Each spring we make the pilgrimage to San Francisco to participate in Google I/O. As mobile developers, consultants, and authors of several books on the Android platform, we consider this a must-attend event -- provided we can get tickets.
After the conference has ended, our bags are packed to the brim with conference swag, our minds are buzzing with new ideas from platform announcements, and we've thoroughly dissected each and every word we heard from the Googlers of note. But we always ask ourselves one question: was the trip worth it? Here is how we would answer that question for Google I/O 2011.
Google I/O 2011 Content Freely Available Online. Why Attend?
Google I/O sessions are posted on YouTube after the conference for all to review. People who couldn't make it to the conference were invited to Google campuses all over the world to network with local professionals and view the conference live streaming feeds -- this is a fantastic extension of the conference in our opinion. So it's a natural question: if the content is freely available, why spend the time and money to go to the conference itself?
Well, there are a couple reasons we find it important to actually go to the conference. Perhaps most importantly, there's the immersive quality that two solid days of technical sessions, announcement-filled keynotes, and parties -- talk about motivation to take your apps to the next level, or broaden your device targets to new types of devices.
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Figure 1. Crowds Wait to Check in to Google I/O 2011
You also have the opportunity to immediately react and respond to important announcements you'll heard first hand. You can talk with neighbors, grill Googlers, communicate with your team, or even pull out your laptop and make quick changes to your applications. You lose this opportunity when you try to participate remotely. Not all session content makes it onto the feeds, and until this year, you had to wait weeks for the videos to be posted online.
For us, the conference is primarily a powerful networking opportunity. We meet with current clients, potential clients, potential employees, and other professionals in our field. We pick the brains of Googlers, have the opportunity to ask those sticky questions and sometimes even get reasonable responses. We meet with readers, answer questions and get tons of useful feedback. The location in Silicon Valley is very handy for setting up peripheral meetings, both inside and outside the conference.
Lastly, there's the conference swag. Some people have complained that the conference giveaways have turned the conference into something of a circus, but we didn't see any real evidence of this in the attendees we talked to; everyone was a professional who deserved to be there. This year, the goodies only got better:
- A special edition Android tablet
- A 4G hotspot
- A Chromebook (eventually)
That's not even counting the little silly toys, t-shirts, and special goodies you might have snagged at the right conference sessions, like the Xperia Play (PlayStation phone) that attendees of one of the Android game development sessions walked away with.
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Figure 2. Swag Pick-up at Google I/O 2011
Given the market value of the swag compared to the true cost of attending a conference -- the cost of conference ticket, hotel stay, airplane tickets, time off work, and various other costs -- the swag is nice, but certainly not worth attending for. You must take advantage of the other opportunities of the conference to make it truly worthwhile.