The past couple of evenings I've been away from a computer and so not free to consolidate my copious notes all the interesting stuff that happened at Google Developer Day on Tuesday. I should start by saying that all the organizers, especially Liz Ericson, should be proud for planning and running such a fun event, and so smoothly. I think everyone had all the free food we could manage (with great veggie options, which is a mark of something), and sweeties and fresh coffee were distributed around the conference area. Lots of beer in the evening too, and a cute little Lego-like USB stick-man to keep me company on the bus home.
The venue was also great---if a bit too big for getting from room to room in a hurry---and the security and catering staff were some of the nicest I've ever encountered. Apparently we weren't allowed to mention the name of the enormous sports stadium west of London that we all attended, but if I say it rhymes with Bembley and looked like it still had the builders in and scaffolding up then you'll know where we were.
As at any conference the talks were a mixed bag, although all the ones I went to were definitely worth listening to. Mano Marks covered developer optimizations for Google App Engine with aplomb and a cheeky grin; Dion Almaer provided what might have been a "will-this-do" overview of the "state of AJAX", which actually became a more interesting discussion of the state of browsers in general, and how they might move towards full support of RIAs; Nimrod Talmon's discussion of Google Visualization, on the other hand, suffered from being immediately after lunch. I could've managed that level of tech details after a nap to sleep off my sugar slump, but I think he should really have been in the pre-lunch slot. We were all jamming on simple carbohydrates anyway, so it's not as though we would have been itching for butties. The content of his talk was still intriguing, though, and it's good to know you can at least consider handing this sort of thing over to a third-party engine if the client wants it but the poor webserver doesn't.
The lightning talks at the end of the day were as shambolic as these things tend to be. Liz said that a lot of people had expressed an interest before the event, but if that was the case then they were all being very optimistic about what they'd actually be able to accomplish before the day, as we only had maybe half a dozen in what sounded from Nick like the most popular slot of the day. Anyway, it was fun to break out a bit, but my laptop wouldn't detect the projector, and then the gist---the actual, pivotal slide---was lost in conversion to whatever it was it was converted to on a Mac. I may do it at a later Geek Night, if I can stomach abusing my position as organiser.
Google very much held off on any go-team antics, hoping that their products would speak for themselves. That was slightly marred by them making it quite clear to everyone, that they did indeed hope that their products would speak for themselves, but at least there were no overt recruitment drives, and rubbishing of the competition was limited to the pretty much warranted chastisement of over-prompting your user and making them numb to modal dialogues, behaviour of which XP is particularly guilty.
Within the reasonably frank and open exploration of their services, however, were occasional notes of discord. Whenever any kind of business case was mentioned things would go quiet, and quite clearly those things weren't up for discussion, which I think is a shame. Google doesn't need to pretend that it's everyone's best friend to have our respect: it's public knowledge that it has shareholders, and I think developers the world over can admire it in that context if we know where we are with it.
Transparency engenders trust, and I'd take comfort from someone replying to a query about the bottom line by saying "well, I asked my boss, and he said that we give this stuff for free because it positions us as an influential brand when it comes to advertising revenue, trusted partnerships, GSAs, Google Minis...." Hell, if I'd been fed on those ciabatta rolls and caramel shortbread slices beforehand then I'd probably be asleep by that point, so it wouldn't matter what they admitted after the fold.
Those occasional moments aside I had a grand day out. I'm itching to start working on App Engine now, and putting into place some of the weirder code patterns Mano mentioned. I've also already had a play with Gears following Dion's talk, and it seems to turn Google Docs into something close to OpenOffice. But before any serious coding, I have to wait for the blood blister on my finger to go downfirst, which came from playing Guitar Hero at the end of the evening. How rock and roll, eh? The young Googler I played against trounced, me: as you'd expect: deep down I think Google's just as cool as it wants to appear to be on the surface.