Monday, October 29, 2012

My AndroidTO trip [89/127]

So, this is a little late coming, and I think any of you who followed my constant tweeting for the day got a gist of what was going on that day.  But let me give you my first person account.  [not putting photos in here, as there's just a ton elsewhere -- and this is just pretty much the same article I put up on AiC]

First off, on the personal side it was kind of funny.  I've been to Toronto tons.  Every time is a new adventure, and this was pretty much the same.  I got off the Porter flight to find out there indeed is a shuttle to downtown (never knew this before).  And I got off near Union.  My instructions were to go to Union and take it to Wellesley.  Every time I would load up maps I would see where I had to go, but it took me about a block to realize which direction that was. My initial decision was to walk (apparently about an hour walk), but after getting to union, not having cash for tokens, buying a week pass that started the next week ($40 down the drain), finding an ATM, then getting tokens... it took me about 2.5 hours to get to my sister in law's.  Whew.
anybody want to buy a 'like new / never used' pass?
Then Kelly and I took a stroll down Yonge and just visited some shops.  Like busy busy costume shops - one even had a velvet rope for the line up and a man in a top hat to keep the ne'er do wells out.
yes, stay classy san diego; that my friends, is called a wig cap
Dinner at a restaurant (with poutine upgrade of course) and dessert at "just desserts'.  Followed by another visit to some movie/cd shop.  Kelly wanted to get "Flight of the Conchords", but one of the shop had some famous person there and he was standing in front of the wall of DVDs getting interviewd.  How rude.

So, the next morning getting to the theatre was going to be a challenge I thought.  This time my sister came with me to help me handle.  Which it was totally fine.  Except that if you want Tim Hortons around 8am... forget it.  I couldn't believe the line up. Now onto the theatre.  The night previous I had exchanged a few messages with some of the attendees and we had looked over the challenges.  Then I realized why the challenge of 'run up and down the stairs 3 times' was a 'challenge'.  Oi. Got my ticket and lanyard and went on in.  It was already packed at 828.  Started to see what booths were there.  Sony, Mindzai, Startapp, Google, Rogers, MaRS, Jamdeo... not a lot, but definitely enough to keep you occupied.  And each was just packed.  I felt guilty going after any swag as the crowd snagged up anything as soon as it was put out, so I ended up chatting with them about who they are, what they do... Pretty cool stuff.  I went through each and tried to say hi and let them know who I was representing (I had cards printed up, but as a booth they're more interested in giving out cards than taking them). I got to give out some of my shirts to Marc and the Montreal gang who wore them throughout the day (thanks guys!). Then it was time to get ready for the keynote.

Two of the booths I got the chance to talk to were the Sony booth to check out the Xperia Go and test dunk it in the water, and the Jamdeo booth to hear what they're doing.  They had a very geeky item in the back that he tried to hype up by flashing me the prototype he had in his pocket.  But they ended up discussing more the new project of developing more apps/systems for GoogleTV.  Look forward to hearing more about them.

Opening Keynote:  Kim Pimmel (Adobe)

Now he works for Adobe, so you know he's got a creative mind.  Very artistic and yet, still a 'utilitarian' in terms of being able to see how to use 'anything' to make an experience.  And that's pretty much what I got out of his presentation.  Besides a lot of 'oohs' and 'aahs' as he made some very geeky artwork - he described a lot of the process that is involved in making a user 'experience'.
He demonstrated with 'textures' and lines and artwork, but showed how it applied to app design, or even how a user can use your app.  He had an example of 'diptic' where he used it 'artistically' in a way that the designers didn't expect.  Cool stuff.
Slides are available at:

Design Track - James Wu (Kobo) Rethinking Tablet UX

This one I was expecting a little more out of.  Thinking they'd start talking about the whole "iPad is just a bigger iPhone" or some of the new ways Nexus is integrating more of the phone style to the tablet, and what JB and KLP are doing for tablets.
Instead he talked about how users tend to use tablets differently than smaller screens.  Basically one of the biggest things was to be able to bring the apps experience closer together.  So, things like sharing, curating, or bringing in content to an app have to be easier.  He demonstrated things like gestures in order to do so.
One of the things he mentions and reiterated later on was that 'technology sucks', and he caveats that for 'the majority of people'.  You can't develop an app with yourself in mind.  For every one of us who're good with computers there's thousands out there who aren't and are easily frustrated by it.
Not sure if he coined this term himself from it, but talked about the 'tapestries' needed for the 'layer interaction' between apps.
Cool stuff.  The best line that still sticks with me that he said was:

