Droidcon Italy 2014 | Ali’s experience

Droidcon ItalyPretty soon after hearing about a new conference that was going to be taking place I decided to hand in a paper and see if it was possible for me to share some of my knowledge at this conference. The conference I am talking about is Droidcon Italy which was to be held in Torino.
After having handed in the paper I was happy to hear I was invited to come over and share my knowledge! Apart from the fact that it’s always fun to be at a Droidcon event I was honoured to be part of a brand new version of it.
On top of that it was great that my colleague Wiebe Elsinga was also invited to present.

This is how I experienced my trip

Wednesday (February 5th)

Our travel plans were to fly from Amsterdam to Milan Malpensa and then take the bus to Torino. As always traveling is tiring. Today wasn’t any different. We had a bit of delay with our flight but apart from that  traveling went fine. It was a shame it was raining cats and dogs from the moment we arrived at the airport until we got to the hotel. We planned to do some sight seeing and did a bit of that but it wasn’t pleasant because of the weather. Especially if you keep in mind that we woke up to see a bright blue sky the day after! In the evening we decided to watch a Six Nations rugby match in the hotel. France vs England was an exciting match!

Thursday (February 6th)

Registration opened at 08:15 for speakers so we had some breakfast at 07:00 to make sure to get to the venue in time.

Opening keynote

After having registered it was time to visit the opening keynote which was presented by Francesco Ronchi, CEO of Synesthesia and one of the organiser of Droidcon Italy. He spoke in both Italian and English so everyone could understand what he was saying. He had some inspiring words about the motivation and drive behind hosting a Droidcon and actually pulling off hosting it. A good start to the event I’d say!

Gradle Build System

I had to rush from the opening keynote to get to the first technical talk by Martin Liersch. He spoke about Gradle. Even though I already saw a presentation about Gradle at Droidcon UK (in 2013) I was curious to see Martins take on Gradle. And as I expected before going into the presentation, I do want to take some time and dive into Gradle. Of course there are exceptions to the rule but Gradle seems so easy and logical. Having had good experiences with Android Studio it seems a good idea to also start to understand Gradle.

Slides can be found here

We had a coffee break after the first session and did a bit of catching up with Mark Allison who just flew in from the UK.

The elegance of functional testing using Calabash

At 12.30 it was time for me, Ali Derbane, to present  about Calabash. I presented about the importance of testing in general followed by some different ways one can test and maintain quality of an application. One way of testing applications is Functional testing (think of Robotium, Robolectric, Espresso and many more). Calabash is another framework that can be used to perform functional testing. During the presentation I went into depth and showed the crowd how Calabash can be used to test both Android and iOS applications.

Slides can be found here


LunchIt’s important to eat and drink well. After my presentation Hasan Hosgel, Mark Allison, Wiebe Elsinga and I went for a lunch in a nice little pub/restaurant type thing. Good food and nice conversation!

Obviously no Slides to be found here


After coming back from the nice lunch I decided to go see the talk presented by Victor Diaz Barrales. He passionately spoke about an open source project called Protocoder.

I cannot explain Protocoder better than the first two lines that are shown on the Protocoder GitHub page

Protocoder is a coding environment + framework in Javascript for quick prototyping on Android devices having some emphasis on rapid hardware hacking.

Victor did quite some live demo examples and apart from forgetting a specific cable it seemed like all the demo gods were with him. Go and check out the project. It might help you out!

Barcamp sessions

The first day of Droidcon Italy ended with some Barcamp sessions. I attended these two:

Being a Glassh*le

Wiebe Elsinga and Hasan Hosgel, both Google Glass Explorers had an informal and fun presentation. They shared some of their experiences, do’s, dont’s and tips with the audience when it comes to Google Glass. Quite some questions were asked from the audience as lots of people are curious about the new tech that continues to gain popularity.

Architecture: How I learned to stop worrying and love concurrency

IMG_20140206_172245Straight after, it was Frankie Sardo who presented at the barcamp. It was also the last session of the first day. Since I missed the talk he gave, which had some similarities during Droidcon NL 2013,  it was good that I could attend this presentation. He shared some challenges you can run in to when developing and asked the audience to think of a way you could solve these problems. He then went into discussing his experience and different possible solutions to the problems. A nice presentation to close the first day!

