I have to admit my bias. I was at Google when the developer program started (and started to matter). It was fun to see it birth from the world of Google Maps APIs, developer support, and the open source crew.
Before there was Google I/O it was named Google Developer Day. In 2007 we had the crazy idea of having the event on the same day across the globe, creating a 24 hour party.
Things were pretty grass roots and raw back then. One example is the website image that you see above us here. No one really planned out the website so Pamela Fox and I hacked it together last minute. We wanted to use Google APIs, and we wanted it to feel alive, so as the day went on the map updated to let you know what was going on when and where. The powerful backing database? A Google Docs spreadsheet. Holy simple “SPA” batman!
Having just finished up Google I/O, and with WWDC starting today, I can’t help but reflect on how different things feel!
Steve and Apple set the expectations for a keynote at one of these things. Over time though, it has started to feel a little cookie cutter. I was very excited when Tim Cook didn’t go through the stats and show people cheering as they purchases their Apple Watch’s at a store.
However, the expectations felt unwieldy this year. I do not want to seem at all negative, because I know that an army of engineers (and others) are working like crazy on the latest releases of systems such as iOS and Android. I am happy for this year to be a “snow leopard” type year where we get the basics cleaned up, and the teams are given some time to trim the back log.
Some product managers may shudder at this, thinking that the engineering teams will go off on a refactoring rampage in the name of this clean up and nothing will really get done. The good ones though will understand that there are areas of cleanup that are truly needed (and if they are using their products they will feel this, as man my OS X and iOS devices crash, hang, and perform worse than in my history) but also small features that can be gotten in that actually make a difference.
Everyone has their pet peeves. Small things such as:
- Real family support: just let me and my family see everything, share storage, shove photos into one large pool and be smart about grouping, vs. the “family sharing” that makes it impossible for my kids to find what has already been bought
- Clean up notifications: if I get an annoying one let me fix it from there. Let me search and find the app vs. the huge scrolling list, etc.
- Background work: never again should I get a push notification, launch the app, and see it loading content that I JUST SAW.
- When adding a contact YOU work out if there is an existing one or not please!
- We could go on and on I know.
The keynote showed some small things like this, but the problem is that they don’t fit these keynotes and their expectations! When the script goes through the keynotator it adds in “amazing”, “beautiful”, “you will love this”, which doesn’t fit for a tweak to the Notes app. Could you imagine Microsoft coming out talking like this when they updated notepad.exe in Windows 98????
It isn’t that the features aren’t great, they just aren’t Great Features that can map to the realm of the revolution that is often shown on this stage. That is fine, just tone it down or change it up!
There were some interesting topics to discuss (changes in open source Swift, free developer accounts and easy way to get any apps onto device, etc) but instead of even the high level goodness we had to sit through chat about a music service that felt grandiose and just bloody long! And, wait, was I really hearing about Marks and Spencers and their Apple Pay support? I love hearing about back home, but come on.
I know, “you aren’t the audience! the keynote isn’t a developer audience anymore! just go to the other talks for that!”. It has gone too far though.
Google I/O had much of the same, with a lot of time spent on items such as a photos service, but there was still more technical discussion.
I miss the days where it felt more home brew, more “for developers but you other guys should listen in too”.
More Steve Yegge and less Jimmy Iovine.
I am starting to wonder if I am just getting old, and my thinking is too “get off my lawn”. I am curious to hear what the vibe is like but it seemed a lil off at Google I/O. Still great stuff. Still great people. But not the same.
Is this how the home brew folk felt?
I am off to check out the technical goodness that has come out of teams at Google and Apple. There are fantastic improvements, and there is still much to be done for our users.