April 23, 2019
I had the opportunity to attend Google NEXT and SmashingConf SF 2019. Both were in San Francisco, CA and within weeks of each other, so I dub this the Month of Conferences and Learning. Both were multiple days and packed with dense talks.
NEXT is a huge conference held annually by Google to gather entrepreneurs, business leaders, and developers to learn about the future of (Google) cloud and opportunities with the latest technologies. It is multi-track, meaning many sessions run in parallel, so it is smart to plan your schedule and reserve seats to guarantee spots for the things you want to attend.
Many sessions were outside my repertoire, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to create an itinerary without conflicts. I attended sessions related to the Chrome browser, Google App Engine/SPAs/ML, and inclusion/diversity. NEXT is probably one of the most well organized, uncrowded, and well-staffed major events I’ve ever attended. All of the staff was very professional, from the speakers, to the security, to IT, all the way to the kitchen crew, and cleaners who spent time sorting through recycling and compost (because people can’t for the life of themselves seem to know what belongs where and/or don’t care).
“Diversity is a reality, inclusiveness is a choice.” - SAP CEO
Together, Google and Salesforce built a customer service partnership to create a next-generation Hulu customer service tool. It delivers:
A combination of Dialogflow Enterprise Edition dev suite and Salesforce AI platform Einstein together:
“We are a culture adverse to vulnerability” - Laverne Cox
“Empathy is the antidote to shame.” - Laverne Cox
“Privilege means you don’t have to think about stuff.” - Laverne Cox
Privilege is highly dependent on the room you are in (eg: context).
Overall, I was a little disappointed with the quality of the inclusion and diversity panels. They were very shallow and only scratched the surface of the issues we see. Everyone agreed there is a lack of diversity and inclusion within tech in general and it can be better, but none shared solutions or plans, and only provided the beginnings of conversations. I guess that is better than nothing?
I was hoping to see these bigger companies show some kind of initiative on a larger scale since they work at companies that (seem) to have the resources to do so, and (may) be in positions to do something about it.
Laverne’s talk by itself stood out as an excellent example the conference should follow. She provided statistics, facts, experience, relatable content with solid stories, and examples of what she has done to make lives better for the community.
SmashingConf is held annually in San Francisco (and other parts of the world) by Smashing Magazine. I think this editorial is the oldest one I’ve been following since the early days of my career, yet this is my first time attending.
Note that there was an option to attend some workshops on days before/after the conference. I opted in to attend Vitaly’s New Front-End Adventures. Space for it was a bit cramped and the screen for the projector could have been bigger, but I learned a lot of things. Vitaly had a TON of material and asked the group what we wanted to focus on now and then, so it was a fluid class.
They did provide ample time before, during, and after to get free snacks, coffee/tea, lunch, and bathroom breaks. There were also plenty of power outlets for your laptop.
This is a much smaller and intimate single-track conference consisting of mostly only designers and front-end engineers. Most talks were filled with UI/UX content (very up my alley), with a mixture of technical and non-technical sessions.
One fun bit: every goodie bag you got during badge pickup had a balloon. As a part of the opening ceremony, the audience blew up their balloons and threw them up in celebration. It was very exciting and a great way to start the day, full of energy and a sense of community.
Most were insightful, especially the accessibility ones. There was only one talk that was catered to more non-technical folk (eg, the designers in the house) and the topic was demystifying GIT. I use GIT on a day-to-day basis, but I could see how useful it was for non-technical people to understand what GIT is used for, how it is useful, and most importantly, why it is not magic and how it is fairly simple once you break it down. Take away: do not be afraid of tools and learn their benefits!
Note: most of these were gathered from the workshop as I had a digital copy of these. I started writing notes (WITH A PEN) in my little red booklet for the single-track conference and did not transcribe those. They shall be lost forever.
Brotli: A data format specification for data streams compressed with a specific combination of the general-purpose LZ77 lossless compression algorithm, Huffman coding, and 2nd order context modeling.
Get the compression of a JPEG with the transparency of a PNG.
Don’t worry, it turns out a lot of us are stuck in the boat of being a unicorn that has to keep up with way too much new stuff and employers wanting too much from us.
It may be time to distinguish the differences between the different types of front-end developers out there.
Litmus: build, test, and analyze email campaigns
Dynamic Web Typography: FF Meta Variable Font Demo
Variable fonts are an evolution of the OpenType font specification. It enables many different variations of a typeface to be incorporated into a single file, rather than having a separate font file for every width, weight, or style. They let you access all the variations contained in a given font file via CSS and a single @font-face reference.
If you are a front-end engineer (or work full-stack) or are a designer, or interested in UI/UX, I cannot recommend SmashingConf highly enough.