Last weekend (June 26-27, 2021) I had the privilege of attending and speaking at elementary’s first ever developer conference, edw (elementary developer weekend). I wanted to write this post while it was fresh on my mind and just write down my thoughts of edw and my experience as both an attendee and as a speaker in it. This was my first ever talk so I was (and am) inexperienced in what giving a talk is supposed to be and how it was supposed to be done. However, I had a great time and feel like my talk was well received.
My talk, “Creating compelling app icons” was a brief summary of the elementary Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) surrounding app icons. In the talk, I tried to explain the HIG and explain the reasons for those guidelines. This included example images as well as a demonstration of me making an icon. I wanted to leave the developer with a sense of direction when it came to making icons for their apps and help them better understand how they might go about making those icons.
If you’d like to watch my talk you can find it below, at edw.elementary.io, or on elementary’s YouTube Channel. And if you’d like you can view my slides.
As an attendee
This was elementary’s first major event - but you would have been hard pressed to tell it. The event was well organized and went smoothly. Although I think the plan was to have an in-person event, I really liked the online event. It meant that anyone could tune in and watch the event and that I didn’t need to plan to travel for the weekend. Also, being all online and recorded meant that the event was ready to be watched after the fact almost instantly. I’m not sure the logistics of planning an in-person event vs. an online one, but I really think they did a good job. The talks were interesting and informative as well as covering a wide range. It really felt like no matter your level of experience or area of expertise, as someone interested in elementary and developing for it, there was something for you. The talks were a great mix of being technical but approachable. I enjoyed hearing about the state of elementary and about all the things planned for the future. I also am looking forward to Akira’s release as it looks like a great native application and that a lot of progress has been made on it. I also liked that accessibility was a real focus in this edw and I think that speaks to how accessibility is a focus for elementary as a whole. I plan to go back and watch some of the talks again now that I’m not worried about mine coming up. The presenters were great and engaging, taking the time to moderate and interact with the chat. Also, I really felt like the allotted time for the talks was the sweet spot for keeping the talks concise but not rushed. The time allotted for the live Q&As was also nice in making sure there wasn’t a bunch of dead air. Each Q&A was filled with excellent questions moderated from chat as well as equally good questions from the elementary team. The whole event felt lively, with and air of excitement and desire to learn something new.
As a speaker
As a speaker my experience was great as well. The event organizers were sending informative emails and making sure that we were kept up-to-date on schedules and changes. This year, the talks were pre-recorded with a live Q&A. With the talks being pre-recorded, you could chose to record on your own or in a video call with an elementary team member or two. This meant you were talking to someone and not just a camera. However, my video setup was a little complicated didn’t work well with the video calling software, so I opted to record on my own. As a speaker, there were several advantages to this, but this also had its own set of challenges too. Recording on my own meant that I could have several tries at speaking (which I certainly had many) and could edit out large mistakes. These are some great advantages you don’t get in in-person events. If you mess up on stage, there are no do-overs. However, you lose an audience to speak to. This may not sound like a big deal (and for someone with stage fright, this might even sound like an advantage), but for me, it was hard speaking to a camera with no-one on the other end of my voice. The audience can tell you a lot about your performance. If they look confused or hyper focused, you may be speaking too quickly and can adjust your speed. If they look bored, you could be too monotone or not engaging enough. If your talk is flawed from the start, there isn’t a lot you can do to fix it, but for adjustments in your performance you can use the audience for clues. Despite these challenges in recording, I’m really happy with how it turned out. As I said I’ve never written or performed a talk before, so this was a totally new experience that terrified me. I wasn’t sure I had enough to say, and had to convince myself that I was knowledgeable enough to be doing this. My anxiety is pretty severe and it was getting to the point where I had a little pain in my chest. Talking with the elementary team and event organizers really helped me calm down. Everyone was so nice, supportive, and easy to talk to. After my talk and Q&A was over, I was really excited to see all the positive comments and great questions I had received in chat. That was a great feeling. I felt like my talk was validated and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
Summing it up
Attending the conference, the talks that elementary chose for it’s first edw were interesting and informative. I really liked that they brought in the speakers for live Q&As and that they all were very knowledgeable of their topics. As far as being a speaker goes, Everyone was kind and encouraging. The elementary crew and event organizers made it so that the biggest thing I had to deal with was myself and even then they helped me through that. Despite my anxieties, I am really happy to have done this talk and am really grateful to have been invited to do so. I think edw was a great success, as both an attendee, and as a speaker. I can’t wait for next year.
If you’d like to watch the event you can find it in it’s entirety, as well as separated into the individual talks, at edw.elementary.io or on elementary’s YouTube Channel.