Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘googleio’

Google IO 2012 Notes – lots of them

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

OK having fulfilled my tourist guide duties with my UK colleagues, I got time to write up a quick report about Google IO. So here goes:

Disclaimer: These are my personal views, I was fortunate enough to be invited for the event on an “influencer” ticket.

For the TL;DR folk:

Google did a tremendous job with the conference, the organisation was impressive, their messaging concerning the web less “use Chrome” and more “here is cool web tech Chrome supports” and they released all the things I hoped and feared about: Chrome for Android and IOs. There was a massive amount of great tech talks and most are available online. Big web announcements were Chrome for Android and IOs and lots of updates to Android, Google+ and search on Android.

Now, more detailed info for those not conditioned by 5 second cuts in music videos:

Event organisation

Overall I was very impressed with the conference organisation. But of course there are some snags. Here are what worked and what annoyed:

Worked well:

  • Value for money – on a very literal level – is ridiculously good. Just the hardware giveaways (more later) are giving your money back three-fold.
  • Before the keynotes they showed demos submitted to chromedemos on stage – this must have made quite some people proud
  • Lots of great content, a lot of it live streamed and already available on YouTube – I guess it helps owning that)
  • Amazing AV equipment in the rooms and especially in the big keynote hall (the three screens made me drool and want to talk there, but it also would mean I have to make prettier slides)
  • Food was adequate and ample, and drinks and coffee were available throughout the event
  • The staffing of the “business hours” tables was very good and it was no problem whatsoever to get your questions answered (this might be as I knew a lot of them though). The Chrome booth was stacked with all the people in the devrel team and Chrome engineers, no boothbabes in sight. Actually, none at all. This was a Google event with Google experts – an impressive feat to pull off.
  • Lots of places to charge your hardware – a lot of the rooms have rows and rows of outlets and there were massive Android figures standing around with all kind of cables to charge a plethora of devices.
  • Every talk had a cardboard box with “+1” cards to throw in at the exit of the talks to vote for it. I loved that idea as it was physical, showed the 1 character of Google and gave them a mechanism to measure the success of the talk (that a few speakers I talked to never saw people changing the boxes is a bit worrying though). There was no scanning of your badge on the way in to the room as it was last year – I guess they gave up on that.
  • Every talk was transcribed live on big screens for the hard of hearing – this is not cheap and hard to pull off, but a wonderful little touch.

Worked less well:

  • The insane amount of attendees (around 5500) lead to a lot of queuing up for the keynotes and swag pickup (which needed both the conference badge and a photo ID which lead to even more delays). The first day we did a loop-the-loop around the keynote room to get in and the second day we had a long and random queue in the foyer. Maybe letting people in earlier would have fixed some of the issues.
  • The repeat of the “amazing suprise” of the first keynote (people sky-diving onto the building wearing Google Glass) which was sold as a behind the scenes turned out to be probably the most boring Mythbusters episode ever. The reason for the repeat jump was that Google paid for two days of rights to fly over the Moscone centre to make sure the weather was good and as this is not a cheap feat they wanted to make the most out of it. They should have let me jump with the people on the second day – maybe in the Firefox costume (or as an Android, or just me).
  • The Google+ presentations were weird. Whilst presenting the new Events feature (which is much better than what Facebook offers) and trying it out at the afterparty went down well, the obviously non-impressive numbers of Google+’s growth compared to competitors seemed not needed to me. I guess the focus is on fact soundbites for the press, but when they are easy to be slashed, why bother? Maybe I am just sick of the numbers game
  • The official app for the event was laggy and didn’t get updated in time. I missed a few talks because of that. It also had the wrong hashtag when you tweeted from it (which I edited before sending off but I doubt a lot of people did which must have skewed the twitter numbers).
  • Schedule display was patchy at times and I found far too much going on in parallel. Maybe shorter sessions would have allowed a better experience.
  • The last day was very much empty and felt like an extra day for networking with not much organised content. Good idea but seeing that lots of people didn’t bother going defeated the networking purpose a bit.

