App Builders 2016 – Conference Review

Technopark Zurich. 2 Days. 200 Attendees. 2 Tracks. 34 Speakers. 24 countries. App Builders is a new “Conference about mobile technologies in the heart of Europe” organized by the Swiss Mobile Developers Association. This year, it took place for the very first time and I am happy I had the chance to be part of the conference.

The conference started with coffee and a great welcome keynote about computer science’s history, decorated with funny personal anecdotes, held by Scotty (Steve Scott), who is an iOS Developer and founder of the NSConference.

The talk was followed by Vikram Kriplaney and Sebastian Vieira’s “Face-Off: iOS for Android Developers, Android for iOS Developers” talk which was more or less a comparison of the two platforms from an developer’s perspective. Both gave insights about their work at where they face multilanguage support difficulties. One of the challenges is to maintain labels of various languages, while the labels’ texts are not translated yet. Here, they make use of Google’s Spreadsheet functionality, copying all language key values of one language to the Spreadsheet and translating step by step all supported languages using the spreadsheets translate function.

Another great technical talk, “SourceKit and You” was held by JP Simard. SourceKit is a framework developed by Apple. At least the framework’s name should be familiar to every Apple platform developer who uses Xcode.

SourceKit Crash

It is the framework used by Apple’s IDE to do syntax highlighting, code completion, etc. But most developers don’t know that they can use SourceKit by themselves, for example to write scripts for refactoring, code migration, code generation, formatting, documentation generation, Vim auto completion, etc. His appeal: „take your time and have a look to safe time“.

Accessibility is a very important topic which often gets forgotten by developers but also by the app’s project owners. Alexsander Akers showed in his talk what features iOS does provide for users with a disability and how visually impaired people work with their iPhone, for example how they navigate by using touch gestures. This talk was very interesting for me, because personally I never thought about these features when developing an app. I also did never try to navigate using iOS accessibility features.

Error Handling is always a hot topic especially if you are learning a new programming language because the technical features and also the conventions differ from language to language. Nicolas Seriot gave a great talk about error handling on iOS using Apple’s new programming language Swift.

Another interesting talk about Swift was held by Natasha Murashev aka. “Natashatherobot”. She explained “protocol oriented programming” and why Swift developers should use it. Her slides can be found here. She also wrote a blog post at which is easier to understand than the slides without the talk.

John Sundell, a developer who works for Spotify, held a great talk which is also worth mentioning it. Spotify’s app has a very dynamic, native user interface which is completely backend-driven. In his talk he explained the architecture and data structure they designed and used to implement this feature.

Besides those interesting technical talks I also enjoyed the following non-technical talks.

Marin Todorov gave a talk about “non-technical ways to become a better developer”. He talked about hisself, being a developer and what he does to improve his work life balance. The talk was held in form of a stage play and split up into three acts. During each act he gave some advice and explained what he did:

  • Act 1: Improving yourself: Brew beer, start running, start cooking, mediation, Easy ways to stop smoking, extra 15 minutes
  • Act 2: Improving your interactions “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we’re bound to others”: family is important
  • Act 3: Improving the world: „If anyone is improving the world it’s software creators“

Watch his great talk, it is awesome.

The last great non-technical talk was held by Adrian Kosmaczewski. In his talk “Being A Developer After 40” he talked about his jobs and gave the following 12 advices for developers:

  1. Forget The Hype
  2. Choose Your Galaxy Wisely
  3. Learn About Software History
  4. Keep on Learning
  5. Teach
  6. Workplaces Suck
  7. Know Your Worth
  8. Send The Elevator Down
  9. LLVM
  10. Follow Your Gut
  11. APIs Are King
  12. Fight Complexity

Have a look at the talks transcript or watch the video recording. It is great.

Thanks to the App Builders team for organizing such a great conference. I am looking forward to the second App Builders conference which will take place in Lausanne.

TL;DR: The links to all talks (slides and some video recordings) can be found here.

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