I went to one of those “startup conferences” last Wednesday. It was the third such event I attended this year. I somehow feel like I should go to more of those events, but then again I’m not sure why I feel that way. The “presentations” are generally good. But, that cannot be your sole reason. There are a lot of good information on the Net these days, for people like me who are planning to build, or currently buildling, “high tech” startups. People tell me you should “network, network, and network”. But, I’m not sure how effective these venues are for networking, at least for me. (I “met” less than ten people during the whole one day conference.) Especially when you are sleep-deprived (because you are spending 18 hours of your day coding), investing one day (or, even a few hours) on “networking” doesn’t seem like a good use of your time. For me, it’s not very clear. (Well, in general, it’s not always very clear to me why I do what I do. :) I think I’m like The Machinist, if you are into that kind of movies.) If I have to, I’d say I’m anticipating/hoping for some kind of serendipity.
Anyways, in the conference, I ran into a person from Google (let’s call her “M”). She said she was in charge of organizing Google I/O 2012. Funny thing is, I managed to buy a ticket to I/O this year, through some luck and through “determination” (see below). This year’s tickets were apparently all sold out in 20 minutes. The tickets were supposed to go on sale at 7AM, US Pacific time, on a particular day, and I had to stay up all night in order not to risk getting up too late. A lot of people could not buy tickets. So, how did I manage to buy a ticket? It clearly had a lot to do with luck (it was like lottery, in fact). But, I can tell you a few secrets. :) First of all, I was very prepared. I had two separate gmail accounts linked to two separate Google Wallets. I opened two Chrome browsers for these two accounts, and I alternatively used them, and kept retrying. (Most of the registration attempts just timed out, and often the error messages stated that the tickets were sold out, even from 7AM.) Finally, one of my requests got through, after probably a dozen retires from two different browsers, and it was 7:19AM, a minute(s) before the supposedly sold-out time. (I hope readers don’t think I was cheating by using two gmail accounts. :)) Even after that, Google Wallet kept failing to process my purchase request. When I successfully bought the ticket, it was 7:21AM. Note that I was really “persistent” even when I got the false errors (false, in hindsight) saying that there were no tickets left.
So, why was I so “determined” to buy a ticket to Google I/O?
Last Wednesday, this person from Google, M, asked me why I would go, or want to go, to I/O? This is my fourth year. Why I would want to go to I/O? Why I went through so much “trouble” to buy this year’s ticket? I couldn’t really answer her question, because I wasn’t really sure myself.
The first year when I went to I/O was 2009, and it was mostly out of curiosity. I started going to these large conferences, Web 2.0 and Google I/O, etc. around that time (Last time I had been to “conferences” was more than 10 years before, and it was “academic conferences”. I never went to Apple events, or Comdex, or even CES.)
In any case, a lot of exciting things were happening at Google at the time, ca 2009. Android was a very ambitious project and Chrome/Chromium was another. Java version of Google App Engine was starting to gain traction as well. The following year, 2010, this trend continued. I was learning Android development, and I was starting to use GAE more and more (as a platform for launching my future startup). In general, I was very interested in what was happening at Google. If I would go to one conference per year, it seemed to me that it should be this I/O event.
Last year, 2011, however, was a bit of disappointment to me. It wasn’t that the quality of I/O changed or anything like that. For me, essentially, the “novelty” wore off. At my third year, the events and presentations seemed more or less the same, to me. What was really new? There were a lot of “incremental” changes to Android platform and GAE (which were the areas of my primary interest), but nothing revolutionary. Opening the App Market to Google TV apps was one of the biggest news. I was fortunate enough to be invited to their pilot program, and it happened because I went to I/O. There was another exciting demo of using Android for home automation. This can be a really promising direction for Android, but that is discussion for another time.
Anyways, it appears that a lot of interesting things are still happening at Google. Google+ and the integration of “social” into search is probably big innovation which Google has recently introduced. But, does it affect my decision to go to I/O? Does it make me more excited about Google’s technologies? Not sure.
So, why would I want to go to I/O this year? Or, more precisely, will I go to I/O this year? Or, would I continue going to I/O year after year? (Note that there is another question, Why Google does Google I/O, which may be somewhat related to the question I’m addressing here.) To be honest, my answer is really, “Not sure”. It’s more like a habit to me at this point. Since I went there last year, maybe, I should go again this year. But, then again, maybe, I’m expecting something really new, something really exciting this year (like the anticipation before opening the proverbial Box of Chocolate). Not sure.
So, here’s an alternate question I’ll try to answer instead: Why would a developer want to go to the Google’s annual developer event, Google I/O? Clearly, I cannot speak for other developers, but this is my best guess answers (from my own perspective).
- First, what is I/O? In my view, it’s a combination of Google PR event and developer relations event. If you are into Google technologies, it can be a very exciting atmosphere to be in. Especially, the daily keynotes can be fun and exciting like watching a good show.
- What I like about I/O is that they always announce something new at the event. You can always learn about them on the news, but it’s not the same. If you are entrepreneurial like me, these new announcements can affect your future project selections/directions, and you can have the “head start”.
- All developers at the event are, to a certain degree, advocates of Google technologies. If nothing else, they use some of the Google technologies on a daily basis, e.g., for building their products. You can feel comaraderie with other developers at the event, who are from all around the world.
- I haven’t been to other developer events, but Google I/O is like a weekend school. There are a lot of “lectures” for developers with different skill levels. You can learn a new thing or two by attending these classes. They are all recorded and you can watch them later on YouTube, but again the experience is not the same. I feel like I’m learning more by being there rather than watching videos. Your mileage may vary.
- If nothing else, you get various gifts, or “high tech toys”, merely by attending the event. Some are just nice gifts. Some are, however, “pre-release” products which are only available to the I/O attendees. Depending on your interests, that few day or few week “head start” can make a big difference if you are developing related products in a competitive market.
- I ran into a few old friends/acquaintances, and made a few new ones, in the past events. While this cannot be your primary reason to attend the event, this can be still a good reason to force yourself to get up early in the morning, in case you feel lazy, on the days of I/O.
- Etc. (Add more reasons of your own here.)