The Time I Attended My First Google Event: Google Developer Days India 2017

28th October 2017. I get an email with the subject Google Developer Days India 2017: You’re in! Join us at GDD India 2017. My excitement levels know no bounds. I look around and observe my room is empty. Dance and jump around gleefully for a few moments. The icing on the cake came a few days later when I got another email inviting me to the Community Reception to be held on 30th November at the Taj Vivanta, Yeshwantpur.

I cleared my schedule and planned my weekend. And what an incredible weekend it turned out to be. It has been almost a month since GDD ended, yet I can recall every detail because, in some ways, I am still mesmerized by the entire experience.

So here is a little throwback to that spectacular weekend of 2017.

Google held its first ever Google Developer Days event in India on 1st and 2nd December 2017, and according to the event website,

Google Developer Days (GDD) are global events showcasing the latest developer products and platforms from Google to help you quickly develop high quality apps, grow & retain an active user base, and tap into tools to earn more.

It doesn’t just stop there. GDD was the largest ever developer event to be held in India by Google, and its sheer magnificence was an experience in itself. Google was at its captivating best, carefully handpicking the speakers and sessions to cater to the Indian developer landscape and pulling out all stops to ensure the success of the event. There were sessions covering a wide range of topics, from Android and PWAs, to Machine Learning and IoT, allowing everyone irrespective of their interests a chance to enrich their skillset. But our journey started a little earlier at the Community Reception.

The Community Reception

Our itinerary started on Thursday, the 30th of November, the day of the community reception. Although many of us traveled to Bangalore in the morning and had plenty of time on their hands for everything, it wasn’t smooth sailing for all of us. The community reception proved to be an eventful evening for many of us.

The ones who made it on time had a wonderful time meeting people from various GDGs all around the place. There were also members of the WTM community as well as Googlers interacting with everybody. You could also have a chat with some of the speakers for the GDD event and grow your network. There was also an attractive photo booth with props on offer, and you could even take a print of the photo you clicked.

Sadly, I didn’t make it on time. After attending my morning classes, I caught the afternoon bus to Bangalore. It was half-past two, and by my calculations, I would comfortably reach the venue by half past seven. I couldn’t be any more wrong. I lost out to Bangalore’s intense traffic on a day every traffic signal seemed hell-bent on slowing me down. I eventually reached my destination at nearly 9, covering the last kilometer on foot after ditching my cab struck in traffic (again) after which I could only enjoy the delicious dinner, click photos at the photo booth and dance to a couple of songs with my friends before it was time to wind up.

My friends (let’s call them A. and G.) also took an afternoon bus but hilariously ended up at the wrong Taj at the right time. They took the metro, and half ran all the way to the reception reaching by half past eight. A. also mistook a can of beer for a 7 Up and took half an hour to finish it. We all had a little fun at his expense about that (In his defense, he just followed G. and took the same can assuming it to be a soft drink).

After the reception, we made our way to the hotel and met up with everyone else. Those of us who attended the reception already had our badges, so we did not have to wait in line the next day to register ourselves at BIEC. That meant we could sleep in a little later than everyone else. And that was all the license we needed for staying up late and making fun of each other. The late night fun obviously turned out to be one of the highlights of our weekend.

Google Developer Days: Day 1

Some of us woke up late (how did we not see that coming?) and hurriedly got ready. The others reached BIEC comfortably on time and kept sending us updates about the everything, including the delicious breakfast they were having. I took the metro along with Ujjwal and Surya and was glad to know we weren’t the only ones who were late. Our coach was filled with people talking to each other about GDD, and some of them who attended the reception the previous day already had their green tags around their necks.

Everyone attending GDD got one of these

We already knew we’d end up missing our breakfast, but as long as we attended the keynote, we really didn’t mind. We did manage to reach in time (almost), running to the keynote after grabbing our GDD shirts and stickers near the registration desks. We saw the giant #GDDIndia in front of the Sandbox, but had no time to pose. We reached the keynote and took a seat in one of the last rows with seats filling up rapidly either side of us.

