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droidcon EMEA 2020 learnings

sigute profile image Sigute ・3 min read

These are the things I learned at droidcon EMEA 2020 last week, my plans for applying them and some thoughts on how online conference experience compares to my previous experiences at conferences.

Talks

Starting with talks, it felt like overall there were many security, performance, testing, and modularisation talks, showing that after many years of Android we are feeling the weight of big projects and codebases, and need knowledge on how to tackle these issues by going deeper into the topics. It is always interesting to me to learn about how real-world problems were resolved in various companies; it brings the context which is often missing when just looking at basic code samples.

The first piece of knowledge I am planning to apply is improving my coroutine exception handling skills. Coroutines are pretty new to me and it was great to learn how to approach handling exceptions. I didn't know how to use CoroutineExceptionHandler before this talk, so I definitely learned something very useful!

I also enjoyed a talk about the rollout in Spotify. There is always a question about writing something in-house or using a third-party solution, and for a complicated system like Spotify, which can run in many different places (including cars) it makes sense to write their own. For smaller apps, maybe existing tools cover most cases... This encourages me to always consider how much customisation is actually needed before jumping into implementation details.

Learning about performance and optimisation has been really interesting. I have applied some of the mentioned techniques before, but I did not know that 1 in 4 app uninstalls are driven by the lack of space on the device! That's a great reason to optimise, as missing this step paints a target on your app's back! This really drives the importance of making the time not just for the feature work, but for overall app optimisation as well. I will be looking for non-optimal images and unused code paths after this talk, as well as checking Google Console regularly for any problems. This is a talk to watch once they are made available online!

Online conference: the good and the bad

The online conference format is quite new to me and I did struggle to keep engaged without being present at the location. While online conferences do reduce the barriers of travel, it was much harder for me to follow the talks in the same way while surrounded by the distractions at home.

I did especially like the way to ask questions online and the ability to vote them up. It helped with the general question quality and there wasn't a single instance of "I don't have a question but an opinion" non-question, which is often a problem at conferences and meetups I attended in the past. It was also much less intimidating to ask questions via the online option, instead of standing in front of the entire room of people! I hope more conferences use something like this as a Q&A tool in the future as well.

Technical issues did cause some problems, and for online conferences, I wonder whether the better option would be pre-recorded talks and online Q&A only. This would also allow subtitling talks beforehand, which would improve accessibility. I also found that it was often hard to read the text on the screen because of small fonts used in presentations and low stream quality: maybe this could also be spotted with pre-recorded talks?

To wrap up

I enjoyed diving into some Android topics during these two days, but I don't think I will join many more online conferences this year. Watching a single talk or spending some time reading an article is a better learning approach for me at the moment. However, I do hope some good parts from online conferences are here to stay for a long time.

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