ChicagoRoboto 2018

ChicagoRoboto is an annual Android conference held in Chicago IL. It’s currently in its second year and in this post I’ll cover some of the highlights from 2018.

The speaker lineup once again is top notch, ChicagoRoboto does a great job of enticing the best speakers from around the globe to attend and present. This year’s speakers included Googlers, Google Developer Experts and other Android Community members. Not all of the talks were tech focused, some highlighted how we can grow the Android community and how we can give back to make things better for everyone.

Speakers 2018

All the sessions were great, here are a few highlights with links to the slides where available.

 

No More □  —  Mastering Emoji on Android

“Tofus (□) are representations used when a specific character (like an Emoji) cannot be displayed. You have seen them, and so your users.

Thanks to EmojiCompat, now Android developers have a way to provide Emoji compatibility for older devices, but does it solve all the issues developers have with Emoji?

Have you wondered why Twitter counts characters differently depending on the Emoji? Or how gender and skin tone Emoji modifiers work? How can I have a similar functionality as Slack on my app with custom Emoji? Do all your users see the same Emoji?”

Slides

 

Espresso Patronum: The Magic Of The Robot Pattern

“Are you one of the numerous developers who wants to implement Espresso testing but hasn’t? Perhaps it’s for one of the common reasons – not enough expertise or time, it feels like a daunting task, or it feels downright tedious. I have personally felt each of those things. All of that changed once I learned about the robot pattern.”

Slides

 

The Road to Kotlintown III: Delegate 95 to Coroutine 66

“Even if you’re brand new to Kotlin, you might know that you can right-click any Java file and convert it automatically. Score! But wait, what are all these “!!” and why is the code littered with “?”. Sure, the code compiles, but how do you make the code not just compile but follow best practices? How do you get closer to making your code idiomatic?
In the third part of our series on learning the cool and idiomatic parts of Kotlin, we’re going to look at some intermediate Kotlin topics.”

 

ConstraintLayout 2.0

“ConstraintLayout 2.0 will be introduced early 2018, with many new features. This talk will present those new features and concepts.”

Slides

 

Rinsing the Brush: Picasso 3.0

“Picasso is a powerful image downloading and caching library for Android but since its launch in 2013, other libraries have improved or entered the scene and new requirements have come up.

In this talk, we’ll:

  • Dig into the internals of Picasso works
  • Compare and contrast to other image libraries
  • Discuss latest improvements as we push to 3.0″

Slides

 

In-depth path morphing w/ Shape Shifter

“Writing high-quality path morphing animations for Android is a near impossible task. In order to morph one shape into another, the SVG paths describing the two must be compatible with each other—that is, they need to have the same number and type of drawing commands. Unfortunately popular design tools, such as Sketch and Illustrator, do not take this into account, and as a result engineers will often have to spend time tweaking the raw SVGs given to them by designers before they can be morphed. To address this issue, I built a web app called Shape Shifter (https://shapeshifter.design), a tool that helps developers and designers to more easily create path morphing animations for their Android apps.”

Slides

 

Videos of the sessions will be available in a few weeks, so keep an eye out for those is you want to learn more about the sessions listed above, or any of the other sessions presented this year.

If you missed the conference in 2017, you can watch and listen to the sessions on YouTube

Key learnings and take-aways

The conference presented lots of useful information, its great to see that Picasso is getting an update and the features its going to include look great, especially since they’ll make use of the new ImageDecoder APIs in Android P.

ConstraintLayout 2.0 takes what is already a great library and elevates it even further, the new Helpers and Decorators should allow for some interesting new layout features, they just need to work out how people can package these up as libraries for use by others.

The talk by Alex Lockwood on ShapeShifter and SVG Path morphing was very interesting, digging into how SVG files are structured and the problems that arise when trying to morph between 2 shapes was really well presented.

The conference had about 160 people in attendance and the general feeling in the room on both days was very positive, there was lots of discussion outside of the conference as well which was great. Chicago is a long way to travel from Sydney but this conference is definitely worth checking out if you don’t mind the 20hrs travel time to get there.

Random photos from 2018

Here are some photos I took outside and around the conference.

Sponsors

Ryan, John and Jerrell – the Organisers

Stickers!

