Droidcon Tunisia 2014 | Ali’s experience

A couple of weeks after having attended the first Droidcon in Torino it was time for Wiebe and I to fly off to Tunisia for yet another Droidcon. In this post I will share some of my experiences of our trip. Since it’s a blog post that contains a lot of information I thought it might be useful to provide you with a clickable table of contents.

Flight and Tunis

It was an early start to get to the airport in time to leave at 7.15. The flight would depart from Amsterdam, make a short stop in Frankfurt and then on to Tunis. The travel went pretty smoothly and we arrived around the expected time.
Transportation was arranged for us to get transferred to our first hotel which was located in Tunis. We had a little walk and food in Tunis after having dropped of our bags.

After we got back to the hotel it was time for me to do some work. At some point Wiebe had the brilliant idea to record a little welcome video for Droidcon. This is the result

Transfer to Hammamet

After having spent the night in Tunis we got transfered to a hotel that was on the same complex where Droidcon was to be held. We had a two-person apartment that could have easily fit 3 people. The complex felt a bit like a sort of fairytale world. I felt instantly at home!

We checked out the complex and went to the lobby since that was to be our main source of (relatively unreliable) internet. We sat for a bit until some of the other speakers arrived at the hotel. We had a nice chat and a little walk around the complex. We bumped into some of the organisers of Droidcon in the hallways of the complex. Along with them we had some dinner.

From left to right these were the people we had dinner with:

Two organisers: Inés Mamaï and Inès Hmida Ep Krimi
Speakers: Mario Viviani, Wiebe Elsinga, Taylor Ling, Cesar Valiente and Martin Liersch

After dinner we went downstairs to meet Taher Mestiri and Amira Cheniour, some of the main organisers. Before meeting them we met some of the other organisers.

We went to have another chat in the lobby and then decided to go sleep since tomorrow was going to be the big day. The start of Droidcon.TN 2014!

Day 1

So after having seen some of Tunisia it was time for the conference we all came for. Time to get some Android pumping through our veins! After the countdown timer finished we got shown some of the speakers in a nice video

Made by Amine Ben Cheikh

After the video was shown Taher hit the stage and had some inspiring words. He ended by saying “Are you readdyyyyyyy!?” after which he introduced the speaker to kick-off this edition of Droidcon Tunisia.

Open Source Android, beyond AOSP

The first speaker to kick-off was no one less than Ricardo Cerqueira, a great guy working at Cyanogen Inc. Cyanogen Inc is well known in the Android scene for CyanogenMod which currently runs on loads of Android devices. During his talk Ricardo shared some of his experiences as a developer (for Cyanogen Inc.). He shed some light on his views when it comes to Open Source Android development (as the title might have suggested 😉 ). Most definitely a good way to start the conference!

Tamaggo, A Revolutionary 360° Panamorph Imager

Straight after Ricardo, it was time for Maher Hanafi of tamaggo to present. I’m always a bit wary when I see that something is “Revolutionary”. But being a curious creature I wanted to see what this Panamorph Imager could do. Maher spoke about this relatively small device that could create 360° images and videos. He shared some of the problems they ran in to while developing this device called “ibi” and the ways they solved the problems.
Maher also showed some pictures and videos that were made using the ibi. Some of these videos and pictures made by using the ibi can be found here. When checking out these resources try to zoom and change the camera position. Not only does this work on images but it also works for videos that are being played. So far I’ve not experienced anything like it. Something that sort of comes close is creating a picture using the “photosphere” technology.
So yes Maher, I think it is a revolutionary device which I hope will be available outside of the US and Canada!

Below you can see three representations of the exact same picture taken by the ibi.

Panel Discussion

I think 600+ people were a witness of something which I found pretty special. The organisation of Droidcon.TN invited a panel of influential people to have an open discussion that will most likely positively affect the future of Tunisian software engineers. Among these influential people were members of the ICT Ministry and the Central bank of Tunisia. The panel was guided by Taher. I hear you ask what problems Tunisian software engineers face, that need attention of these influential people? One of the main issues most of them face, is the fact that they cannot perform international/creditcard payments. This stops lots of people from being able to even get a Google Play Developer account. Which in turn either stops people from trying to publish to the Play Store or finding different (read illegal) means of getting an account anyway. 
Because it was in french and arabic I didn’t follow most of the discussion but afterwards I asked Taher what the outcome was. He told me that all panellists agreed to write a proposal to tackle this problem. I hope to go back to Tunisia next year and hear the good news that steps have been made to allow Software engineers to publish their apps to application stores of their liking!

Video of part of the discussion

Bitcoin

Straight after the panel discussion it was Johann Barbie who talked about Bitcoin and about the startup he is part of called 37coins.

’37Coins’ is a simple way for you to send Bitcoins to anyone’s email address or mobile phone number. It is a web-service and android app to enable Bitcoin transaction via SMS ONLY. So you do NOT need a Smartphone or web able phone for using Bitcoin anymore. You can send your Bitcoin to anyone who has a phone number no matter where they are!

Since I only had a basic knowledge of Bitcoin lots of things got cleared up for me during his presentation. It sounds like the 37coins is an initiative that could be very useful. I am curious to see how 37coins will evolve.

