Pax (funcrunch) wrote,

Google I/O conference report

So this week I attended the Google I/O Developer Conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco. When I attended last year while I was working for the UCSF Library I so much enjoyed the spectacle that I wanted to come back even after I quit programming. So when I won a free pass given away by the event's Twitter feed, I made plans to go, enjoy the copious amounts of free food and entertainment, and shoot some photos. Little did I realize that the technical focus of the conference would be what wowed me this year. I posted continual updates on Twitter during the conference, but wanted to write up a proper blog post as well.

I was groggy for the start of the conference the first day, but took an immediate interest to the plans for HTML 5 revealed in the keynote presentation. The amount of coolness that can be rendered directly in the browser (unless you're using IE, ha ha) is truly astounding.

I was also intrigued by Google Web Elements, which gave me some ideas for improving my own web sites. Within five minutes I had whipped up a quick test page in vi, embedding my work calendar and a slideshow I had previously prepared. While the technology behind this isn't revolutionary, it does add a layer of convenience.

At the very end of the keynote, we in the audience got our "Oprah moment": Free Google Android phones for all! Unlocked with a SIM card granting unlimited voice and data on T-Mobile for 30 days. I was in shock. I had been meaning to get a new phone in the next month or two anyway, but had been looking at either the Palm Pre, an iPhone, or a hand-me-down Treo 750 from boyziggy. The Android platform had intrigued me since it was first announced, but I'd wanted to wait until more phone models than the T-Mobile G1 were available. With this free phone, I now had another choice to consider.

Before picking up my phone, I went to a session on "Even Faster Websites" by Steve Souders, who wrote the cool Firefox/Firebug plugin YSlow. It covered much the same information as last year's session, but was worth attending. I was amused that before the session there was a long line for the men's room but no line for the women's, which I'd never seen before. Amusing, but this is 2009, people! There should be a lot more women at a tech conference!

I then went to lunch, where two separate cafeterias (there were three last year) offered a dizzying array of options. I ended up seated at a table with some folks who started talking about the price of prostitutes in various countries. I soon excused myself, apologizing that it was not because of the conversation topic, but because I wanted to go pick up my new phone before the lines got too long.

I picked up my shiny new toy from the registration desk, and spent the next couple of hours playing with it rather than taking photos or attending a session I'd planned to see (though I did make the second half of it). A guy wearing three Canon cameras around his neck stopped by and snapped a photo of me admiring a photo I'd just taken of myself, which later ended up on the big screens during the after-party (but is not yet available online). We talked shop for a bit, and at several other times throughout the conference; I later found that he owned an event photography business.

I caught the last part of the session on HTML 5, and a full session on Search Friendly Development which ended up being similar to last year's. I was later greeted by a friend of the friend who clued me into the Twitter promotion, and she showed me how to log on to the WiFi network (which ended up being quite overloaded) with the Android and participate in the barcode scanning scavenger hunt contest, which ended up being a good way to pass the time until the after-party began.

The after-party with its free-flowing booze and yummy food was fun, even without the excellence of last year's Flight of the Conchords performance. (I'd heard they were in town this week so were hopeful they might make another appearance, but no dice.) There were video games a-plenty, though these were also available on the main conference floor this year. I was a bit lonely, as I couldn't find my former co-workers (turned out they didn't stay for the party) or anyone else I knew, but did chat with a couple of attendees for a bit. One commented that I was wearing last year's conference shirt, and that this might be the only place where it was cool to do so.

I arrived shortly before the keynote on the second day, and ended up sitting with my former boss and co-worker. All the seats had green Legos on them. Lego Mindstorm gave a short talk which I mostly ignored as I was playing with my Android. Then the presentation on Google Wave began. I was completely enthralled. This product will revolutionize computing, and I don't say this lightly. The presenters got a standing ovation. Check out the presentation for yourself.

Seeing the possibilities of Google Wave made me excited about programming again, and I wanted to see if I still had what it took to do some development. I arrived early for the session on Programming With and For Google Wave, which I knew would be packed beyond capacity (and it was). It looked like I could code with either Python or Java, neither of which I know, but the former of which I might be able to learn enough on my own to be useful in. Even if I'm not able to do any programming for the Wave, however, I can still reap benefits as an end-user once the system is fully released.

Played Wii bowling by myself (bowled a turkey, w00t!) and had lunch, sticking more closely to my mostly-vegan diet than I had the day before, though I still couldn't resist the chocolate-covered pretzels (which I'm sure contained dairy). I'm glad that Google made the effort to include vegan options at all meals, and enjoyed a Mediterranean-style meal of couscous, tabouli, hummus, and falafel. Took more photos and chatted with three-camera guy again, plus a couple of developers from Google UK. Didn't stick around for the late-afternoon sessions as I was exhausted by then.

Great conference - glad I scored a pass. I'm sure I'll be back next year, as will the rest of the free world now that the word's got out that Google gave away free unlocked phones...
Tags: io2009, photography, work

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