Overall impressions

  • The technical messaging was fair and interesting. Whilst last year a lot smacked of “look at those numbers aren’t we awesome and you should use us” this year was much more about “look what is possible and how we support it”
  • Google released a lot of products and services in direct competition with smaller players (Tripit, Shazam, and released a few products blatantly aimed at Amazon (Kindle competition, offering Infrastructure as a service), Apple (Siri competition) and Microsoft Office (Docs upgrade to allow for collaborative writing and offline use – which only will work in Chrome).
  • There was quite some snark aimed at Microsoft in the keynotes (“try doing that with Sharepoint and spreadsheets”) and of course there were “and another thing” and “xyz isn’t cool abc is cool” sightings.
  • In comparison to last year the keynotes were more polished and seemed less “please use this”. There was more self-assurance on stage. However, quite some of it seemed too scripted for my taste and had a lot of “this is my favourite thing ever” which gets unbelievable after a while. I liked that the man showing Google Now and the lady presenting the design ideas behind Glass were scared as heck on stage and thus showed real emotions and were much more believable. The keynotes are online: Day1 Day 2
  • The after party was much simpler than last year – Train was a very fitting band for San Francisco and Paul Oakenfold can’t have been cheap (but I had to spend a lot of time explaining US folk who he is). The alcohol ran out rather quickly, but that might actually be a good thing. There were a lot of entertainment things but less of a “maker faire” flair than last year.
  • Google IO allowed for a lot of people to be in town, which meant that outside events cropped up, like a beer.js in the thirsty bear and some other quick meetings about Web Components with people from a lot of browsers and large companies.

Great releases

  • Google Hangouts are very much focused on using WebRTC now and seem to be quite a competitor to proprietary and installable solutions. The message that “WebRTC is available in IE via Chromeframe” made me spit coffee and laugh though – sadly it is not that easy.
  • Google Chrome for Android and IOs is great, shame that the former is as an opt-in for phone service providers and will not be backfilled to Android older than ICS. The slickness of the presentation of Chrome was impressive though – history syncing over devices is incredibly useful. Now I want that with my apps state on Android (a boy can dream)
  • Speaking about Android, the atomic app update in Jelly Bean is what was a benefit of web apps vs. native apps that is going away now – instead of needing to download the full APK you now download the changed parts. Time to change my presentations :/
  • Google Drive got some impressive new features including automatic OCR and face/sights detection in photos.
  • Google’s collaboration with Subatomic and Cirque de Soleil
    Movi.Kanti.Revo – (keynote section) is probably one of the coolest tech demos I have seen in the last year. It uses the camera and movement detection to navigate an interactive dance and performance experience.
  • Google compute engine could be a real threat to Amazon’s EC2. You can fire up lots of virtual machines for computation in a very simple manner

Talks I’ve seen and can recommend

  • The web can do that? is Eric Bidelman’s overview of cool new web technologies delivered in a very matter-of-fact way. Great talk!
  • GRITS: PvP Gaming with HTML5 was a very well delivered talk on HTML5 gaming and the GRITS blueprint game you can download and learn from.
  • The Web Platform’s Cutting Edge is a wonderful introduction to web components and the need for them (also mentions X-Tag, so, like, win!)
  • Turning the web up to 11 covers all the details of the Web Audio API - this has great demos and tools but can be a bit daunting
  • The Mobile Chrome summit was a great meeting with all the big names in mobile web development asking the Chrome team questions. Notes will be out soon, and I wish they’d implement my suggestion of building Chrome Frame for Android :)

Talks I will watch and sadly enough missed

Free stuff

  • Google once again showered the conference attendees with free hardware: a new Galaxy Nexus phone running Android Jelly Bean, a Nexus Seven (geek credit++ from me on that name) tablet, a Nexus Q (which I left as a present here as it is the approximate weight, shape and usefulness of a cannon ball in my hand luggage as most of the Google Play streaming content is not available in the UK), and a Chromebox. Google painted themselves in a corner a bit with that – there is no way IO can be a non-giveaway conference ever again.
  • Other swag was a lovely Google IO shirt, stitched HTML5 badges, Sticker sheets with the HTML5 logo and related technology icons and Android figures filled with Jelly Beans.

Was it worth it?

Expletive yeah! I will be back next year.

Google I/O 2011 – impressions and reflections

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I just got back to my hotel after the merriments that were the Google I/O after party in the Thirsty Bear Brewery and thought it is time for some reflection on the event.

Google IO 2011

Overall impression

Google IO was a very good conference, I heard a lot of interesting news, met people I hadn’t seen in quite a while and got to know a lot of others. It is a huge event and there was no lack of things to keep you occupied. Showcase booths of software but also an amazing amount or Robots and other hardware demos, vehicles to play with and lots of breakout space made it a great place to learn, look and talk to each other and people in Google. The HR presence was very subtle and there was no brutal hiring drive you get at other events of this nature.

Catering was good, there was always coffee and drinks but the queues at lunch were very long indeed and I skipped a few meals to spend more time with folk instead.

The main stage visuals were top-notch and the quality of the A/V equipment amazing. Talks were recorded, streamed and transcribed live. Great stuff.

The wireless, on the other hand, was abysmal. This is partly the fault of the attendees who set up their own hotspots (despite the badge telling you explicitly not to do so) and thus saturating the wireless range. That there was no dedicated speaker lounge or network was an oversight I’d love to see rectified. I do enjoy tweeting and blogging about an event but couldn’t do so.

The party on the first day had real time animations synced to the music by Sexyvisuals, lots of drinks and a truckload of cool things to look at. Hardware hacks, futuristic vehicles and a photobooth all kept people busy.

