The inaugural try! Swift developer conference in Tokyo was intense, educational, and rewarding beyond my lofty expectations.
Between the speakers, conference activities, and Tokyo itself, there was so much to take in and learn. Safe to say I had a fantastic time. What struck me the most was how large and supportive the community of Swift developers and software engineers are.
This conference was organized by a small team of passionate and visionary Swift devs. About 500 people from various corners of the world attended it to hear 33 presenters share their insights. The more than 350 Japanese nationals in attendance came from all over Japan. The attendees from afar came from many cities including Berlin, San Francisco, London (U.K. and Canada), Perth, Ottawa, New York, Melbourne, Seattle, Sydney, Malaysia, and Toronto.
With presentations ranging from lectures to hands-on demos, the conference agenda was intense: 11 talks a day, each talk 25 minutes long and most were very dense in details. There were a variety of presentation styles. On one end of the spectrum, Syo Ikeda presented an overview of resources available to Swift developers. Meanwhile, Boris Bugling's TVOS talk mixed presentation and hands-on demo, and Chris Eidhof showed us how to use table view controllers in Swift by writing code before our very eyes.
Other speakers, such as Himi Sato and Laura Savino, wove inspirational angles into their talks, while others shared practical how-to tips around things like types (Gwen Weston), protocols (Michele Titolo), core data (Daniel Eggert), mocking (Veronica Ray), and library abstraction (Hiroki Kato). While all of the talks were relevant to programming in Swift, some speakers brought design (Helen Holmes) and testing (Ash Furrow) perspectives to the centre stage. And Caesar Wirth talked about server-side Swift.
Some of these speakers were first-timers, others seasoned public speakers. The presentations were in English, Japanese (the organizers arranged for real-time translations of the talks), or both. Ayaka Nonaka presented in both Japanese and English (literally toggling between the two on the fly). That was pretty epic.
Taking It All In
Despite the full conference agenda, there was a good mix of learning and social interaction. Wedged in between presentations, there was ample time for networking (e.g., 30-minute breaks). In the evenings, gatherings at teahouses, restaurants, and bars were abundant, and many connections between attendees were made or strengthened. Whether these social events were formally organized or spontaneous, Tokyo itself played a huge role in our experiences.
As a newcomer, I thoroughly enjoyed becoming familiar with the Swift developer community. I learned from them and about them during their presentations, afterward, as well as online. Collectively, we were active on Twitter, and the organizers had set up Slack to let us converse about a variety of topics. As you would expect from a conference of this magnitude, we were constantly connected no matter where we were, and that made it easy to dive in and get involved.
I loved what I experienced. Throughout the talks, the presenters were happy to share their development experiences, best practice recommendations, and knowledge. After their talks, the speakers moved to another room to hold smaller group and one-on-one Q&A sessions to mentor fellow developers.
Some speakers referenced how another speaker had helped them in the past. If someone had a question that went unanswered during a session, other attendees were happy to assist. When a speaker doing a real-time demo stumbled upon an unexpected glitch, there was applause. And if they were stumped, someone would shout out a suggestion.
The Perfect Environment to Learn
When Australian Tim Oliver finished delivering his presentation entirely in Japanese, there was rapturous applause. After Himi Sato had finished her first-ever talk in front of a large group, there were smiles abound and enthusiastic applause. The developer attendees’ passion for programming in Swift was equal to their passion for mentoring and supporting others who are still learning.
And if you think about it, it’s the perfect environment for anyone to start coding in Swift, trying new projects using Swift, or building new skills related to Swift. There are tools available to help; there are mentors willing to help, and a community connecting them all together. I expect that PerfectlySoft's role in this community will evolve organically, but I'm excited to get to know the people in it better.
If you are looking for more information on what transpired at the try! Swift conference, you can read the speaker presentations and blogs. I had intended to share links to the presentations, but Mishimay did so already in Japanese, and Martha posted them in English (why reinvent the wheel?).
Also, Phill Farrugia wrote a great blog on his experience at the conference, as did Natasha Murashev, the event’s head organizer, who celebrated not only the technical value of the three-day gathering but how cultural and language barriers between attendees were overcome. Both are worthwhile reads.
Are you using Swift for your programming projects? If so, how has the Swift community helped you advance your work? Tweet me your thoughts at @Lucas_Chang.