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Benny Powers 🇮🇱🇨🇦
Benny Powers 🇮🇱🇨🇦

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Let's Fly to Google I/O Pt. 3 - Keynotes and New Friends

Rather than try to report on the technical content of the events I attended (which you could livestream or view recordings of down the line), I mostly want to share my experience as an attendee with you all here on, so here follows a few scattered notes from an I/O newbie.

While waiting for the keynote to start, a roar would erupt from the crowd every few minutes, and I'd crane my neck around to see 12 Brazilians or 15 Indians or 8 Iraqis or 4 Kiwis proudly waving their national flags. The level of ethnic and national diversity at the conference was heartening. I felt proud to represent Israel and the Jewish people. If I come again, maybe I'll also bring a flag.

A very small number of people at the conference were wearing silly hats. They're doing it right. I bow to the wisdom of their life choices.

An AI DJ and his human partner DJ Nao opened the keynote. The human was better. Loved the headbanging plastic cape overtop the AI's uh, blinkenlights. The visuals were amazing. All in all, - great shtick value.

Someone rented a plane to fly over the keynote with a banner trailing reading "GOOGLE CONTROL IS NOT PRIVACY #SAVELOCALNEWS". That's some quality shade, right there.

Thoughts on the Keynotes

It was really interesting to see some of the work on addressing bias in ML models during the TCAV presentation. The privacy autodelete feature is awesome. Does 'delete' actually mean 'delete', though?. Incognito in search and maps is also amazing, but on the other hand, Federated Learning on gboard has my spidey-senses tingling. Maybe the ship has sailed on that one, though.

I really enjoyed the news about web platform features like image lazy loading, faster v8 parsing, etc. The big news on that front, though was evergreen Chromium in search. This will lead to much higher adoption of web standards in production. Another highlight for me was lighthouse performance budgets in CI. I have a few projects in mind that could use Firebase performance monitoring and automated lighthouse audits.

The new web platform features that were showcased look really neat. Between paint holding, portals, and web packages, there will be some really compelling use cases coming out. In one day, Google deprecated an entire class of use cases for SSR but then introduced a whole new one.

I have a lot of questions about portals. What happens to the Javascript context when the child takes over? Do you get a new document and window reference? What are the XSS and XSRF implications? Can you control the animations? There's lots to sink my teeth into here.

Web packaging over P2P? Yes, please! I haven't looked into this feature so much yet. I wonder how the other vendors are doing in their implementations.

Paul Lewis' talk on the Web Perception Toolkit was neat-o. I have plenty of uses in mind for the Barcode scanning feature, and I like that the author can define uses for it with structured data markup. And there's a WASM polyfill for it too!

Install PWA from URL bar is cool. I'm super keen to uninstall and use the PWA instead.

Duplex on the web looks cool. I wonder if it can pierce shadow DOM boundaries.

New Friends

On my way to the festival, I was pretty anxious about meeting new people at an event with so many thousands. In the moment though, it only took a little effort and a friendly smile to get conversations going, and I ended up meeting a bunch of really interesting people on day one.

Lars Knudsen is a member of the Polymer slack community and, like me, an outspoken advocate for web standards. I was fortunate to sit next to him at the developer Keynote. It was fun talking shop and geeking out about the new hotness in Chrome.

After the talk, I went wandering around with Adam Argyle, who does CSS Dev-Rel at Google. I spotted one of my new friends from yesterday and we had a meandering chat about framework churn, engineering standards, and the vagaries of working on the web.

Breakout Sessions

After that, I took in two sessions: one called "Live Coding a ML Model from Scratch" and another on Sound Design for UX. The ML talk was a bit of a stretch for me, but I have enough background in ML that I wasn't totally lost. One of my key takeaways was that Google is offering APIs and products with varying levels of abstractions, so that for many use cases, it won't be necessary to set up and train the model yourself, but rather use more abstract tools to get the job done. I've been working with my sister Zeesy, an artist based in downtown Toronto, on some projects that revolve around AI, and I think these tools might provide a lot of value for them.

During Conor O'Sullivan's talk on sound design in UX, I had an insight into the curb cut effect. Although I'm able bodied and English is my mother tongue, nonetheless, I still made use of the session's live caption screens, and they helped me to understand the presentation. Too often we think of a11y in categorical terms, but the truth is that everyone has a11y issues, and those issues change and shift over a person's lifetime and even throughout their day. All that is to say that any investment in accessibility is worth it.

After Hours

  • Let's listen to East Bay Brass Band played a killer set even though hardly anyone was dancing 😢.
  • Let's sign a waiver if we want to put on the roller skates.
  • Let's play 80s video games in the arcade tent.
  • Let's drink an IPA that tastes so strongly of grapefruit, you wouldn't be surprised to find the brewmeister clipping off strips of zest into the vat.

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