Looking through (Google) Glass

The last speaker of the first day was Wiebe Elsinga a.k.a. “Glass” or “Mr. Glass” of Itude Mobile which is based in the Netherlands. During the entire conference Wiebe has been very kind to provide many people with a hands-on experience with Google Glass. But not only did he provide interested people with this service, he also presented about many aspects of Google Glass. Among lots of other things Wiebe spoke about developing for Glass, do’s and dont’s when it comes to using a Glass and how people can react to a Glass wearer.

It was a very enlightening presentation with a bunch of funny stuff in there. I hope one day I can try out the Glass 😉

Dinner

The first day of the conference didn’t finish without having dinner with some of the speakers.

Clockwise starting from the gap where I sat before taking the picture: Mohamed Amine AbouraMohammad Aljobairi, Mario VivianiPierre-Olivier Dybman, Édouard MarquezIlyes BoudjelthiaRicardo CerqueiraCesar Valiente, Taylor Ling, Wiebe Elsinga, Martin Liersch.

Day 2

From Android App to Killer App

The second day started with Mario Viviani, a Google Developer Expert and owner of mariuxapps.com. Having developed many apps and having reached millions of people that downloaded his apps Mario decided to share some of his experience on “How to Reach the Million-Downloads Milestone”. Things like knowing your market, being able to develop, design and market your application but also analysing usage data can be key steps to reach the ultimate goal. As he pointed out it’s very useful and important to listen to feedback that is given in stars and comments by application users. Nowadays it’s possible to respond to comments which allows you to have communication with the end-user.

Slides of Mario’s presentation can be found here

Doing the open source thingy

Next up was Wiebe Elsinga. “Hey, haven’t we seen this guy before?!” I hear you all ask. Yes we have seen him before. Wiebe presented about Google Glass on the first day. The second day he presented about open sourcing your project. He gave pointers on what you should and shouldn’t do when open sourcing your project. He gave some examples and also went into the sort of licenses that are out in the open which could be applied to your project. He also went into discussing some of the public repositories that can be used to host your project like Github or Bitbucket. The presentation should be considered as a good starting point when you find yourself in a situation where you are considering going open source!

Ingredients of an Awesome App

Flown in all the way from Malaysia was Taylor Ling, known by many Androiders for his blog androiduiux.com. From a user interface and user experience point of view Taylor spoke about how you can make a good or great app become an awesome app. Things like using animations, giving user feedback, give users comfort when they need to click and allowing users to use gestures that are known to them were subjects Taylor spoke about. To summarise, he gave a presentation that anyone should see when having doubts about choices that are to be made when it comes to the visual and usability aspects of your app.

Building Wunderlist. Lessons learned

When developing applications there are always things that you wish you would have done differently or maybe not have done at all. Cesar Valiente, one of the 6wunderkinder.com, the creators of the well known Wunderlist flew in from Berlin to share some experiences. He gave tips about databases, AsyncTasks and multithreading, Broadcast receivers, Services, Notifications, Widgets, Views, Graphics and Assets and even open source was part of the lessons that Cesar could teach us. Not much of code was shown at the talks I attended. It was nice to see some code on the slides Cesar presented!

Slides can be found here

The elegance of functional testing using Calabash

It was me that was the last one to present on the second day of Droidcon Tunisia in the beautifully decorated conference room. In case you don’t know who “me” is.
I am Ali Derbane and I work at a company called Itude Mobile which is based in the Netherlands. Among projects for customers we have been working on a framework that recently got open sourced called MOBBL. Make sure to have a look at it.
Enough about me, more about the presentation I gave. It’s important to test your applications. There are multiple ways of doing this. One way is creating automated functional test. Calabash is a framework that allows you to write these types of tests for both iOS and Android. During my presentation I went into detail on how, even non-technical people, could read and write these tests. Presentation was well received and there were some interesting questions from the audience. It was great to be on stage again at yet another edition of Droidcon to share my knowledge with everyone.

Slides can be found here

Compilation video

Thank you

Organisers

First of all I would like to thank all the organisers to make this conference the success it was. Lots of time went into organising this Droidcon but I think it turned out to be a great event! A special thanks goes to Taher Mestiri and Amira Cheniour!

Speakers

Without speakers there wouldn’t have been much to see. So thank you to all the speakers that took the time to visit Droidcon.TN 2014 to share your knowledge.

GDG’s

I’ve met a lot of great people of various GDG’s based in Tunisia but also outside of it. Keep up the good work you are doing. With your efforts the amount of people that get technical knowledge will continue to grow.

Attendees

A perfectly planned conference with plenty of speakers doesn’t mean that a conference will be a success. Of course a conference needs attendees and I would like to thank the 600+ attendees that travelled to Hammamet to be part of these fantastic two days!

Final thoughts

I have visited lots of conferences and spoken at many of them too but Droidcon Tunisia 2014 has been exceptional. 600+ people from many different places came over to attend the conference. It seemed like everyone came over to absorb as much knowledge as they could. I feel there is a healthy and positive drive to learn. During all presentations I attended there was active participation from the audience. The panel discussion gave me the sensation of unity by the Tunisian people to progress.

Besides the heart-warming response we got during the conference we also had some family-like moments in which we smiled, sang and even “danced”. For a moment it felt like we were one big happy Android family!

I hope to see you soon everyone and it has been nice meeting you all!

Ali

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