After Party @ The Nerdery

VR Beer Pong – After Party @ The Nerdery

Lego – After Party @ The Nerdery

One final story from the conference, as we were leaving the after party several of us got stuck in the lift/elevator and were rescued an hour later by the fire brigade. Nervous humour kept our spirits up, thankfully we didn’t have to resort to eating anyone to stay alive. This took place on the evening of the first day and several of the occupants of the lift were speaking the next day, the whole fate of the conference rested in the hands of the firemen/women who came to our rescue. Thanks!

Trapped….but with Wifi 🙂

Saved!

Respond 2016

In its third year and bigger than ever, Respond Australia’s Responsive Web Design Conference, was held for the first time in two cities, over two days. Kicking off on the 7th April at the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.

Respond2016

Attending ‘Respond’ fuelled me with an overwhelming sense that you can never stop learning or being challenged. 

Attending a conference like Respond isn’t something I’d usually consider. As an Experience Designer, it probably comes down to an assumption that I would not understand a lot of the code rich talks and that these talks would scare me. Ironically, one of Karen McGrane’s leading themes throughout her presentation was advising us not to make assumptions about a user’s context based on any single factor. Thankfully through a stroke of luck I won tickets to Respond during Web Directions 2015, and was able to attend the conference despite my assumptions.

Greeted by new, friendly faces sharing a career and a love of coffee just like my own, I began my solo adventure into what I’d assumed would be a daunting two days that looked something like this:

confused-goat

Those assumptions I made were completely wrong. The topics that were spoken about were very timely and relevant, and I even found myself eager to attend code rich talks. Not so scary after all!

Throughout the conference I picked up on some common underlying themes – opening our minds, challenging industry trends and a friendly reminder to update our passwords.

Adaptive design

What is it? How should we use it? And why is it any different from Responsive Design?

The term ‘Adaptive Design’ was mentioned quite a bit, most notably by Dina Gohil and Lucinda Burtt’s presentation from Fairfax Media on the latest SMH re-design, still under betaKaren McGrane defined Adaptive Design as serving something different. The concept is used to serve content to a user based on their specific device and context.

“Adaptive and responsive solutions work together – they’re not competitors.”

Karen summarised, “Adaptive and responsive solutions work together – they’re not competitors.” Yes it is important to deliver contextual variables to users, but the device type alone shouldn’t be what changes the experience a user might see. Many other factors come into play – analytics, location, velocity and time. Above all a seamless experience should be delivered across all devices. Don’t compromise on this experience by making assumptions.

Accessibility

Never forget accessibility, including catering for assistive technologies. At Bilue we believe accessibility is so, so important, we’ve written about it a few times before. People are using devices to access content more than ever. It is our job to make a product accessible, and we’re not just talking bigger fonts and AAA colour passes. We’re talking, making sure screen readers will be able to clearly communicate tasks and flows to their users.

Russ Weakley really brought it home that it’s our duty to ensure our sites and our digital products are truly accessible. Reminding us that small, simple steps can have huge rippling benefits for users that need them the most.

respond-audience

Security

Digital security stakes have never been higher than they are now. Rachel Simpson from the Google Chrome team reminded us all that we are only as a safe as our weakest link when it comes to tech. Ensuring our users are secure and their experience is still pleasant can be a complicated balance to reach. It goes against human capabilities to expect users to remember different login credentials for each and every online account they’ve ever created. Often users end up falling short and expose themselves to security breaches. An important point made by Simpson was to understand that as your users are stepping through a flow they are also being expected to make a number of quick decisions. It’s important to be timely and meaningful when it comes to the safety of their accounts.

Performance

Performance of your site is directly affecting your revenue. Peter Wilson considered this hard truth, stating that performance is a hot topic in the industry and so it should be. Currently it takes 15.2 seconds on average to fully load a webpage, using a fast desktop network connection. Factor in poor mobile connections, and EFS interference, you will be losing revenue fast! Get rid of the baggage and set performance as a high priority when creating your product.

Be different

A number of speakers challenged why everything is looking a bit the same online these days and motivated us all to question exactly why that is. Navigation systems, layouts and modern frameworks together are creating websites that have become clones of each other. Be inspired by things outside of the digital world, it’s up to us to change that.

Respond has left me filled with motivation to learn, be involved and stay connected. Web Directions are holding a number of great conferences over the year, check them out here: Transform, Code and Direction.

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