This is the question I asked myself last year before I went to Google I/O 2014. I’m an independent consultant who has to foot the bill for all of these types of trips. So not only does the ticket price get you in the wallet but so does the flight, hotel, meals and time off of client work. After weighing the options, I spoke to previous attendees and figured out what they got out of the conf and I figured it was a no-brainer. Totally worth it based upon their personal feedback.
I still decided to calculate the costs. When all said and done, this conference can easily cost any consulting firm around $7,500 per person.
You might be shocked, but let’s break it down.
- Google I/O Ticket: $900
- Flight: ~$300
- Hotel in SF near Conf: ~$1200 (if you’re lucky)
- Meals/Etc: $300
- Lost Billing Time: $4800
Billing time is calculated at a very common rate of $150/hr for most consulting shops that perform quality work. Again this is a rough estimate.
With these numbers, you can ask yourself “Is going to Google I/O worth $7,500? It’s ultimately up to you to decide, but here’s what I determined …
I Came, I Saw, I Left Depressed
I know that may sound harsh, but it was exactly how I felt when I left Google I/O 2014. You may be wondering “its nearly 8 months since the conference happened, why is he bringing this up?”. Simply put – I was not sure what the network effect would be of Google I/O. The network effect does not happen overnight, it takes some time and that’s what I wanted to give it – more time.
I’ve probably written this post a few times now, each time I’ve deleted it. Yup, typed it into the editor, reviewed it, edited it, then deleted it. Today, it feels right, so I’m writing it and posting it.
On my way to Google I/O I was pumped. The only other conference I’ve been to of this magnitude was TechEd in Orlando in 2008 (I think /build is the new big one in place of TechEd, I think). When I went to TechEd I was blown away. Seeing that Google was the new hotness in the industry, I figured this con would blow TechEd out of the water. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I showed up with some teammates from MyFitnessPal and we walked to the Moscone center where the conference was. I was dumbfounded. There was a line wrapped one and half times around the building. This was the line to get into the Keynote. INTO THE KEYNOTE. It was 4-6 people wide and looked like a gigantic snake of people around the building. We got in line and waited. If it’s this popular, it’s got to be good, right?
After about 35-40 minutes of truffle shuffling around the building we got in. There were barely any seats left and the line still went around the building. Crazy. Seat nabbed, time for action to begin.
The keynote was nothing spectacular. A new OS which looked cool, Android Auto, Android TV, and Android Wear all came out of their shell in a big way, but I’ve been skeptical of all of these technologies for a bit. Not because I don’t believe in them, but because I don’t think they’ll work right now. I feel that these technologies that we have (wear, auto, tv) are all stepping stones to something bigger and better. We have to go through this phase of technology to get to the better stuff. People hate vendor lock-in and that’s exactly what Wear, Auto and TV are: Android Vendor lock-in. Don’t get me wrong, I love Android – I can’t stand using iPhones. What the developer side of me saw was cool new tech, but the realistic business side of me saw vendor lock-in and a fight for a portion of the market. I saw three new products that needed to have some major push behind them to work and I didn’t feel any of them were going to get the public relations and developer relations attention they need to succeed. In my eyes, I was looking at something that was not a huge starter for me. The one exception to that was Android TV with the ADT-1. Mixed with Chromecast I think there are a lot of opportunities to take existing tech to the next level (in some areas).
The keynote being a bust wasn’t really a concern of mine. To me, keynotes are usually huge marketing webinars, but with $1000 ticket price to watch in person. Honestly, think about that next time you’re in a big keynote (Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc) … Does this feel like a webinar? Probably. You’ll be surprised. Next up was the sessions.
I went to numerous sessions throughout the days. Covering Wear, Material Design, Async Design Patterns and so forth. All from Google employees. If I had to rate them, most of them would be 4-5 stars out of 10. Not because the presenter stunk (though there were a few of those) but because the content was so shallow that I felt like I was being shown the magic and nothing behind the curtain. I felt like some of them were mini-keynotes for niche areas of Googles product teams.
All Is Not Lost
While the sessions were a big let down I did find some amazing other areas of the conference. Usually these were on the floor. I wouldn’t call these sessions but more watch and learn labs where the presenter is talking to 10-30 people around an open podium. I got to witness how to use Dart and some advanced features of Android. How to write Go and so forth.
Another area that myself and a couple employees from MyFitnessPal took advantage of were the hands-on labs. You could pull up a chair and try out some code. I was able to learn polymer quite quickly and then if I remember correctly I did a bunch of AngularJS because it was something I had already been playing with and wanted to dive into more. The Android topics were all very shallow and didn’t go too crazy. It was all stuff that I had done before. I think those courses would have been great for a beginner though.
The most interesting area of the conference to me was the open discussion/presentations that were around entrepreneurship. Two of the best talks I heard were very short, but packed with insightful tips for those interested in building apps/companies. These two talks were my sanity savers at Google I/O. Those two talks were by Aaron Harris of YCombinator and Adora Cheung of Homejoy. These talks should have been much longer and more open. Both were packed.
As with every Google I/O goodies were to be had. I was able to make it out with the following:
- An LG G Watch MSRP: $229
- A Moto 360 Watch (later shipped to me in Aug/Sep time frame) MSRP: $249
- A Piece of Cardboard MSRP: FREE for DIY or $15 for a kit
I was also lucky enough to speak to one of the Google TV folks and asked him if I might be able to get my hands on an ADT-1. He said they were all gone but he’d take my info just in case, but he re-assurred me that I would most likely never get one. 3-4 months later a magic box shows up at my door – it’s an ADT-1. I don’t remember your name good sir, but thank you very much. I’ve been playing/testing/etc for a bit. From my research online it looks like ADT-1’s are being sold for around $350 through various channels (EBay, Craigslist, etc).
Though the Google I/O sessions were lack luster one great thing was the Google I/O party. They had great food, great drinks (lots of micro brews) and great entertainment. It was good to be with friends, meet new ones and have a good time.
The other events that made this trip better were the other parties going on in the area. Twitter’s being the first one. This was a great place to go. Lots of great people and such a cool vibe. Bit thanks to Hemal for getting us in there. We also went to the first Big Android BBQ in SF. Met some cool folks there and I’m still rocking the Phandroid pint glass that I got there to this day. There were many parties, too many to get to. That’s where it seemed like the real networking came into play.
Was It Worth $7500?
No. Not really. You can take all my goodies away and I’d still stay the same thing and I would not be upset. I feel that this conference at one time may have been a great event. Unfortunately in 2014 Google I/O turned into a marketing conference and the content was rather shallow. I hope that changes, because I love Google’s products and I like the Android platform alot. However due to what I experienced in 2014 I have no interest in attending in 2015. I look at it objectively – do I feel that am I going to get $7,500 in value out of it? Combine the learning, the networking, the goodies and the mental vacation from being away from the office and I have a quotient for me that says: Nope, doesnt work. Again, this may not be the case for you, but this is the case for me.