The layout at BIEC for GDD
Hall 3a filled up quickly as the kick off time approached

Pankaj Gupta started off proceedings in the expansive Hall 3a, where he spoke at length on Google’s initiative of Next Billion Users and the challenges these people face as new users of mobile technology and the internet. He also talked about Google’s solution to those challenges and initiatives like Google Station and Internet Saathi (absolutely brilliant this one) to increase the reach of internet, especially in rural India.

The Opening Keynote at GDD India

He then invited Daniel Galpin on stage, who talked about how exciting it is to be an Android developer at the moment with the massive improvements being made in Android Oreo and support for Kotlin. Sachit Mishra then talked about Google Assistant and the latest updates and tools to help your app perform better and be easily discoverable. He also spoke about how DialogFlow has now made it incredibly easy to make your own applications for Google Assistant.

Kaz Sato followed him and talked about Google Cloud and ML, enumerating the various areas of application of neural networks at Google and how they are improving the performance of products like Google Search, Gmail, and Maps. He rounded off his talk by speaking on TensorFlow (for someone with almost no experience in ML, this was an educative experience, to say the least) and invited Anitha Vijayakumar to speak about TensorFlow Lite and how it applies to mobile computing. She also talked about the challenges of implementing such a library on a heterogeneous mobile platform.

Then came Tal Oppenheimer who spoke about Chrome, mobile web and PWAs, and Lighthouse as an effective tool to build PWAs. The last speaker of the keynote was Francis, who spoke about Firebase helping developers develop and grow their products using tools like Cloud Firestore, Cloud Functions, and Firebase Crashltyics to name a few.

The keynote was followed by scores of people eagerly making way to the auditoriums hosting the next sessions. All of the sessions were live-streamed, and you can check them out at Google Developers India YouTube channel. You can also refer to the schedule for Day 1 and Day 2 to know more about what went on throughout the day. I planned out my event to be a healthy mixture of training sessions and speaker sessions with adequate breaks in between, mostly focusing on Android.

Developing Your Own Apps for the Google Assistant with Dialogflow

My first session of the day was Hands-on with Developing Your Own Apps for the Google Assistant with Dialogflow taken by Sachit Mishra and Silvano Luciani. I got in early expecting a large audience, and thankfully got a seat. The people who came in late had to scrunch in the corner (Cassia Room wasn’t really roomy) or make do with the extra chairs set at the back. Sachit and Silvano patiently explained the steps to the audience and helped out everyone who got stuck somewhere in between. At the end of the session, quite a few people had managed to create a working app for the Assistant. Everyone also got a cool Dialogflow sticker at the end which I really liked.

Hall 3b housed the Sandbox (towards the left) and the stage where the band played during the After Party on Day 1

By the time my training session got over, it was nearly time for lunch. All of us met up in the spacious Hall 3b and everyone helped themselves to the delicious meal on offer, neatly arranged in rows, and talking about everything we attended so far and planning out the sessions for the rest of the day (yes, some people still hadn’t completely planned out their entire schedule; in their defence they wanted to make their decision at the last minute depending on who else would be coming with them). And then we all went our separate ways.

Food was served at the far side of the picture
Hall 3a

One thing everyone immediately learned, was that sessions in Hall 3a were the best because that meant you would definitely get a seat; unlike the auditoriums where you may miss out if you arrive late and the hall filled up. Right after lunch, the Android peeps made our way to Hall 3a (which looked weird at half capacity) for Daniel Galpin’s session Diving into Oreo and the Support Library. He gave an engaging overview of the improvements being made in Oreo and the support library including changes made to improve performance in lower RAM devices by Android Go and Neural Networks API working in tandem with TensorFlow. He also talked about updates to the API levels in the support library which included picture in picture mode, custom fonts, back-ported support for path interpolation, and changes to physics-based animations which I found most interesting of all.

We then made our way to the Jacaranda Room for Wayne Piekarski’s session What’s Up with the Internet of Things, TensorFlow, and the Google Assistant where he talked about ubiquitous computing (meaning computing is everywhere) and how he predicts there is a significant incoming growth in IoT in the near future. He also talked about the Google Assistant, Android Things and its application for IoT and integrating it with TensorFlow, and Actions on Google using DialogFlow. I absolutely loved the video he showed to all of us highlighting the Conversation Actions.

