Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Google I/O 2012: The Agony and the Ecstasy

Google I/O is a developer conference run since 2008. Ostensibly the purpose is for developers using Google's products to learn about upcoming software, network, and help Google help them make better products.

I attended in both 2010 and 2011, and found the conference useful and interesting. I met other Android game developers, and Google engineers actually working on the platforms I was developing for. But probably mostly due to the increase in tech giveaways (in 2010 I got 2 Android phones, in 2011 a tablet and a Chromebook), demand for the conference has shot through the roof. The conference sold out in under an hour last year.

So I was heartened to hear that Google intended to implement some kind of screening process for registration this year, to make sure that actual developers would be able to attend. A Google rep last year said something like "brush up on your programming skills" in anticipation for registration. A coding test would have been difficult to administer. I guess they were sort of referring to the mechanical widget builder on the Google I/O page. Supposedly there was an Easter egg for early registration, though I didn't hear much about this, and it's a pretty pale substitute for any kind of screening process. Also, supposedly attendees for the past three years got preregistration, though this seems conflicting as well. I just saw a tweet from someone who said they've attended since 2008 and didn't get it. So basically it was a free-for-all.

This morning at 7am PST, Google opened its registration site. They insisted that the snafus from last year (all sorts of technical issues with the registration site) would be resolved. They were using new servers...etc, etc. Just before the allotted time, I had the page open, and started hitting refresh. Right on time, I got the "Registration is open" message. It still prompted me to sign in to Google+, which I already was, so I may have lost a couple of precious seconds there. But when I clicked "Register", I got this page:

Okay, fair enough. I waited three minutes on this screen, then got this screen:

Ah well, I thought. That was that. I was already pretty disgruntled at the way Google had handled the whole registration process, so I was feeling a bit of sour grapes. My friend Jeremy suggested I keep at it, though. I preregistered last year, avoiding any nonsense, but he went through the free-for-all registration and initially got "sold out" only to get a ticket later. So I clicked on "Register" again. Several more minutes went buy, and the same indicator of no tickets available came up. I tried again. Third time did it, and I got a "We found a ticket for you!" message. So I registered.

Even though I got a spot, I have mixed feelings, and I'm still not happy about the way Google has handled this. I'm seeing droves of tweets from devs who didn't get in. What would have been the fairest way to handle registration? I don't know, but I don't think Google put much effort into it.

What would have been ideal would be for some kind of vetting process to make sure the people attending are actual developers, and not swag-hungry people who would otherwise get nothing from the conference. I think a white list of verified devs would be a start, those people who had registered Android developer accounts, who had some kind of history developing with Google products. The full-time developer advocates could have helped out with this. Instead, Google I/O is turning into a tech-grab with artificially high demand for what should be primarily attended by developers. As far as I know, there is no way for Google to verify that the people who registered aren't just people trying to profit from the tech giveaways, or flip their registration. Jeremy just sent me a link to someone who just flipped their registration on Ebay.


So while I'm happy that I got a golden ticket, I'm still not happy with Google about the way they've handled this. And I feel for all the devs who got shafted.