This week I attended AppBuilders. AppBuilders is a conference by and for mobile developers, focusing on iOS and Android developers, organised by the Swiss Mobile Developers Association. This year’s AppBuilders was the second instalment of the series after last year’s premiere in Zürich. This year the conference took place in Lausanne in the Swiss Tech Convention Center on April 24th, 2017 and April 25th, 2017.

In this article I will describe the general setting of the conference. Specifics on the talks will be discussed in at least two follow-up articles during the next days, where I will give short summaries of the talks I attended.

AppBuilders has been done as a two-track conference of talks by well-known speakers and get-togethers during the breaks. One track primarily focused on iOS, while the other mainly had Android as its theme. The presented subjects varied from platform specific frameworks to general themes that every developer should be interested in. The depth of the talks ranged from high-level abstractions to not quite low-level code samples. This wide range was also represented by the selection of speakers. Some were as young and fresh as Felix Krause, the man behind fastlane, others were as ‘old-school’ as they were entitled during the conference as Martin Odersky, the inventor of Scala and contributor to Java. There was even a guest from CERN, Sergei Gleyzer, who is a particle physicist and gave some insights on their use of machine learning.

Since this is a mobile developer conference series there was a companion app available, fittingly entitled AppBuilders, developed by Apps with love. The app was mostly used for showing and updating the conference schedule as needed, along with short introductions of the speakers. But it also contained general information on the venue, the organizers, the sponsors, and so on. Even a Twitter stream was included to follow the hashtag #appbuilders_ch.

The Swiss Tech Convention Center was a very good choice as the conference’s venue. It is close to the city of Lausanne and has a very unique architectural style on the outside that makes it stand out from its surroundings. The actually used conference rooms were on the lower level of the building, called ‘Garden.’ The two tracks of the conference were held in parallel in two dedicated rooms, each being large enough to hold the respective audience. The technical equipment (e.g., sound and projectors) was good, although one of the projectors died during one of the first talks on Monday. This forced the organizers to reschedule that talk and replace the projector.

Another technical helper that was introduced to the audience was the conference’s own Slack. In the end, 200 of the attendees joined it to discuss all sorts of subjects, not all of them strictly related to the conference. For example, a few days before the start of the conference one user proposed to go to a restaurant in order to meet up beforehand and get to know some of the attendees. I used that chance and so I ended up having a great evening with two very nice Spanish guys at the New Red Sea restaurant in Lausanne. If you want to try it Eritrean food, you should go there.

During the conference lunch was included. And it was great food and lots of it. On Monday they also served breakfast, unfortunately that was a one-day luxury. Also on Monday the organizers arranged to have a get-together at Café Saint Pierre in Lausanne. I could not attend that event but from what I heard it went really well.

So, was it all good, then? Unfortunately no. There were some minor drawbacks. The lines for the diner and the coffee were very long. Also the info on the party was published very late. The supply of water could be improved for the next time. The catering stand was not always manned and there were not always water bottles on the stand tables. At some point there was even a shopping cart standing around in the middle of the central hall with sixpacks of bottled water. The failing projector was not great, but you cannot blame that on the organizers, they actually handled it quite well. What I did not like so much was that most of the talks were not very technical and instead rather high-level.

How could the conference be improved? The first thing that came to my mind was a tutorial track, accompanying the talks. For example, there was a talk about the advantages and possible pitfalls of protocols with associated types in Swift. Instead of a head-on talk about that subject, this might have been handled better as a tutorial, where the attendees could have experimented themselves; under guidance, of course.

Aside from that, there are no major complaints from my side. The conference went smoothly with just some really minor setbacks, that almost don’t matter. The venue was nice, there were a lot of discussions among the attendees and some really great talks by renowned speakers. If you are considering going to the next AppBuilders, which by the way will take place in Lugano in southern Switzerland, I would definitely recommend it.

Below are some pictures I took during the conference.

Update 02.05.2017: See videos of some of the talks on Youtube.

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