Friday (February 7th)

The second day started a bit later since we didn’t need to register anymore.

Android UI testing with Espresso

For me it was Xavi Rigau that kicked of the second day with one of the presentations I was most looking forward to. I’ve used a couple of functional testing frameworks and heard a lot about Espresso but haven’t had the time yet to see what it is.  Xavi prepared a demo application and used this during his presentation to show how Espresso can be used to functionally test it. I am definitely triggered to have a look into it. This means that so far Gradle and Espresso are on my “backlog”.

Demo application can be found here

Slides can be found here

Designing Accessible Android Applications

729f6d2c-f370-4c33-a350-7a341db2ca3dAfter the previous presentation I could remain seated because next up was Sonia Sharma. Before the presentation of Sonia I never really thought of accessibility in mobile applications. During her presentation I found out lots of things that I never knew existed in Android which can help you to make your application work for people that are visually impaired. There are some easy things you can do to enable your application to be accessible. I think it makes sense to use the infrastructure that Android provides us to easily enable these potential application users which are otherwise left out. Consider this topic added to my “backlog” too.

Graphical Magic

And again, I could remain seated because it was time for the graphical magician Mark Allison (well known for stylingandroid.com) to take the stage in the same room! As I mentioned in an earlier post I wrote while I was attending Droidcon UK 2013, Mark is very passionate when it comes to graphical stuff. All people that attended his presentation today, were the first ones to see his new topic during a conference.

Where he presented about animations in the previous presentation I saw of him, he now dove into some graphical magic. He took us on a more in-depth journey and showed some examples of how one can achieve Photoshop or Gimp-like effects from your Android application. Again, I was blown away about how easy he made it all look and how these “small” changes can make a big difference in how a user experiences the application.

Added to “backlog”

Case studies in Android design

After the coffee break it was time for Jamie McDonald to present. He presented us with his experience when developing and improving applications. He spoke about not forgetting the main goal of your application. Also continuously improving and listening to feedback of users. Not just spoken feedback but analytics can be a good tool to see how your application is being used; Or how your application is not being used.  Blindly copying an iOS designed application to Android is not done. Quite some more topics were spoken about and can be checked in the slides. The presentation had very interesting points and was presented with the end-user as one of the main characters in the story.

Slides can be found here

Teaching your client Android design, or, Ridding the world of iPhoneys

After the lunch break I came back to the same room to see Kenton Price. As lots of Android developers have experienced and still experience it often happens that a customer wants to have a copy of an iOS application as their Android application. For multiple reasons this doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t be done. Kenton presented us with some struggles he experienced and showed us his take on how this should be taken care of. An informal, fun and most definitely interesting presentation that should be seen by all people that are going through the same struggle!

Conquering concurrency: bringing the Reactive Extensions to the Android platform

As the second to last speaker I saw a presentation by Matthias Käppler. Matthias shared his experiences with problems Android developers can run in to when it comes to concurrency. He provided us with different ways these problems can be solved. One of the solutions he showed us, quite in-depth was RxJava. But as it becomes clear during his presentation, there is no Holy Grail just yet when it comes to the problems we can stumble upon. However, I think it is worth having a look at the slides and see for yourself what works for you.

Added to “backlog”

Slides can be found here

Prototyping your Android app, the (U)X-factor

The last presentation of this Droidcon was presented by Wiebe Elsinga. It wasn’t just the last presentation that I was attending but it was also the last time Wiebe would be presenting this topic. Great thing I could be there to see the latest and greatest presentation he gave about prototyping. Wiebe showed us the importance of prototyping and how it can help all involved parties to get an understanding of an application before a line of code has been programmed. He showed us different ways one can create a prototype. Even though it was late there were still plenty of people that came to visit the talk. It was a very informal and interactive session. Lots of questions were asked and obviously answered. Great last presentation!

Closing ceremony and afterparty

After the last presentation there was the closing ceremony which was presented by Francesco Ronchi. He showed us some statistics of social media usage during the conference days and thanked the organisers, speakers and attendees to make Droidcon Italy the success it was!

Soon after the closing ceremony we had a bite to eat and something to drink with some of the organisation and attendees. It was a good way to end these two days.

Thank you!

It’s been an honour to be part of Droidcon Italy and there are some people that I would like to thank.

Hope to see you all again next year


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