We recently attended mdevcon, nestled within the heart of old Amsterdam. This was one of the smaller conferences we had attended, only hosting a few hundred people. However small, mdevcon has much to offer. It is a mobile development conference hosted by developers for developers. Some of these offerings covered a wide variety of topics ranging from Android and iOS to design and security.
Leaving from the Denver office our flights were anything but short. We were jet lagged and weary from travel which made it difficult to concentrate during the conference, but the experience was still one worth the trouble. Every year the conference is held in the historic Tuschinski Theater in downtown Amsterdam. Although beautiful, the maze like streets of Amsterdam made it difficult for newcomers like us to find the venue. Despite this, the overall ambience and people more than made up for it.
Amsterdam at first glance is certainly a melting pot of cultures, and mdevcon as an extension of this is no exception. There were a variety of attendees from various parts of the Americas, Europe, and even as far as Asia. The variety of people and experiences in mobile development made every conversation an interesting one. It was great seeing the plethora of apps people work on and learning about their work culture. This experience was further extended by the speakers sharing their knowledge and experiences. We’ll outline some of the more interesting talks below.
Conference Day 1: Tutorials
The first day of the conference is focused entirely on tutorial sessions. The sessions were about 3 hours of in-depth hands-on implementation each. The session titled “Clean Architecture for iOS Apps” was all about protocols. The speaker was trying to get the idea of Clean Architecture concepts across to the attendees. His approach was using protocols for everything. The protocols allowed the code to be less dependent on class specifics and easy to swap out.
The afternoon iOS session was all about Apple Watch. By this time the jet lag was definitely kicking in which made it harder to concentrate. The session was broken out more into a working session. The presenter provided multiple tutorials for attendees to work through and went around answering questions/helping where needed. It was the complete opposite of the morning session where everything was very orderly and presented.
Conference Day 2: Sessions
The main day of the conference was made up of a series of back to back one hour sessions. After the design keynote we jumped right into some coding at the Advanced Interaction and Animations session for iOS. The presenter reviewed gesture recognizers in depth and went over various animations. In the end he had a custom drawer going with some interesting drag and drop functionality between different view controllers.
The next iOS session was all about tvOS. The presenter went over the beginnings of building a tvOS app from the ground up. He created a beer app that displayed tiles across the screen. His walk through was a great way to get the bare bones of tvOS up and running. Following the tvOS session, the watchOS session focused on a high level overview of the apple watch capabilities. Our presenter related her daily experiences into tangible use cases that should be considered for any watch app. This ranged from how to present data via the various UI elements such as complications and glances, or what the general user experience should look like in a watch app.
The security session (Mobile App Security – Common Security pitfalls in Mobile apps) by far was a favorite. The talk itself was not very technical but rather more of a walk through of different security vulnerabilities and discoveries the presenter made in various applications. The presenter, Aditya Gupta, is the CEO and founder of a security firm and spends a lot of time exploring vulnerabilities and filing them. He pointed out a few common mistakes he has found that developers have made over the years and explained how to prevent them. The most interesting part of his session were the examples. He outlined different popular mobile applications describing their security flaws and how he was able to exploit them. The worst was the ability to change the user ID in a chat client URL and see conversations between anyone he wished.
Overall the conference experience was very positive. We gained new insights into different aspects of mobile development ranging from UI/UX, new platforms outside of phones/tablets, and very useful security tips. However, I think the most important takeaway from this experience was seeing the sheer diversity of cultures in the mobile community. It did not matter what background we had, we all shared one common interest, and that is to build great apps together. With that said, this conference would be a great fit for anyone looking for something a little more personal and interact with the global mobile community. We look forward to see what mdevcon does next, and I wouldn’t complain if they extended the conference another day to pack in more content.