"If you train your users to care about what you care about, you'll ultimately fall"

Design Track - Sachin Monga (Facebook) Social Design

I'm not big on Facebook as you all probably know.  Where I'm at is G+ these days, but I do a few workshops on Facebook for work and thought it might also be interesting, plus as they've just released that new SDK for android.
And essentially that's what he talked about. How your app is probably talked about by your friends, and then what you can do within your app to help tell the story of their experience (thus spreading out the word).  He called it "Social Design".
I enjoyed the workshop, and it looks like there's a real push on ol' FB to integrate Android in ways they never thought possible.  At one point he made the stat that FB's app sends people to the Google Play Store over a 174 million times a month.  That's a lot of traffic and it's only just started.  So using the data bits that FB collects about your users helps to help them connect more.

This was when Marc pulled out his Lego project.  Very cool!

We also got to take a break for lunch and visit the booths.  I talked to the Sony gang a fair bit to ask questions about the Sony GTV box.

We also got a sample of some ICS... courtesy of Kobo.  Yum.  Wish I had known it was debuting their new Kobo Arc as I would have liked to ask for a demo unit.  I think it was the trend of this event that I was always a step or 2 behind the curve.

Developer Track - Matthew Patience & Greg Carron (BNotionsMulti-Screen Experience

 Because of things like the Padfone or Desktop Mode I was hoping to talk about the 'scale up' of any app on the Android ecosystem to work across... I was wrong, but I wasn't disappointed.
One of the great things about this new mobile market is that just about everybody has a device.  So their talk on "Vicinity" was in regards to being able to use these devices collaboratively to make for a richer experience together.  They demo'd a game where they'd display the main interface on the GoogleTV, yet each phone would 'register' for the game (via QR code or whatnot) and then they would have screen interfaces (think controllers) that they could play and interact with the game.  Very neat.  Reminds me of a suped up way to play Wii!
They had a draw for a Sony GTV box where you could tweet them your ideas for a multi-screen experience app.  I tweeted one about an app that would draw info from the screen for 'auto-populating sharing' for blogging, or whatnot.  And another for an auto recognition for IMDb that would send info about who's on screen / what music's playing etc... to your phone's screen.  I didn't win :(

Dang it.... it's 208 and in order to have submitted your info for the challenges to be in the draw you had to submit by 205.  Again, I'm just slightly out of time for the good things.  Next year!

Business Track - Anthony Kanfer (Rogers) Mobile Apps Web vs. Native

This was interesting as it had some data on mobile data usage and the increase of it.  Plus we've talked a lot at my work about the need for a 'mobile friendly' website.  Scaling that to an app, the idea would be that it's easier to make a web app for a customer, rather than really wholly investing in a device specific native app.
But each has their limitations.  Web apps are getting better at utilizing the hardware of a mobile device, but certain things like push notifications would be unavailable (without tying in an email etc...).  Native apps are expensive/time intensive to make a properly rich experience.
One thing I found ironic was that he talked of the 'hybrid' app, which is a web wrapper.  Which I believe that's all that Rogers really makes.

Closing Keynote - Chris Haseman (Tumblr) "I wish I'd Known That When I Started"

Definitely my favourite talk of the day as he really showed not only the errors people make when developing and some of the mistakes he's made along the way, and then showed how to make a rich experience but he took some really good questions from the audience (mine was the last question too) and you could tell he was being really honest and open about the answers.
It was cool to hear him mention things like how 'learn the rules, so you can learn how to break them'; his example was of the Gingerbread users (which is a primary userbase) and to rid your app of the 'ugly look' it has.
The biggest thing I took from his speech, and I think it's the touchstone phrase for the whole day was this:
Who owns android?
Google doesn't control android
Carriers do not control android
OEMs do not control android
We, the users do, and as developers we have to listen to what our users want, so that it shapes the experience.

And that was it.  There was some after party, which I stuck around for a bit.

Unfortunately I'm a bit of an introvert, so I did a poor job at meeting people, so when the few I knew left I also left.  Headed to Smoke's Poutinerie for a fill up and then made my way back to my lodgings.
To round out the weekend I had a 'hero certified burger' with poutine of course.  Just to make it a solid poutine-at-every-meal trip.  Heh.

The next morning I got up on my own and made my own way through the subway system to catch the shuttle for porter.  Not a problem this time!

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