The band was Jane’s Addiction and I can safely say they were totally out of place. Perry Farrell proved once again to be a d*ck by abusing Google and the audience on stage. All in all they just did not fit. This is a geek event. Why not get a geek band? This was money wasted.

Overall the organisation was spot-on. You knew where to go, what is happening and there was not much congestion although the amount of attendees simply makes that happen. There was a glitch with my name tag showing me as a Google speaker and not external and thus not allowing me to get free stuff but it was remedied quickly enough.

Swag, swag and some more swag

Talking of free stuff – people attending IO left laden with goodies. Originally I had hoped for Google to hand out new phones (as my Nexus One suffers from the known Off Button Failure) but going away with 3 T-Shirts, a mobile hotspot for the US (which saves me right now as the GBP 7.50 per MB of roaming is not fun), a Samsung Android tablet and the option to get my Chromebook as soon as they are out I really can’t complain. That doesn’t mean I didn’t hear people complaining! In addition to these “free for all” bits you also got extras for attending some special talks like an Experia phone at the gaming talk and a new Nexus S at the talk about Native Client. As I missed both this was not for me though. Drat.

A bumpy start

The conference started bad for me. I was asked to give a talk about HTML5 video and captioning/subtitling and was very chuffed about speaking at the great big Google event. It was tough for me to say no to two other conferences that had me listed as a speaker, and I still feel sorry about breaking my promise there. The blow came then when I arrived – as my talk got cancelled. So I was just to sit back, relax and enjoy the show instead of being a actor or part of the chorus line.

The talks I attended

I spent most of my time in the Chrome channel, so here is what I’ve seen with a quick one-liner about it. Most of these will be available as videos and the slides should be out somewhere, too.

  • WebGL Techniques and Performance – some great tips on making WebGL snappy – included fish, so it has to be native
  • Chrome Web Store Publisher Forum – this sounded interesting but was not for me. If you want to publish something on the store and make money, there were some good tips though.
  • Super Browser 2 Turbo HD Remix: Introduction to HTML5 Game Development – some great tips on how to build games.
  • HTML5 Today with Google Chrome Frame – a good introduction on how to rid the web of the scourge of old IE - now also available for people who are not admin on their windows machine.
  • Web Fonts are changing the Web. Learn why. – showcase of Google web fonts and the tools to easily use them. Some cool new features there. I thought the demo of creating a logo with a font was pointless though – why would I ever have to highlight and paste a logo?
  • HTML5 Showcase for Web Developers: The Wow and the How – amazingly cool HTML5 showcase demo! I loved how they built on some of the things in Web O’Wonder and explained the File APIs instead of just going “oh look, 3D!”
  • Mobile Web Development: From Zero to Hero – the UK Google boys showed some good tricks how to use HTML5 on handhelds
  • HTML5 & What’s Next – a glimpse into the next steps of making the browser a real app platform. Surprisingly a lot of CSS talk there (mixins, variables…) but also some very cool client side MVC ideas
  • Creating Accessible Interactive Web Apps using HTML5 – well intentioned talk with great presentation but awful content. I will write a lot more about this one soon.
  • Ignite I/O – always a great format and very cool talks this time.

Announcements I enjoyed

Over all IO had some amazingly cool announcements. Many got the Americans excited (movie streaming on Android and Google Music) but failed to make me happy as they are only available here. Others, however, got me very happy:

  • Chrome store going international has been a promise that took far too long to fulfil
  • Google entering the open hardware arena with an own Arduino project that works with Android. Some very cool demos were shown about that and it is great for hackdays.
  • Android getting spatial detection for cameras to allow for real 3D interfaces using the user’s field of vision
  • Chrome frame for non-admin users means a lot more people can say good-bye to IE6
  • Google fonts API getting extended to allow for faster web fonts
  • The new interactive WebGL song/movie 3 Dreams of Black pushing the envelope much cleaner and further than Wilderness Downtown (strange though that it is and not
  • Angry Birds for the web – I am so tempted to write a trainer menu now :)
  • Chromebooks coming out which are the grown up version of the CR48 pilot. I am not that excited for mom and dad end users but I see them as a great opportunity to get rid of old and outdated infrastructures in companies. Of course we need to get Office onto them somehow.
  • A lot of cool file API and sound APIs for Chrome which hopefully should be coming in other browsers, too.
  • Chromebooks coming with a built-in screen reader – you hear that Microsoft? Go ship NVDA with Windows!

Things I want to happen now

Well, for starters I can’t wait to get my hands on the Chrome book. I will also hunt down the HTML5 demos shown to get them fixed for other browsers and added to Mozilla Demo Lab and I will have a few talks with YouTube about captioning videos. And of course to have a good follow-up with all the people I met.