Droidcon UK 2015

Front door of Droidcon UK with Android robot

I was super fortunate to speak at Droidcon UK this year in London, and I had an amazing time!

My Talk

Even though I’ve given the “same” talk on accessibility before, my talk actually changes every time I give it.  This is because (1) Android is always changing, and (2) I am always learning new ways to improve accessibility.  Before this talk I had some coding work to do, to upgrade my sample app to support Marshmallow.  I also decided to pull in the new design compatibility library so I could use the official floating action button (FAB) and remove the 3rd party library I had previously been using.  It is really important to me that my accessibility repo doesn’t get stale, and can always be a resource for the latest and greatest in Android accessibility.

I decided to go the extra mile and add in some information about Snack Bar from the design compat lib to my talk. I figured that it would be a pretty simple addition, but it didn’t work out that way! Apparently, Snack Bar has a few big accessibility issues, as documented in my recent post Accessibility of Material Design.  After battling Snack Bar for quite some time, I decided to add to my talk some information about why Snack Bar wasn’t accessible. Unfortunately, this put my talk way over the time limit.  Ugh.  After all that, I decided to just not add Snack Bar to my talk. I was glad I’d done my homework, though, because I ended up having several great conversations about it with people at the conference.

I was a little nervous that nobody would come to my talk, since I was speaking the same time as The Jake Wharton! 🙁 Luckily I was wrong! Lots of people came, they were super engaged, and asked a lot great questions; couldn’t ask for much more than that. 😀  I also was honored to have my talk introduced by the fabulous Lisa Wray!

One thing that I love about speaking internationally is learning about constraints or challenges other developers face due to geographic or cultural differences.  For example, I got a lot of questions about how TalkBack supports right to left languages, as many developers in Europe support applications in Hebrew and Arabic.  Since I work on a very US focused application, I’ve never explored what this was like.  (Future blog post pending!)


The conference was amazing!  Some highlights on the first day were Corey Latislaw’s Android Katas workshop (which helped us practice TDD for Android), and Chet Haase’s comedy skit which was HILARIOUS. I spent a lot of time on the first day meeting and chatting with people as well. It was great to see so many European Android friends in person, so I really wanted to take full advantage of it!  Speaking of friends, I was shocked to run into two friends from DENVER, who help to run Denver Droids!

The next day I packed in two awesome talks about Text and Typography. The first was  “Hinting Around: Text Demystified” by Sebastiano Poggi and Eugenio Marletti, which started with the history of text, and went all the way through to how Android works with text (and also they had the most beautiful and insanely awesome slides I’ve ever seen).  The next was “Beautiful Typography on Android” by Lisa Wray, and blew my mind. I had *no* idea you could do so much inside a regular old TextView!

Here are some tweets from other talks I attended that day:

Touristy Stuff

Getting to and from London I flew through Iceland, which was incredible! I’ve never seen anything like it!  Next time I hope I can extend my layover and at least spend a day there. 



And while I didn’t get to see the *real* Northern Lights, I did get a fancy plane that did a pretty good job of showing me what they’d be like.

I didn’t find a hostel quite as cool as my little boat on the river in Berlin, but I did find a hostel which used to be an old courthouse and jail! In fact, they even converted old cells into hostel rooms that you could rent.  I couldn’t decide if it was creepy or cool to rent one, but the cells actually had a ‘premium rate’ that bumped them out of my price range, so that decision was made for me (phew).  I still got to enjoy the court room ambience while I worked remotely from the hostel common areas!

old fashioned court room, refurbished to be a common room

I was SO EXCITED to be in London, and I took advantage of every spare second I could exploring the city! I was really lucky to see that the English National Ballet had a class that seemed close to my level, at a time that worked for me.  The teacher was great, and I appreciated that she gave me some pointers, too.  There was a live pianist as well, which always makes the class 100 times more fun!  I really lucked out, and the course level was just the right spot. Definitely WAY  less stressful than my Boston Ballet experience haha!

Front door of the English National Ballet

I love taking ballet classes when I travel. Its a nice way to visit a less touristy area and meet regular people.  Ballet classes always follow the same general structure, so its fun to participate in something familiar, in an unfamiliar environment. Also, its just nice to stretch your legs after long flights. 🙂

I also had a bit of time to explore the Tate Modern Museum with a new friend from the conference.  One of my favorite pieces at the Tate was “Tree of 12 Metres” by Giuseppe Penone.  At first I thought it was just a couple of dead trees attached to a base.  But as I got closer, I realized that the artist had actually taken huge pieces of industrial timber, found all the knots, and slowly “reconstructed” the tree. So cool!

Tree trunk with short branches, reconstructed from industrial timber

During the conference evenings I spent time with other speakers and attendees, exploring the bars and pubs of London. I was a tiny bit bummed to be missing some great costume parties with friends back home in the US, but there were a lot of great Halloween celebrations going on around us in London.  We happened upon a bar with amazing decorations and costumes, and all their cocktails were spooky themed.  I had “The Eye of the Storm” which was served from a bubbling cauldron, and even came with an eyeball. Excellent!

Cocktail drink with a fake eyeball in it

Hanging out at a bar with new friends

I also enjoyed my time just walking around and eating yummy food in London.  It was my second time there, and my first time in the fall.  So pretty!

White row houses with blue doors and orange leaves scattered on the ground

Leaves on the sidewalk

Yummy food from govindas

River and London skyline

yummy deserts

Foggy train back to the airport

I really had an amazing time at Droidcon UK. I learned so much, met and reconnected with brilliant and wonderful people, and got to spend time in one of my most favorite cities!  Thank you so much for having me.  Already can’t wait for next time!

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