GoogleIO2013This week, Google is holding its annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco, CA.  This event is Google’s biggest of the year, and outlines the direction that Google is pushing developers over the next year.  While most known for distribution of free stuff and over-the-top presentations (see last year’s demonstration of Google Glass that featured Glass-wearing skydivers), Google I/O is really a conference that offers much value to developers, whether attending or not.

If you’re not one of the lucky ones able to attend this year’s conference, here’s what you can do to still get the most out of I/O.

  1. Stream the Keynote:  The keynote is where Google sets forth its product vision and outlines what it considers most important for the year ahead.  Past keynotes introduced Android to the world, showed off Google Glass for the first time, introduced Chromebooks, and launched the Nexus 7 tablet.  Whether or not this year’s keynote contains entertaining theatrics of past keynotes, it will be a good indication of what things Google considers important.  The keynote will be streamed live on Wednesday, May 15, at 12:00 Noon Eastern time/9 AM Pacific, and will be archived for on-demand viewing soon after.

  1. Absorb the Developer Workshops:  While the keynote gets the most press, the meat of Google I/O are really the sessions and code labs.  Google streams many of these sessions live, which are given by Google Engineers, and are an excellent source of best practices, good development patterns, and optimization techniques to really make apps shine.  In addition, this past year’s I/O sessions are archived on Youtube, and provide a virtual treasure trove of information on developing for Android, Chrome, App Engine, and more.  Every developer who builds for any of Google’s platforms should watch these sessions to gain valuable insights directly from the people who built the platforms.

  1. Watch for trends:  When developing for Android, Chrome, or any of Google’s platforms, it is important to understand where Google is focusing its own priorities, as apps that align with Google’s own goals will have a better shot at getting featured billing in the Play Store or promoted in other ways by Google.  By looking at the elements from the Keynote as well as the topic breakdown of the different developer sessions, trends can be found that indicate the things that Google is pushing.  For example, this year the I/O schedule contains a large number of sessions on gaming, indicating that Google is heavily investing its efforts into games this year.

  1. Attend an I/O Extended Event:  Besides the main event in San Francisco, hundreds of I/O Extended events are held by Google Developer groups and on college campuses around the globe.  These events, such as the one that I will be attending at Google’s Cambridge campus, provide a way to network and work with other developers while getting the most out of the streamed keynote and developer sessions.  A full list of I/O Extended events is available on the Google I/O website.

  1. Get the Google I/O Android App:  The Google I/O Android app contains a full schedule of events, as well as providing live streams directly through the app.  Additionally, following Google I/O, the app is open sourced for anyone to take a look at, and it provides good insight into quality app UI design, patterns for solving complex problems such as data synchronization, network access management, and media streaming.  Since it comes directly from the Android engineers, it is worth diving into and incorporating its patterns into your own development toolkit.

Google I/O has a lot to offer developers, whether attending or not.  Use the resources provided by Google to get an understanding of the direction Google is moving its platforms, learn valuable development techniques to improve app quality, and network with other developers who are facing similar development challenges.  Take advantage of it all, and make it work for you – even if you’re unable to attend the conference.