try! Swift vs droidcon - NYC Conferences
I enjoyed attending both the try! Swift NYC and the droidconNYC conferences this year. Although my work consists mainly of iOS development, I consider myself to be a mobile developer as both platforms are great and are important! With that said, I thought it would be interesting to put together a little comparison of both conferences. I will try my best to be unbiased 😅.
Some thoughts before we get into the comparison:
- If you aren’t familiar with these conferences please check them out! try! Swift is generally focused on the Swift language and its uses such as making apps for Apple products (iOS/iPhone, etc.) and Swift’s emerging uses (Swift on the server, etc). droidcon is generally focused on the Android ecosystem such as making apps for Android devices and the Kotlin language.
- I hope to give a little insight into what it was like at each conference, and to encourage you to attend these amazing conferences!
- Although Apple and Google are competing in this market, we as developers don’t need to. When developing for a specific platform, it is easy to ignore the other platform and view the other community as the people we don’t associate with. Don’t miss out! There is so much to learn from each side. Think about it, we are all facing similar problems such as user engagement, developer pain points like slow compile times, fast evolving languages, functional vs object oriented programming, different architectures and design patterns, and how to learning/grow. There is so much to learn from each other and our diverse perspectives, experiences, skills, etc., and conferences like these are a great place to do so.
- Finally, thank you to all the organizers and speakers for making such great conferences! I know there are countless hours poured into these conferences, and I am deeply appreciative for that ❤️.
try! Swift: A, droidcon: A
Hard to put one over the other in this category. Both conferences had a great series of talks, and the hard work from all the speakers clearly showed!
try! Swift was a single track conference while droidcon was multitrack. droidcon for me gets a +1 in that attendees were able to choose what talks they were most interested in attending, which was fun.
Also note worthy, try! Swift had an awesome team of hosts that entertained the audience through encouragement, jokes, some magic, and a little karaoke. This was a good thing due to the time needed to setup the next speaker’s slides. A +1 for try! Swift. I even got called up to try and juggle during one of the “intermissions” 😅.
Main talk themes
try! Swift - there were a good mix of technical and developer happiness topics, with a more of a focus on Apple frameworks and Swift on the server. Swift on the server has come a long way even compared to a year ago. I think the community with Apple’s continued support is doing a great job working out the pain points. I only see a bright future for writing backends and web clients using Swift!
droidcon - there were also a good mix of talks with the needle pointing more towards technical talks. As far as general theme goes, there was more of a focus on open source frameworks/projects and cross platform development (Flutter, Kotlin Native, and React Native). Cross platform development is super interesting and, as noted above, there are several solutions that are competing to win the dream of writing one code base for both Android and iOS (and maybe web?). Personally, I think we are still somewhat at the early stages of cross platform development (maybe midway through the early stages), and I don’t think we will ever truly be free from writing platform specific code when there are differences like Android Instant Apps and the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera. We can all keep hoping and watching eagerly though!
try! Swift: A, droidcon: A
Both communities are amazing! Everyone I spoke to was super welcoming and it felt like we were all working towards a common goals.
Going into droidcon, I thought putting iOS Engineer on my badge could be a mistake. As it turned out, my badge was a great conversation starter! The Android community was welcoming. Even the side eyes were friendly 😂. Also, I got the feeling from try! Swift that I would have gotten a similar welcoming response if I had put Android Engineer on my badge.
try! Swift: A-, droidcon: A
try! Swift - Being in a theater, the ambiance was really nice. However, because of this the venue didn’t really seem like it was set up for this kind of event. The holding area between talks was a bit small, and as a result didn’t promote free movement that well, which would have helped socializing between talks and during breaks. Also, there was a lack of tables and outlets, which seems like a requisite for a tech conference.
The stage for the talks, although nice, was theater stadium style seating and therefore was a bit awkward to float in and out of if you wanted a break or needed to leave early for some reason. That awkwardness was helped by the conference being a single track (one talk to see at a time).
