My Google I/O 2019 Experience

Barbara and I attended the Google I/O 2019 developer conference earlier this month. We’ve attended the conference every year since the first in 2008. I also attended its predecessor, the original Google Developer Day the year before. This marks my 13th annual general Google Developer conference, and my 12th Google I/O specifically.

Google keeps altering the form a bit. In 2016 they moved the conference from being an indoor conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco to a mostly outdoor “festival” at the Shoreline Amphitheatre.

I’m still not a fan of the outdoor festival over the indoor conference, as it presents a number of problems. These problems include: sunburn, pushing the wheelchair all over the place over uneven terrain, and lack of power outlets.

They continue to learn from each year’s conference and make adjustments that fix some of the larger problems. For example after the first year, sunscreen was provided everywhere throughout the conference to help with the sunburn problems. They also made session rooms larger and introduced a reservation system so that people didn’t have to wait for sessions out in the sun for long periods of time.

I won’t cover the big announcements from Google I/O 2019 in this post. I covered them over on Justia’s blog. There are, however, some things I wanted to cover that I couldn’t really cover on the other blog.

Particularly Inspiring Sessions from Google I/O 2019

This year, there was a change in the focus of a lot of the sessions. There were still sessions about changed Google APIs and products and how to use them. But, there were also a number of sessions that were there to inspire developers to make great things. Some of them didn’t even have to do with Google services.

Here are some of the sessions from Google I/O 2019 that I found the most inspiring:

Teaching a Car to Drive Itself by Imitation and Imagination

Teaching a Car to Drive Itself by Imitation and Imagination was a session hosted by Mayank Bansal of Waymo. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this session, since Waymo doesn’t yet have any public APIs or services a developer could use. I wasn’t expecting the session to be a deep dive into explaining the process that the Waymo team followed to train the machine learning models that allow their self driving cars to work.

He explained the pitfalls that the team came across when doing the project, and didn’t shy away from the ways the team failed in their early attempts. This was an absolutely fascinating session, and extremely inspiring.

Stadia Streaming Tech: A Deep Dive

This session pleasantly surprised me as well. Stadia is Google’s new Streaming Gaming product that will come out later this year (announced back at the Game Developer Conference earlier this year). I assumed this session would be aimed at game developers wanting to develop for the service. Instead, the session was a deep dive into streaming technology as a whole and just how they changed the way streaming video works to reduce latency as much as possible.

It went into the fundamentals of how streaming has worked historically and how they have changed it to fit this particular use case.

Sound Design and Sonic Brand

In addition to being a Software Engineer at Justia, I also work with a non-profit Community Theater group called Sunnyvale Community Players. I help SCP put on several musical theater productions a year. On most shows I’ve worked on, I work as either a Sound Designer or a Sound Engineer. As such, when I saw a session about Sound Design on the agenda for Google I/O 2019, I didn’t hesitate a second to reserve my spot.

This session was a fantastic session on Sonic Branding and creating sound effects and I for one found it particularly interesting. Conor O’Sullivan is a sound designer at Google and is responsible for a lot of the sounds that you barely notice but are crucial to your google experience. Things like the boot up sound on Google home, or all the clicks, boops, beeps and whistles you hear when using an Android phone or a Google app on any phone.

The session was filled with guidelines on how to approach sound design for a product, which is a bit different than sound design for a musical, but many of the same rules apply. Google has compiled these guidelines and more into a set of Material Sound Design guidelines which is excellent reading (and listening) for anyone working with sound.

On Creativity and Technology, with Legendary Animator Glen Keane

This was a very personal report from former Disney animator Glen Keane, explaining how someone most known for using a pencil and paper to create characters such as Ariel (from The Little Mermaid) and the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) could learn to embrace technology and demonstrating how technology fosters creativity. The session was deeply moving, and it was powerful just being in the same room as this incredibly creative individual.

As a fan of both Technology and Disney Animation, this was definitely a session that I was excited about. I unfortunately got there late because of traffic, but I’ve rewatched the video to catch what I missed, and now so can you.

Michio Kaku on the Future of Humanity

Sessions don’t get any more inspiring this session with Michio Kaku, the co-founder of String Field Theory and one of the most intelligent people in the world. This interview and Q&A session left everyone in the room thinking about what the future holds, not just with technology, but with the mind, education, and more.

A massive standing ovation ended the session.

My Google I/O 2019 Live Blogs

This year I live blogged 7 sessions for Justia’s Legal Marketing & Technology Blog. I started doing this 2 years ago at Google I/O 2017. I used a different service this year from years past. The arena.im service I tried out this year actually has an AMP compatible embed, so for the first time the live blogs could work in AMP.

Here are the sessions from Google I/O 2019 I live blogged:

  1. Building Successful Websites: Case Studies for Mature and Emerging Markets
  2. Enhance Your Search and Assistant Presence with Structured Data
  3. Rapidly Building Better Web Experiences with AMP
  4. Speed at Scale: Web Performance Tips and Tricks from the Trenches
  5. Google Search: State of the Union
  6. AMP for Email: Coming Soon to an Inbox Near You
  7. Google Search and JavaScript Sites

Thoughts on the arena.im service

arena.im also had an advantage in that it had a pretty good mobile app. I had Barbara take pictures for me while I focused on taking notes. Barbara signed into the app on her own phone while I signed in on my laptop to take notes.

The service also had a nifty feature that allowed me to connect my twitter account. Whenever I would tweet something with the #io19 hashtag during one of my live blog sessions, it would automatically post the tweet into the live stream.

Overall arena.im worked well, though I did have problems in one of the sessions. About a third of the way through the session, the twitter feature malfunctioned. Instead of just posting my tweets with the #io19 hashtag, it was posting tweets from anyone using the #io19 hashtag. What’s more, turning the feature off wouldn’t stop the deluge. I spent most of my time during that session deleting tweets from the live stream that shouldn’t have been there.

After that issue, I disabled the automatic posting of tweets feature for the rest of the conference. Instead, I had it pull up a stream of tweets in a panel. Whenever I would tweet something that I wanted to also post, I’d hit the post button from there. This way I was in control of what ended up in the liveblog.

What could be better

I liked arena.im and I’d probably use it again, but I wish I could find a service that would handle the AMP embed using amp-live-list instead of just using amp-iframe. With amp-live-list the entire live blog post would be AMP and I could actually style the output to meet my needs. Also arena.im doesn’t seem to have an export feature.

After an event, I like to turn my live-blogs into normal blog posts that don’t need external resources to work. This is generally better for SEO and it is faster to load and easier to style.

I’ve started converting my live blogs from this year. It is slow going, though, since I have to manually re-create the stream.

Final Thoughts from Google I/O 2019

Yes, we’re fans.

Google I/O is a high point of my year, every year for the last 13 years. I show my excitement for it by doing crazy things like coloring my hair. Barbara even does face paint to celebrate.

This year’s conference felt different from recent years past. I still got sun burned in spite of tons of sunscreen. Yes, I still ended each day so exhausted that I could barely walk to my bedroom. But it has been a long time since I’ve left Google I/O feeling so inspired. Inspired to make great things, to push the future of technology, and to follow that great adage:

“If at first you don’t succeed… sudo” – Anonymous

Never give up. Push the limits of creativity and animation like Glen Keane. Teach a car to drive itself like Waymo. Solve the greatest mysteries of the universe like Michio Kaku. Whatever you do, keep moving forward.

I had a great time at Google I/O 2019 and I’m looking forward to Google I/O 2020.