Recap WeAreDevelopers 2018
I had the honor to attend the WeAreDevelopers World Congress 2018 for the very first time, which took place in the Austria Center Vienna from May 16-18th, 2018. In this article, I collected some notes and take-aways from some of the talks. All talks, or at least nearly all of them can be watched here.
Web & Technologies
Ilya Grigorik, web performance engineer at Google talked about The (Bright) Future of the Web. More than once he mentioned the importance of the mobile web, also because there is an increasing number of mobile web only users, who access the Internet only through their mobile phones. Since there is huge number of users who access Google via a mobile device, "Google Search index will primilarly use the mobile version of a page's content going forward." Also, the Chrome team published the Chrome User Experience Report, which provides "user experience metrics for how real-world Chrome users experience popular destinations on the web".
Ilya also promoted some features Google has introduced or will come soon:
- Data Saver: "Chrome for Android can significantly reduce cellular data usage by using proxy servers hosted at Google to optimize website content". Data Saver is also available as an extension for Chrome desktop and ChromeOS.
- HTTPs browsing: Around 81 of top 100 sites use HTTPs by default, thanks also to Let’s Encrypt, which allows you to create SSL/TLS certificates for free. Google owned the .app Top Level Domain. You can own an .app domain from Google Registry, and a certificate is mandatory to get it.
- (Coming soon) Desktop PWA on Chrome: "Desktop progressive web apps can be 'installed' on the users device much like native apps. [...] Progressive Web Apps are supported on Chrome OS 67, which is currently the beta branch. Work is already under way to support Mac and Windows."
Una Kravets from Bustle Digital Group gave a talk about The Past, Present, and Future of CSS. She presented what CSS "has to offer yesterday, today, and tomorrow". Some CSS features she mentioned are CSS grid layout, CSS variables, filter, display: contents (to show e.g. only an unstyled list) and :focus-within, which you can use for accessibility reasons e.g. using TAB to navigate into a submenu. Overall, the support for modern browsers is quite good, except for (you may have already guessed) Internet Explorer and sometimes even Edge. Una also presented some upcoming CSS features e.g. variable fonts and conic-gradients. In her talk, she also mentioned some other nice tools and links including Houdini: Demystifying CSS and the very impressive CSS Grid experiments, an experiment of recreating magazine layouts in CSS.
AI & Bots
Joseph Sirosh from Microsoft presented some services of the Azure AI platform in his talk AI: Tidal Wave:
- With Azure Cognitive Services it is e.g. possible to do Object Detection, Speech Recognition, Speech Synthesis (text-to-speech), Speech to Speech Translation, Text analysis, and many more.
- With Azure Bot Services it is possible to "build, connect, deploy, and manage intelligent bots to interact naturally with your users on websites, apps, Cortana, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, Facebook Messenger, and more."
Colm Doyle from Slack talked about Working better with Bots – Applying chatops principles to your whole organization. Bots are quite popular in Slack especially within the developer community. While they are familiar with the "command-line-like" syntax used for "talking" with bots, others aren't. So he proposes using user interface elements to simplify processes and to not have to remember the syntax. He mentioned some examples: Polly for polls and surveys in Slack and growbot (disco), an "employee engagement tool that makes it easy to recognize contributions large and small across your company". So, when developing bots for Slack (or other messengers), consider the following: Consider other disciplines (not everyone is a developer), guide your users and provide all the context, because nobody can remember all the text commands.
Christina Hauk and Thomas Goldberger from Nagarro talked about Storytelling in Software Development with the goal to create easier to read and more understandable code. They mentioned the term Behaviour Driven Development whose purpose is to "improve communication amongst the stakeholders of the project so that each feature is correctly understood by all members of the team before development process starts." Therefore you define Examples, also called Scenarios. Typically they have the following format:
I want to select from displayed ingredient's and cuisine
So that I receive a list of recipes
Then the Scenario can be implemented for automated tests using Cucumber.js, a "tool for running automated tests written in plain language. Because they're written in plain language, they can be read by anyone on your team. Because they can be read by anyone, you can use them to help improve communication, collaboration and trust on your team."
Chris Mayfield, VP of Product at Pluralsight, gave a talk about Deploying Human Centred Design into Your Workflow and highlights the importance of human-centered design with the following quote:
"When companies leverage human-centered practices, the entire industry shifts".
He mentioned three simple moves to employ human-centered design to teams:
- Discover the current state: Who are your customers? What problems do your customers have? What is your delivery cadence? (Are you delivering features daily, weekly,...?) How are our teams organized? (Agile or waterfall or both?)
- Scalable framework: Pluralsight uses directed discovery, which is explained in more detail on the company's blog: Directed discovery: why your product team needs it now: Voice of Customer (Method: User Interviews), Customer preference test (Tools: Sketch, Invision, Bluejeans) and Customer confirmation test (Tools: Adobe Analytics, Bluejeans, NPS).
- Teams and practice (Teamwork makes the dream work): Work in co-located, cross-functional, autonomous teams (Product Experience Teams) including a product manager, UX designer, data scientist, content creator, data engineers and engineers.
Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies
Day 3 was introduced by a talk from Andreas M. Antonopoulos about Bitcoin, Ethereum, Open Blockchains: Building Programmable Money. He is a best-selling author, speaker, educator, and one of the world’s foremost bitcoin and open blockchain experts. He needed only one slide where he promoted his books. His provocative talk highlights the importance of open technologies such as the Web and Blockain with the power of being open, borderless, censorship resistant and neutral. And cryptocurrency is the attempt to apply these princicles also to money, the most regulated and closed system in the world.
Joe Sepi from IBM talked about Get Into Open Source! How to Start or Do More in the OSS Community. I collected a few links here:
- Apache OpenWhisk: A "serverless, open source cloud platform that executes functions in response to events at any scale".
- IBM Code: A collection of "code patterns, tech talks, open source projects, developer advocates, dynamic communities, upcoming events,... - your coding success starts here".
- Choose an open source license: A helper site to choose the right open source license.
- opensourcefriday.com: "Open Source Friday - Open source is made by people just like you. This Friday, invest a few hours contributing to the software you use and love".
I also collected some other links and tools during the 3-day conference, which are listed here:
- sli.do: This tool was used during the conference for collecting questions from the audience, that will be asked after the talk.
- reveal.js: Some slides were made with reveal.js, a HTML presentation framework.
- pluralsight: The technology learning platform.
- GraphQL: Also many talks mentioned GraphQL, "a query language for your API, and a server-side runtime for executing queries by using a type system you define for your data".
Personal Conference Recap
Overall, the conference was very well organized. My check-in was very fast (I was there one hour before the first talk started), and the venvue was just impressive. The staff was very flexible, organized on day 2 livestreams to other rooms, when the talks were too packed, and they ensured good flow management to avoid jams. I hadn't experienced any technical issues regarding speaker's audio or video. As always at such big conferences, WiFi was far away from stable, so I had unfrequent access to the Internet. Food was not included in the ticket, there was only tea and coffee for free. In my opinion, it would be better to raise the price slighlty and offer some snacks during pauses. Finally, I've to mention, that it was very good to see so many women in the crowd and on stage!