DCWEEK 2011 Core Conference: Mobile Sessions Wrap-Up

Trends & Innovative Uses of Mobile APIs Panel
Trends & Innovative Uses of Mobile APIs Panel

Thursday, December 10th 2011 was the big day for the DCWEEK 2011 festivities. The Core Conference, an all day affair, was held this year at the Artisphere in Rosslyn, VA. The venue was beautiful and the spaces were well set up for the sessions that would be held throughout the day. I got there a little bit before 9:00AM and took some time to find my way around the different rooms. I decided that I would be following the Mobile sessions, due to my latest interest in mobile development, and the different panels that were scheduled for the day looked interesting.

The first session of the day, a panel titled “Trends & Innovative Uses of Mobile APIs” was held in the Dome Theatre and speakers included Keith Casey of Twilio, Eric Johnson of el-studio.com, Mike Panchenko of SimpleGeo, Zvi Band of Contactually and was moderated by Hemang Gadhia of Condaptive. As implied by the title, the discussion was focused more on a high level view of APIs used to build mobile apps and their advantages and disadvantages. Panelists discussed the importance of trust as a deciding factor before picking APIs. Deprecation support was also cited as critical, as it is important for API providers to support deprecated features while providing newer ones in their latest releases. To the question of determining successful API implementation, the panel identified ease of use and documentation as examples of major factors. For API providers as well, getting their API used by bog companies serves as an endorsement for others to proceed. The panel praised the ease of entry that APIs provide to mobile developers, while pointing out that real skills now lies in creativity. APIs are so pervasive that app building can be compared to the renaissance f the mashup. As for issues of privacy, the panelists pointed out that mobile developers should be aware of the legal implications of using external providers and make sure to cover themselves in their privacy policies. Using Facebook and Twitter (OAuth) is seen as a necessary evil, because of the ease of access it provides the majority of users. The standards the panelists recommended using are built around JSON and REST. Overall this was a lively discussion with a knowledgeable panel, and the moderator Hemang asked very relevant and thoughtful questions which made for a interesting discussion.

I skipped the next session and came back for “Mobile Apps: From Smartphones to Tablets and Beyond”, which, judged by the

Mobile Apps: From Smartphones to Tablets and Beyond Panel
Mobile Apps: From Smartphones to Tablets and Beyond Panel

attendance, was the most attended mobile session of the day. The panel was moderated by Judy Thomas of EightShapes, with the participation of Nick O’Neil of Holler, Sol Lipman of AOL, Brett Battjer of Living Social and Geno Yoham of Winamp. This was a lively panel, made even more so by Sol Lipman whose quick wit kept the crowd entertained and laughing. Sol explained how AOL will become a mobile company because a lot of its content, as with the web in general is consumed through mobile. The panel touched on the topic of responsive design, which they acknowledged was tough to implement especially in a mobile e-commerce setting because of flow, which has to account for the OS and its features, but also because of content. The panel then was asked about the challenge of designing for tablets. The answers from the panel highlighted how tablets are a different animal than smartphones because tablets offer of more interactive and engaged experience. They are also used in a different context and a more cautious approached needs to be used than merely converting a smartphone app to a tablet app. No matter what, tablet development can no longer be ignored because they are an increasing part of the marketplace. As to how developers should respond to negative feedback from users, panelists answers ranged from “We go after them!”(Sol) to understanding that not all user feature requests should be acted on. Implementing a way to get crash reports from apps was also very helpful in understanding bug report and fixing issues. The panel also stressed the importance of app design as customers do pay attention to look and feel. Users look for utility in apps, complemented by two or three killer features. Advertising was touched on, and was deemed a necessary evil, especially for product managers who’d rather keep their product design free of ads. Some businesses do not make money right away and must take the long term approach but in general paid ads was the standard way of generating revenue.

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Africa Gathering Washington DC Wrapup

So I was off to my first event of the Digital Capital Week or better known as DCWEEK this Saturday morning and made it with a thirty minutes delay to the  Kenny Auditorium at the SAIS building of John Hopkins University on Massachussets Ave. I got my brother-in-law to tag along for once and we got a warm greeting from the Africa Gathering staff on site and were relieved to find out that in fact, the event had not yet started due to the main organizer Marieme Jamme being lost in the DC streets. This must have been one if not the only time I thanked DC’s convoluted street system. In any case we were there for the start of the event and when Marieme showed up, she wasted no time in getting the event going in her energetic, determined style.

She gave us a detailed background on Africa Gathering, how it started in London cafe and aims to give African people a voice and a way to communicate with each other. I did not understand the meaning of her words until the end of the afternoon but back to Africa Gathering, after her quick introduction, Marieme got the event first presenter introduced and set to present. We got to witness and interesting presentation from the Global Conversations team at the State department highlighting their social media outreach efforts, followed by a presentation of the Diaspora African Women Network whose mission is to “develop and support talented women & girls of the African diaspora focused on African affairs”. Semhar Araia the founder, born in America from Eritrean parents was very passionate about her cause and it translated well into the audience.

Next one started with a good laugh courtesy of Kemdi Ebi at VoteOrQuench, an online initiative “made up of 4 young, like-minded and motivated young Nigerians – 2 guys and 2 girls – who’ve never actually been in the same room at the same time but share the same belief that change MUST happen and understand that they can either Vote or Quench”. Kemdi Ebi was inspiring hearing him explain how they were able to make somewhat of a difference in getting young Nigerians involved in the political process by getting to to register to vote and hopefully turn out on Voting Day. This is a continued effort so I am expecting more out of this team. VoteOrQuench was followed by Kathering Lucey of Solar Sister, which on top of being a somehow cool name, is a non profit operating in Uganda on a Avon Ladies of solar energy platform. Basically Solar Sister empowers women in rural Uganda through Entrepreneurship in a bag. Through Solar Sister, they are able to purchase a bag of solar lamps and re-sell for profits in their villages. It was definitely an interesting talk and project which got a lot of the audience’s attention.

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