed it and am glad I went. You can be sure that there will be plenty of Android related posts appearing here in the coming months but before that happens I will be returning to my parsing project. I have to be careful about letting myself get spread across too many different things at once. This is another good example of how maintaining this blog is beneficial - it greatly increases my chances of finishing the projects I start.

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