As a co-organizer for GDG Cloud Melbourne, I was recently invited to the Google Cloud Developer Community conference in Sunnyvale, California. It covered meetup organization strategies and product roadmaps, and was also a great opportunity to network with fellow organizers and Google Developer Experts (GDEs) from around the world. Attending were 68 community organizers, 50 GDEs and 9 open source contributors from a total of 37 countries.
I would have to say it was the most social conference I have ever attended. There were a lot of opportunities to meet with people from a wide range of backgrounds. I also got many valuable insights into how I could better run our meetup and better make use of Google products. In this post I’ll talk about what we got up to over the two days.
Pre Conference Dinner
On the evening before the conference, all conference attendees were invited to a dinner at Lavain, a Google-owned cafe typically reserved for staff. We were able to network with everyone who was about to attend the conference. Despite the jetlag most people were experiencing, it was a great night with lots of really good food, drinks and conversations.
The Day 1 keynote started with Google’s Adam Seligman (VP of Developer Relations) giving an overview of Google’s commitment to supporting the community and it’s commitment to an open cloud. Over the past few years, you may have noticed many Google products becoming open source, which is a promising sign for the developer community and the direction of the Google ecosystem. There was also a lot mentioned about the importance of including all members of the community and making them feel welcome – something we have always made a priority at GDG Cloud Melbourne.
After the keynote, we were split off into different streams. I went into the group product update talk, in which I was given an overview of some of the new features that Google are working on. Whilst I would love to share all of this inside information, unfortunately I’m under an NDA so that’s one thing I won’t be able to do in this post 🙁
After lunch and some coffee to keep me going, there were several more breakout sessions. I particularly enjoyed the session on Forseti, an open source set of tools for managing permissions in Google Cloud Platform. It seemed to solve some of the problems around identifying which users and applications have access to each resource in an environment. There was also a talk by Sandeep Dinesh’s on distributed microservice metrics with Istio and OpenCensus, two products which seem to have potential in a world exploding with microservices.
In the afternoon there was a really good talk on AutoML, a managed service for training machine learning models without any prior machine learning experience. The product is currently in a closed Alpha release, but early indications are that it is going to make machine learning more accessible for particular use cases. To learn more about AutoML and how easy it is to use, I recommend this blog by my colleague Matt Fraser.
Day 1 wrapped up with a town hall Q&A which was an opportunity for everyone to ask developer advocates, engineers and other community members for advice, product queries or anything else we were interested in hearing about. I think it was a really engaging way to end the first day.
After day 1 concluded I took the opportunity to attend the local Kubernetes meetup at the nearby NetApp office. I’ve always wanted to see how things are done in Silicon Valley and if there was anything I could do to make things more interesting for GDG Cloud Melbourne. There were two talks on the night, first of which was a presentation on Conduit by the CTO of Buoyant. Conduit is a visualisation and logging tool designed to run in Kubernetes clusters for monitoring Kubernetes applications. It was a really engaging talk that gave a great overview of what Conduit could do, without diving too deep into the technical side at 7pm on a Thursday evening.
The second talk of the night was by Karthik Ranganthan, the CTO of YugaByte. YagaByte is a distributed “planet-scale” database that seems to be trying to solve every problem on the planet with distributed databases. It was a really a good talk but it would be interesting to see if YagaByte could really live up to the hype.
I’d have to say it was one of the best meetups that I have ever attended. There was a lot of good food, a wide range of drinks, and lots of swag – all of which made up for the odd annoying salesperson.
Day 2 kicked off with a rather entertaining presentation titled “How to give a terrible talk”, delivered by Chet Haase, a Software Engineer at Google with a lot of experience giving technical presentations. It provided an interesting insight into common mistakes people make when giving tech talks. It managed to be really informative while keeping us wide awake with the array of jokes coming out. Chet has given this presentation before so if you are interested in watching it for yourself you can do so here.
After the opening talk, I went to a presentation in the community stream on writing your own Codelabs . These are tutorials that you can write using a set of tools from Google. You can then share them with other developers or submit them to a public directory of labs. This makes them a great way you can give something back to the community.
During the early afternoon, I attended the ‘unconference’ track. This was a really informal session where you could present a topic and then break into groups to discuss. Several interesting topics broke out, including a brainstorming session on increasing diversity in meetups and the tech sector in general. It was really interesting to hear people’s feedback on what we can do better to make sure we are more inclusive of everyone. It really is a problem that we, as a community have to solve.
After an afternoon coffee break, I headed into a session on Cloud Firestore, the latest offering from Firebase, which was acquired by Google a couple of years ago. Firestore is a distributed NoSQL database which is designed to store and sync user data for client and server-side development.
The final talk of the day was on Cloud Functions. These are Google’s answer to AWS Lambda; small, executable pieces of code designed to scale without having to worry about infrastructure or scaling policy.
One of the best parts of the conference would have to be the networking opportunities. Speaking to other community organisers and getting an understanding of what they are doing in their respective regions gave me some really valuable information on how we can help make our meetup run more smoothly and be more inclusive.
In addition, all of the presentations were both informative and well delivered, be they for learning the basics of GCP services that I’ve never used before, or getting roadmap updates on products I use often.
Finally, there was a lot of good food and drinks to complement the great content.
After the conference was wrapped up there was only one thing left to do: go on a tour of the Google Campus and surrounding buildings. After a short bus ride from Sunnyvale, we were lead on a tour by Martin Omander around the main Google offices in Mountain View.
Starting at the gift shop and visitor centre, we got to buy overpriced Google merchandise (which I did without hesitation), and saw some interesting stuff from Google’s history at the visitor centre.
We were then lead around some of the buildings and given a Silicon Valley history lesson. This included seeing the places where products such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Google Chrome, Netscape Navigator and Android came to life. It was a truly remarkable ending to such a fantastic conference.