Friday, May 30, 2008

Google I/O 2008

Summary: Impressions from the Google I/O 2008 developer conference.

I've just returned from the two-day Google I/O 2008 conference in San Francisco. Overall, I have enjoyed the event. Here are some impressions, thoughts, quotes, and references I brought back.

Logistics worked well with one exception: there were no dedicated lunch breaks, so the choice was either to go hungry or miss the beginning (or end) of some sessions. I chose food and feel bad for missing the beginning of Mark Lukovsky's "Spice up Your Web Apps with Google AJAX APIs" presentation; I'll watch it when the videos get released (by the end of next week).

It would've been helpful to have an agenda for each session; the provided summaries did not sufficiently explain the scope of the talks. The difference between tech talks and regular sessions is still not clear to me. I attended regular sessions, but will review tech talk videos (when they are available) to see if they would've been more appropriate.

The negotiated hotel rates ($209 for San Francisco Marriott and $189 for InterContinental San Francisco) seemed a bit overpriced; you could've booked Parc Fifty Five Hotel via for $119. I stayed at Sir Francis Drake, which is an approved hotel at my company; it was okay (good location and not too shabby).

[I'm not sure if it's appropriate to mention in a techno blog, but someone must say it, so what a heck... here is goes: men's bathrooms at Moscone Center seem to have been designed for Sen. Larry Craig (R). Missing partitions between the, pardon me, urinals, can make a simple guy rather uncomfortable. It's not a Google issue, though; just something Moscone Center should've improved.]

Getting back to the event... First impression: I haven't seen so many MacBooks (including MacBook Air) in a single place at a given time. Almost all speakers used MacBooks, and many attendees did too, although Dells were also popular among attendees.

It seemed to me that Google I/O had less hype than Microsoft events. At Microsoft events, I often feel as if I'm being told:
"Remember the Old Stuff we showed you four years ago? The stuff we raved about at a similar conference? Forget about it! It's garbage! Here is the New Stuff which will solve all of your problems."
At Google I/O, the message was more down to Earth. On the other hand, the conference could've benefited from recognizing the existence of Google's two primary competitors: Microsoft and Yahoo! (mentioning Microsoft in the context of "Vista Sucks" does not count). For example, why in their otherwise excellent "State of AJAX: The Universe Is Expanding" presentation, along with Dojo,, jQuery, Prototype, and Google Web Toolkit, Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith did not mention Microsoft's ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit or Yahoo's User Interface Library?

Some of the demonstrated technologies looked promising, although I'm not sure if they bring value to the enterprise any time soon. For example, Google Visualization API, the API which simplifies development of graphs, charts, diagrams, and other visual elements, has great potential; unfortunately, at this time it works only with Google spreadsheets (see "Visualize your data: Google Visualization API" presented by Yoah Bar-David, Nir Bar-Lev, Yariv Ben-Tovim, and Kris Nye).

Google Gears (or, as they are currently called, just Gears) -- a plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer (and Opera support is coming soon), which offers a richer user experience -- is gaining momentum. It was interesting to see how applications such as Zoho -- Zoho is believed to offer the most advanced online office suite -- use Gears (see "Gears Case Studies: Zoho offline on Gears, Buxfer secure and offline finance with Gears" presented by Raju Vegesna, Ashwin Bharambe, Shashank Pandit).

"OpenSocial, OpenID, and OAuth: Oh, My!" by Joseph Smarr of Plaxo was another insightful talk. It was not as technical as I had expected, and Joseph kinda rushed through the OpenID and OAuth parts (the main areas of my interest in this session), but still the overview and examples of using OpenID and OAuth to address the online identity crisis were very informational.

Wednesday's quote of the day came from the Dojo toolkit's creator Alex Russell, who presented "Can We Get There From Here?" (he was discussing the limitations of current Web technologies):
"There is a whole lot of suckage on this spectrum of suck."
I missed Wednesday's keynote (one more video to watch), but Marissa Mayer's presentation on Thursday was lovely. The keynote was both informational and entertaining. Good job, Marissa.

Thursday's quote of the day came from Sergey Brin, per Marissa Mayer's story. When she asked Sergey what had inspired him and Larry Page to come up with such a simple, yet functional design of the home page, Sergey said:
"We did not have a Web master, and I don't do HTML."
In addition to the general sessions and tech talks, some of the most interesting things were discussed offline. For example, here is a quote (with minor grammar corrections) from my fellow colleagues Karun and Andy, who published a more detailed account of the conference:
"We had a chance to talk to a tech lead on Google Gears about how they develop and elevate application efficiently. His answer is simple - they do not follow any software development methodology or approach. They have [best coding] practices. On the top of it, the hiring bar is so high, the engineers generate good quality code and constantly find ways to improve it by peer reviews. Some parts of the organization follow SCRUM, but they are not crazy about it. What they believe is: less process more room for innovation."
To learn about Google I/O from people who documented there experiences at the conference better than me, check out these blogs:I'll update this post and add links to videos and presentations when they become available; if you are interested, please come back in a week or so.

UPDATE: Videos and presentations are now available. I've listed my recommendations in a separate posts.


jsmarr said...

Alex-thanks for coming to my talk! Sorry I wasn't able to get more technical on OpenID/OAuth with the time/audience constraints, because believe me, I love to talk about the gory details, and I've implemented OpenID and OAuth both as providers and consumers. ;) One thing you may find useful is my workshop slides (more in-depth) from FOWA: -- or feel free to email/im me if you have specific questions you want to get into. Thanks, js

Andy said...

Great analysis, and good points. Thanks for linking to my blog too.

Alek Davis said...

Thanks Joseph. It was a great talk; I really enjoyed it. I'll add a link to the preso (and hopefully to the video when it becomes available).

Alek Davis said...

Hey Andy. I wish I found your blog earlier. You made some good points.

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