After two sessions, most of us were eager to attend the training session Hands-on with Android Things and Creating Your Own IoT Devices by Jonathan Koren and Wayne Piekarski to be held in the Cassia Room. And apparently, half the crowd there thought similarly. The line was absolutely humongous, and I don’t know anyone personally who made it in. As I said before, Cassia Room wasn’t really the roomy type.

So all of us made our way to everyone’s favorite Hall 3a once again to attend a session on Location and Battery taken by Shailen Tuli. It was an absorbing half hour where he talked about making battery efficient apps which use location. The biggest problem is users turning off their location to save battery, resulting in scores of apps on our phones not working or working in a degraded manner. Although in Android O, the Android team has throttled on gathering location for apps running in the background, the majority of devices are currently running Android N or lower. The talk focused on writing apps which would reduce battery usage due to location requests. I thoroughly enjoyed the session, and that easily made up for missing out on the earlier training session.

The next couple of hours were spent interacting with Googlers by the community lounge in Hall 3b, and enjoying the coffee and tasty brownies on offer. Some people in the group got in line to get their Android Things kit while others just relaxed on the umpteen cozy cushions put up all around the Sandbox. The Sandbox area in Hall 3b also played host to inquisitive participants checking out Google’s newest technologies in the demo section and interacting with Googlers and speakers. It was definitely the most happening place to be the entire duration of GDD.

Those of us who waited in the long queue, got to take this home with them

After snacks, I made my way to the Gulmohar Room for a training session titled Building an Instant App by Anirudh Dewani. I faced an excruciatingly long line again, but did not lose hope this time. I kept my patience as the line slowly trickled into the room and ended up being one of the last people to go through. Sweet victory indeed. In the session, Anirudh explained the steps one would have to follow to make an instant app, or even convert an existing app to an instant one. It was an enriching couple of hours yet by the time it ended, most of us were wiped out. It had been a long day, and I was glad to have some rest.

I dragged my feet out to the community lounge and noticed preparations were underway to get the After Party started. Oh yes, the After Party. How could I forget? Music has a strange way of recharging you, and Raghu Dixit and his band did exactly that. When the music started in full swing, it became hard to stay glued to my spot drinking my sorry glass of Coke and I skipped through to dance with everyone else near the stage. The next hour flew by as we jumped, spun, skipped and danced to the melodious tunes. Language in music is never a barrier, and people from all over the place joined in even if, at times, we did not understand the lyrics. A special mention to that one passionate participant with the beer bottle in hand, he kept everyone engaged around him throughout the time the music played — I don’t know his name or where he was from, but I sincerely thank him from the bottom of my heart. He thoroughly livened up the party.

Raghu Dixit and his band lit up the place
It was hard to stay put with so much going on
Everyone had a blast dancing to the tunes

We had dinner and drinks and soon the DJ came on for the band. This was Round 2. I was too exhausted to partake in dance anymore but the atmosphere of exuberance was outright infectious. I was almost sorry to leave while the music was still on, but all of us had to get back to the other side of the city and wake up in time for the next day. Late night conversations and jokes resumed once we got back to our hotel, and a significant amount of time was spent in debating who was soberer among the ones still left standing.

Google Developer Days: Day 2

We woke up on the morning of Day 2, slightly hungover from the events of the previous evening. Everyone packed their bags in a hurry and tried to leave as early as possible. Half of the group still got late (you may see a pattern here) and after it became apparent we couldn’t possibly make it in time for breakfast, we had some food at our hotel and booked cabs for BIEC. After securely storing our bags near the registration desks, everyone moved into Hall 3a for the keynote session.

The hashtag greeted you throughout the day as you moved around the venue

The Keynote for Day 2 did not boast as many speakers as Day 1 but remained much more topic-centric. Sebastian (who looked adorable wearing a lovely turban) got the session started by giving his introduction in Hindi (thoroughly appreciate the effort) before moving on to talk about the significant issue of breast cancer in India. He invited Dr. Geetha Manjunath to talk about her startup NIRAMAI (currently a part of the Google Launchpad Accelerator Program) which is harnessing the power of AI to detect breast cancer while it’s still in the earlier stages using the principle of thermography. She also spoke about their goals, challenges and had some words of advice for the developers in attendance.

