I recently attended the Big Android BBQ in Hurst, TX from October 22-23. With all the great networking opportunities, informative talks, and perks (aka tons of beer and barbecue!), this annual conference is surely destined to only grow in popularity. A lack of diversity in tech is constantly a topic that is making headlines. However, if the crowd at BABBQ is any indication, then we are making improvements. This conference was one of the most diverse, both in terms of speakers and attendees, that I have attended and it was really cool to be a part of that environment. There were a lot of big names in attendance as well: Colt McAnlis (@duroach), Chet Haase (+ChetHaase), and John McAfee (@officialmcafee) to name a few.

The Android developer community is one of the strongest developer communities out there. For the past 3 years I’ve been in a hangout with Android developers from around the country where we all help each other and answer questions. The majority of these people I had never met before, but about 14 of us made it to the conference. It was great to meet people I had only ever chatted with online. The speakers were also very approachable. Given the smaller size of the event, it was easy to chat after the talks and at the dinners. Overall, attending this conference felt like getting together with old friends even though I met many people for the first time.

The sessions at the conference varied in depth and length. There were a lot of good talks this year. I’m looking forward to watching the ones I missed on YouTube. Here are some highlights from a few I attended to whet your appetite.

1). Stop motion is easy

Animations For Interface was an informative talk by Marie Schweiz (@ma_rylou). This talk was pretty high level and went over concepts Marie has figured out over the course of being a hands on designer. During the talk she mentioned using an iPad and stop motion photography for clients to help create animations for their apps. This removes all the complicated design tools and can be done by anyone. I thought this was genius and I am looking forward to trying it out on a project.

2). Use Artifactory

Internal Library Dependency Management was given by Kelly Shuster (@KellyShuster). During this talk she gave us an overview of how her team went down a rabbit hole with git sub-repositories. It was really useful to know the pitfalls of taking that approach to dependency management. The talk ended on showing a better way to do dependency management using artifactory and gradle. This definitely seems to be the best way to go. Here are the slides from the talk, Artifactory setup starts on slide 125:

3). Animations are cool

Material Motion was given by Nick Tkachov (@Ntkachov). This talk was about how to apply material motion to animations throughout your app. I liked how Nick started off giving us the high level overview and then showed concrete examples you could apply to your own projects. He also showed a very neat concept which involved using a mesh to do deformations to bitmaps. At first glance this appears as though it will perform well since it’s been supported since Android 1.0. Here is a link to the video of that talk:

4). VR Sandbox

Let’s Play! - Building Your VR Sandbox was a very interesting talk by Etienne Caron (@kanawish). Virtual reality is amazing. At the conference we got to experience the HTC Vive, and (wow!) after trying that out I was speechless. My mind was blown. I’ve never felt so immersed inside of a computer before. It’s like being transported into a new world. However, not everyone can afford to get a room and a fancy VR setup like what is required for the HTC Vive. It’s also not entirely cost effective for educational purposes. This is where technologies like Google Cardboard can really make a difference. Etienne showed a very innovative approach to building a system that can let you start messing around with Google Cardboard. I can’t wait to try this out for myself. Link to the talk:

5). Manage Manageably

Managing Expectations: A Manager’s Guide to Managing Manageable Teams Manageably by Chet Haase was a very serious talk and one of the most influential I’ve ever seen. Ok, that’s a joke. This talk was hilarious. At the beginning of the talk, Chet implored everyone to go see a session where they could learn something. However, no one left and we all buckled down for a funny hour. It’s really refreshing to attend a funny talk. It kind of breaks up a day of watching serious technical topics and helps freshen the mind to learn more. If you get a chance to watch Chet do comedy, and you are a developer, I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks Chet!

You can catch the rest of the recorded talks here:

To wrap up the two days of talks, the conference puts on a final keynote address. The keynote speaking group was led by an improv company called Speechless. As part of their show, 4 Googlers had to present on a randomly chosen topic with slides they had never seen before. It was hilarious and the entire audience was cracking up.

After laughing so much, I worked up an appetite (which seemed inconceivable given how much BBQ I’d already consumed), and we got to the crowning and final event of the conference: the Big Android BBQ. Basically, everyone got to drink more beer, eat some seriously great BBQ, and party. It was a fantastic way to end a conference with such a tight-knit community. I can’t wait to go back next year and learn more about BBQ, er, I mean, Android.

shipit (Ship it! - Me After the BABBQ)