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Mobiconf 2014

Polish company Miquido decided 4 months ago that they wanted to have a great conference in Krakow. Since then they worked hard to pull off a conference that easily measures up to older, more established, conferences.

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Initially, I was sceptical when I got contacted about speaking at this conference. This being the first iteration of Mobiconf, the only preconceived notion I had was “Krakow, really?” Also I was kind of stressed out about finishing my book at that time and so got close to declining.

But then it looked like I would be having a couple weeks time to prepare two speeches. Coupled with the unusual fact that Mobiconf paid for my travel and accommodation, I just could not say no. So for two weeks I worked almost entirely on preparing my two speeches to make them worthy of Mobiconf’s generosity.

Preparation of Talks

Mobiconf asked me for two talks. The one obvious topic for me were barcodes, because I had worked on this for almost a year now. The other bubbled up out my instinct, I wanted to give a tour around how I structure my projects, in particular Open Source ones. Both topic got accepted without question.

This was the first time I was planning two hour-long talks. So I had no experience as to how many slides I would need. A few people on Twitter suggested around one slide per minute and so I planned for that. My barcodes talk ended up with 48 slides (39:46 minutes in real life), my Open Source one weighed in at 36 (46:59 minutes on video). So this rule of thumb seems to work out on average. After both talks the volume of questions asked easily filled up the hour.

The default setting for Keynote is to create 4:3 aspect slide shows. In some locations you get access to a 16:9 display or projector. When I saw that I briefly considered authoring for the widescreen ratio, but I didn’t want to cause myself unnecessary extra stress switching ratios. Later, I learned that you can simply switch the slide size in keynote without any adverse effects. Keynote simply extends the background left and right of the 4:3 content. If you really wanted to make the most of the extra space you’d have to adjust the content too, but as a quick workaround it should be fine.

Another reason why you might want to consider 16:9 is if you plan to publish your talk on YouTube. Apparently there is no longer good support for 4:3 videos on there you get black bars on the sides. The problem is that you have to be quite certain about how your slides will be shown to commit to the more modern aspect ratio. You wouldn’t want to author wide slides only to find yourself stuck in 4:3-land. But all the projectors I have seen these past days had been capable of 16:9, including the projection screens.

I had provided the main bullet points of my talks to Mobiconf, my first step in my preparation was to add some meat to the skeleton by collecting detail material in Evernote. Afterwards I began working my my slides in Keynote. Thanks to iCloud Drive (OS X 10.10 + iOS 8) I spent a couple rides on the Vienna subway tinkering with my Keynote presentations on my iPad.

The Conference

For a first time mobile development conference, Mobiconf went incredibly well. The ratio of attendees versus speakers was about 10:1, with about 20 speakers versus around 220 non-speakers. All attendees received a goody bag containing a conference t-shirt and logo mug. The office conference app was also well done, featuring the schedule, info about the sponsors and tweets about the conference.

There were 3 separate streams, one for Android, one for iOS and one for everything else. Personally, I prefer “pure” conferences, only about Apple platforms. Apparently multiple worlds need to be combined to be able to interest a sufficient amount of people for the conference.

3 Streams at Mobiconf

As a speaker, I felt very welcome and two people from Miquido took great care of me, first Agnieszka, then Jarosław. If anything, the only extra I could have wished for would have been a prepaid SIM card with 3G data so that I would have saved on the data roaming fees necessary while moving around Krakow. As an iPhone user I feel rather lost in a foreign city if I cannot use my trusted Maps.app, or pass taxi time by tweeting some spontaneous wisdoms.

The conference went on for two days with the second day starting way later and ending way sooner than the first. The speakers were treated with a delicious dinner at “The New Place 1” (both the address as well as name of the restaurant, albeit translated into English by me). Following this we had another experience that can only be found in Krakow: A tram party. Hereby a rented tram served as a mobile discotheque while rolling semi-randomly through the city.

I avoided the “after party” at a club in the city as I wanted to be on my A game the second day when both of my talks were scheduled. A speaker colleague told me the next day that this went on until 5 in the morning. You could definitely feel the “losses” on day 2 of the conference. People looking bleary-eyed and apparently some eschewing the second half of the conference altogether due to their massive hangovers. Henceforth Krakow shall not only be legendary for their sausages, but also their alcohol consumption.

Giving the Talks

I had used the registration period on day 1 to check my setup and had found all in working order. The iOS room (track 2) had by far the largest projection screen and a row of windows along one side. Speakers used a lapel microphone with radio transmitter, two handheld microphones were available for questions from the audience.

I brought some technology of my own because I wanted to record these historic events. I had a Rode lapel microphone and used an older iPhone to record myself. On my Macbook Air I used Quicktime to record a screencast of the presentation. Audio quality of the lapel mic is far superior to the quality recorded by the built-in mic of the Macbook. I still record it though because then my video editing software Final Cut Pro X is able to synchronize audio and video automatically.

Giving a Mobiconf Talk

There was only a slight problem: the projector had brief hiccups – every half hour or so – going briefly into standby and then turning on again. This caused my recording to stop because OS X would assume that the second screen had disappeared. To fix this I had to record the missing pieces by listening to my audio recording and advancing the slides as synchronously as I could while recording.

Both talks ended with a few minutes to spare and allowed for some Q&A. Both talks hard around 15 to 20 audience members. I could have wished for more, but then again, that’s not bad for my premiere. I found that my talks stimulated a far greater amount of questions than others, which led me to believe that my audience was very interested in my presentations. Audience Quality above Audience Quantity. 🙂

I felt that there was some room of improvement in terms of audio-visual equipment. I would have preferred a ceiling-mounted projector over one sitting on a desk. In a room where you have daylight come in through windows, you either need a projector with more lumen. But then again, me being a beginner at this felt very comfortable.

You can watch the talks in full here and here.

Verdict

Overall Mobiconf was very well done. Even more so, considering it was a first. Mobiconf will return to Krakow in 2015, same dates. They promised to work through all the feedback they collected to make the second instalment even better.


Categories: Conferences

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