Sowmya giving the keynote session for Day 2, GDD India

After this, Sebastian invited Sowmya Subramanian onstage who gave an engrossing talk about inclusion which was occasionally punctuated with (at times funny) videos. She talked about various types of inclusions with real-life examples and being mindful of our biases creeping into ML data sets. I would recommend that you watch the complete keynote, since she used many videos to explain her points to the audience.

Keynote for Day 2 GDD India

For Day 2, I decided to attend only talks and then use the breaks in between to check out the demo section in the Sandbox. The first session I attended was Performance Tooling by Amrit Sanjeev in Hall 3a. He talked about the latest tools added to Android Studio to monitor and counter the problems of excessive RAM usage, battery drain, and other performance issues. I personally love the effort Google has been putting in to make developers’ lives easier and provide a better overall experience for Android users.

The next session I attended was called Mobile in Context: Design Principles of Flow and Navigation which was taken by Jenny Gove. This was my favorite session of the day, where Jenny told us about important points to keep in mind while working on the design of a product. Jenny is a User Experience Research Lead at Google and her perceptive insight into user experiences and usage patterns were insightful, to say the least. She cited many of the studies Google has conducted, showing that often people’s preferences can often be starkly different to what we as developers may theoretically expect.

It was soon time for lunch again, and all of us gathered in Hall 3b once again to catch up, enjoy the amazing food, and plan out our day ahead. A couple of people had early buses and had to leave right after (it was kinda sad seeing them go, even though we meet up almost every day in college).

After enjoying a third helping of dessert I made my way to Hall 3a for Pete Lepage’s session From Website to Progressive Web App. I enjoyed the energetic way he went about his talk and showed everyone how simple changes can make a world of difference in making your website PWA friendly. Lighthouse can prove to be a powerful tool in this regard, and help you immensely.

I then attended Paul and Dan’s session on Building Rich Media Experiences with Android. Paul spoke about important APIs like media session and audio focus in media playback and gave a brief overview of bringing apps to the TV. After him, Dan came on and spoke about the AAudio API and it’s partner C++ library named Oboe which will make it simpler to make high performance, low latency audio applications on all android devices.

After that I made my way to Hall 3a to attend Lyla Fujiwara and Anirudh Dewani’s session on Building an Android Instant App. It was a continuation on the previous day’s training session and Lyla talked about building an instant app starting with the core concepts before inviting on Anirudh who continued the session, speaking about managing the module size of the app by giving some interesting examples. He also gave some cool tips and related resources, so be sure to check out their session.

I then made my way to the Sandbox and checked out the demo section. There was a Drawbot powered by Android Things, which would take a photo, scale it on the screen and then draw it as a sketch. There was also an AI robot hand which would indulge you in a game of rock paper scissors, a section for the Assistant, one on one sessions with Udacity instructors, a Pluralsight section where you could get goodies if you are one of the highest scorers on the Android IQ test, an Adwords section and I even saw Pete explaining Lighthouse to a small crowd at one point.

The DrawBot in action

We all had some coffee and snacks in between all this and clicked some photos at the photo booth; and I finally managed to get my picture clicked in front of the giant #GDDIndia outside Hall 3b. We all mostly hung out around the Community Lounge and interacted with some other participants and Googlers. Most of us were completely exhausted, and the remaining time was spent clicking each others’ pictures and reminiscing about the awesome weekend all of us had.

Soon it was time for us to leave and draw curtains on what was an eventful and fun-filled weekend of learning for all of us at. We collected our bags and made our way to the metro station bidding everyone goodbye. We were joined by a few other participants in the metro, and none of us (funnily enough) had bothered to remove that bright green tag hanging around our necks.

Here’s most of the squad

I will always be indebted to GDG VIT for giving me the chance to be a part of something as incredible as GDD and the platform to learn from the remarkable developers in attendance. Without a doubt, GDD proved to be one of the unforgettable highlights of my 2017; Google and all my friends in attendance made sure of it.

I can’t wait to attend the next Google Developer Days event in India.

Like what you read? Give Anshaj Khare a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.