Also, there were only a handful of company sponsors with tables, so there wasn’t too much to explore between talks; this limited amount of free goodies 😬.
droidcon - The venue was more of a typical conference center. There was a large holding area that was easy to walk around and meet people (there was even a little outdoor area with games and picnic tables!). Also, the indoor holding area had a bunch of tables with outlets
The stages for the talks varied in size. There was a main keynote state and smaller stages at different places around the venue. The main keynote stage and the second largest stage were only separated by a cloth, so there were times when it was difficult to hear the talk that you were attending. Also, the main keynote area had the HVAC system, so the cold air seemed to pool up there…cold.
Side note, Amazon’s solution to the neighboring talks noise problem at the AWS Summit in NYC was to put three talks in the same room and give you headphones that were tuned in to a particular talk. I will take the slight noise inconvenience from a neighboring talk at droidcon any day over weirdly sitting in a large silent conference room with a sea of people wearing glowing headphones.
try! Swift: B, droidcon: A
The food at try! Swift was what you would expect from conference food — pretty generic and good enough. The food was the same both days. They did have gluten free options and desert, so that was a plus.
On the other hand, droidcon’s food was a total surprise! Breakfast one day was local bagels and the other day there were all different kinds of egg sandwiches including some fancy ones with avocado 😋. They had a diverse lunch menu that included local pizza, salads, and a variety of sandwiches (not all on the same day). They even had a pop-up coffee area with baristas to make you your favorite drinks ☕️!
try! Swift: B+, droidcon: A
- Both conferences gave some swag, but what sets the two apart was the swag from sponsors — droidcon simply had more of it. At droidcon, Instagram/Facebook had their employee vending machine dishing out sunglasses/cases/fans, Square was giving out DIY Lego figures, and Jet was giving out insulated water bottles, just to name a few.
Some tips if you are planning or thinking of attending a conference
- Meet new people - As great as the talks are, that is only half the reason to attend a conference. There are so many interesting conversations to be had, so strike one up! If you are a bit shy, which I am, just remember that nearly everyone else is in the same situation as you. Talk to the person next to you in line or when you are sitting waiting for a talk to start. If you are the person that feels like they don’t have anything to add to a conversation, think of some relevant challenges you are facing or subjects you are interested in and ask people what their perspective on that or just ask what someone works on. People usually like to talk about things they are passionate about, and people are usually passionate about programming if they are at one of these conferences.
- Learn something new - Time at a conference is a great time to experiment with new or different technologies. Especially, if you try and play with something you just learned form a talk. The nice thing is if you hit a roadblock, you have the expert speaker floating around to ask!
- Missing a talk is okay - Don’t feel like you need to sit through each talk. Take the time to enjoy the experience and relax, explore new ideas, and meet new people. If you miss a talk, most of them are filmed these days.
- Take notes? - This is probably not for everyone, but I like to take notes during the talks. Nothing too serious. Just highlights that stand out to me or things to look up later. This has come in handy so many times it is crazy. I let my notes remember what is going on, so I don’t feel like I have to retain everything.
- Ask the speakers questions - All the speakers are interested in the topic they presented (otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen that topic for their talk). They spent a ton of time preparing and putting their talks together, so come up with some questions and learn more. Also, don’t forget to thank and encourage them for all the hard work.
- Consider giving a talk - This has been on my wishlist for a while. I made a point to ask some of the speakers for advice, and this is what they told me:
- Do it!
- Try speaking at a local meetup to get some experience. Meetups are just mini conferences if you think about it.
- Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you practice your talk, so it goes smoothly — and it will go smoothly if you practice!
- You can take a few different approaches to preparing: commit everything you want to say to memory, put notes in the slides to guide you through the points that you want to make, or just wing it (I wish I could do some light prep and improv an awesome talk).
- You already have a topic to talk about. Saying that a everyone already knows what you know or what you know is too trivial for a talk is a fallacy. You started somewhere, right?
- Everyone is at a different point in their career, and your experience is valuable to someone trying to get to learn what you have learned. After you have struggled to learn something, you are the best person to teach/talk about that topic! You know better than anyone what it was like to not know that information, so you will be able to present it in the most relatable way.
Interested in weighing in? Let’s chat on Twitter!
p.s. Where is the Window’s phone conference, amirite?