This was my first year at Google I/O, and what a way to start! Besides speaking 3x, I was involved with the GWT Developer Sandbox, GWT Office Hours, and a GWT mini summit the night before I/O for the GWT Developer Sandbox exhibitors and GWT framework authors. The months leading up to I/O were very stressful, but the end result was well worth the effort.
You came for the code
The defining moment for me this year was 10:15am Tuesday, the first presentation after the first keynote. This was the moment of truth we’d all been waiting for. People inside and outside Google had been asking for months, “Did I/O sell out in 59 minutes because people just want the free stuff, or did they come for the code?” As I looked over an audience of 300+ people in a room that seated 239 assembled to hear about Highly Productive GWT, the answer was obvious: you came for the code (watch the first 45 sec of the session to hear the audience confirm it).
All of the GWT sessions (filter for Developer Tools track) were packed, many of them standing room only. Besides giving the latest tips on performance and showing off the latest tools, the GWT team demo’d lots of bleeding edge coolness in GWT: mobile development, game programming (hello, disgruntled avians!), and RequestFactory tooling for native Android apps. It was an exciting year for GWT developers.
I/O is more than a clever name
Google I/O is all about the developer community. Despite the mythical status of many, Google engineers and open source contributors are real people, too, and I/O is the premier place to get acquainted, give feedback, and get help. Besides meeting the session speakers, each product team holds Office Hours for 3 hours each day staffed by engineers, where hundreds of folks got their technical questions answered and hob-nobbed with others in the community.
Said one long-time GWT community member:
The discussions I had there were both a great learning experience and an important source of ideas and motivation. Networking with the extended GWT community was very nice. I feel like I could get working right away with Jeff Larsen, Pierre Coirier, Hilbrand Bouwkamp and others whom I only met via forums before the I/O.
I likewise enjoyed meeting many folks in the GWT community whose names you’ll recognize from the GWT group: Philippe Beaudoin and Christian Goudreau (gwt-platform), Pierre Coirier (mvp4g), Stephen Haberman (gwt-mpv), Jeff Larsen, Jeff Schnitzer (objectify-appengine), and many others. How did they all get to I/O, you wonder? Many were invited to take part as speakers or Sandbox exhibitors. Some made it a point to sign up as soon as registration opened, and others engaged in heroic measures (Pierre was one of 10 winners in the Last Call for I/O contest). My own path to I/O was extreme, as it involved getting hired by Google last year :-) It was a tremendous privilege to serve one of the most talented and enthusiastic developer communities in the world. Besides meeting well-known participants in the community, I also enjoyed meeting the mostly invisible developers who build with GWT every day, learning about the creative and powerful things you’re doing with GWT, listening to your pain points, etc. In the age of everything digital, there is still no substitute for putting a face to a name and getting the story behind the story.
GWT Developer Sandbox
Besides the GWT sessions and Office Hours, the GWT Developer Sandbox (filter for Developer Tools) was a great place to meet companies using or supporting GWT and to pick the brains of fellow GWT developers. The GWT team selected a wide range of companies to participate this year, from public-facing apps (DayZipping, Broadcastr, LoseIt.com) to B2B (BookedIn, GBST) to enterprise and tools/frameworks (JBoss, Apptio, Vaadin). Check out their Web sites and get some ideas for your own apps. There’s a lot going on in the GWT universe.
Related Product Highlights
I was pretty focused on GWT this year, but there were lots of other exciting announcements and sessions for developers: App Engine backends, full-text search, and Pipeline API (map reduce), all of which I hope to dig into before next year’s I/O. Sessions on PageSpeed and Chrome DevTools are required viewing for Web developers who care about performance and productivity. NFC with Android is a promising new technology for all kinds of apps like mobile payments with Google Wallet. And of course, Chromebooks are expected to greatly accelerate the demand for rich Web apps in the cloud. It’s a great time to be a GWT and App Engine developer!
Nothing says “happy geeks” like the Google I/O 2011 photos, so I’ll conclude with that. Huge thanks to all the GWT developers who attended this year’s I/O and made it the best GWT event ever!