A First Time Speaker’s Journey from CFP to Stage

A First Time Speaker’s Journey from CFP to Stage

One Week to Decide

On October 29, I found out The Lead Developer New York had open CFPs — and the deadline was November 5.

I sent a slack message to my team saying “I’d love for us to send proposals regarding how multiplatform development, specifically kotlin multiplatform, changes your team, development, processes, lowers technical risk, schedule risk, cost, etc, etc.”

This was the first time I ever thought about responding to a CFP and didn’t know if it made sense to the company, to my schedule, or to any of my colleagues. What I did know was:

Thankfully, @namnum was super supportive, immediately responding to my slack message with “Hell yes! How can I help?” 

Since this is a “Lead Developer” conference, I roped in @samhill303, our head of engineering, to go through the process with me.

We only had a week, so we had to work fast. Here’s what we did:

  1. Brainstormed titles with very light outlines to add some context
  2. Talked through which ones resonated more with us personally, as a company, and the potential audience
  3. Stopped thinking about the ones that didn’t resonate
  4. Added more definition to the outlines that survived
  5. Talked about what makes a title and description interesting (both @kpgalligan and @namnum have read and written a lot of proposals)
  6. Turned 2 outlines each into descriptions with interesting titles
  7. Quick peer review
  8. Send 2 proposals each

Two Months to Wait

Normally, The Lead Developer organizers get back to applicants within a month, but, because of the holidays and some unforeseen scheduling changes, we had to wait until January.

I didn’t know that until they sent a note mid-december so I was looking at my email pretty often until then. Waiting is definitely not fun, but it is important that the people reading through proposals take their time to figure out if the talk will fit well with the conference goals and time-slots. I talked to @Geek_Manager afterwards about this and I was very impressed with how much effort the organizers put into choosing the talks for a successful conference.

The CFP response form also asked whether the talk could be 30 minutes or 10 minutes. Since I checked both options, I had the extra suspense of not knowing how long I would be on stage if I were accepted. Though that added to my anxiety, I was glad to have both options available.

In early January, I finally learned that I was accepted to give a 10 minute lightning talk!

Three Months to Prepare

The Long Outline

We had a lot going on at Touchlab in January so “prepare for the conference” was in the “Important but not Urgent” category. Being the first time I’ve done this, I really should have gotten started immediately, but, at the time, putting it off a little later made a lot of sense (see @allspaw).

The urgency came when I found out there was an opening for the February meetup. I got started right away (Feb 4) on an outline which turned into a MUCH longer effort than I planned so @kpgalligan filled in my slot with some KMP updates.

I promised to have things ready for the March meetup — and I did! It was difficult because I had such a long outline. The prep I put into the outline — organizing, researching, reorganizing, more researching, more reorganizing — was invaluable not only for putting together the meetup slides but for sharing knowledge with Touchlabers, and speaking more intelligently with existing clients and prospects. In fact, as a concrete benefit, I published an initial blog post for some of these which got picked up by Hacker Noon!

The Meetup Slides

Even though the outline was so long, it was incredibly useful for speeding up the slide making process. Here’s what I did:

  1. Move the outline 1:1 to slides — copy/pasting line items into slides, batching multiple lines into one slide if that seemed appropriate
  2. Replace outline in slides to more slide-friendly bullet points and move outline to speaker notes
  3. Lower the amount of text on each slide by incorporating graphical representations
  4. Replace outline in speaker notes with natural language

I went through a few iterations of graphics, speaker notes, and slide CRUD. By demoing sections of the slides internally, I could incorporate feedback and iterate towards the following goals:

  • Language sounds natural
  • Individual slides aren’t confusing given what I’m saying at that point or what I’ve said up to that point
  • Individual slides aren’t distracting
  • Organization of slides tells a story
  • The story isn’t more than 30 minutes

Not all the goals were met for the meetup but there was very good progress. Here are the Meetup slides with some transitions removed. The talk came in at about 20 minutes, there were a ton of good questions at the end, I was told the content was good, my ability to present was good, and, most importantly, I felt much more confident afterwards.

The Webinar Slides

This event was a “crazy idea” from marketing. We didn’t know if it made sense or if it would actually happen but from the blog post and the success of the meetup, we knew it could happen.

The meetup slides didn’t include the images from the blog post and our webinar was meant to be more about “How to Evaluate Mobile Multiplatform Solutions” so I worked on editing the Meetup slides to include them and also update the story for a different audience.

I followed essentially the same process as putting together the meetup slides, the big difference being Touchlab’s designers (Nelmer, Frances) gave me some help. They had only a few days to improve my slides and we were all working feverishly until 5 minutes before to integrate designs into the final version. It didn’t all get done, but they did an incredible job, and we knew this wouldn’t be the last time they could help (the real show would be Lead Dev). Next time, I’ll bring design in earlier, much earlier.

The webinar surpassed expectations! We were expecting about 50 people to show up…we had over 100 and 70% stuck around for the entire presentation!

The Lightning Outline

The meetup presentation was about 20 minutes and the webinar was about 30 minutes. I needed to take what I made and learned from both, and bring it down to 10 minutes. Making the meetup 30 minutes from the original outline was difficult enough, so I knew there’d have to be some drastic changes.

So I made a new, hyper-focused outline, the lighting outline and got to work slicing, dicing, mixing, and matching the meetup and webinar slides.

Keeping the technical model from the webinar, the 3 dimensional perspective inspired by the above-the-line/below-the-line framework, and the timeline from the meetup — even after removing all but the most currently relevant solutions (goodbye RoboVM, j2objc, etc) — it was nearly 20 minutes 😩.

The Lightning Slides

In order to make this a 10 minute lightning talk I started thinking of it as a movie trailer. If a 2 hour movie can have a 2 minute trailer, I should be able to bring this down to 10 minutes. Luckily, White October Events has a youtube channel with all of the past Lead Dev recordings. I could use previous lightning talks as inspiration.

I removed the intro to me, Touchlab, and the talk. I removed orienting the audience with what I will talk about. I removed extra details/context for various slides.

This got it down to 13 minutes…nearly there. I experimented with talking faster: down to 10 minutes! OK, but I didn’t want to rush too much. What was left was editing the speaker notes. I removed adverbs, adjectives, combined sentences then simplified them. I was ruthless in prioritizing details and removing the less important ones. Then, finally, I ran through a couple times clocking in under 11 minutes 😅 

Editing down from 30 minutes to 20 didn’t take very long. Editing down from 20 to 13 took a little bit longer. Editing down to 11 took a lot longer because there’s so much that I felt important that I didn’t want to lose and when I made the decision to lose it, I’d read through again and want to bring it back in favor of losing something else.

I knew I couldn’t make it shorter without modifying pacing so that’s what I worked on until the day of the conference. I also found out there would be a clicker and confidence monitors, so I tried to recreate that the best I could too.

One week before the conference, I was about to submit my final slides. But then Touchlab announced partnering with Square and introduced the Kotlin Xcode Plugin. These were both such important news I had to find a way to add them to the slides. I already had one slide where I described what KMP will look like for iOS in the near future so I broke it up into multiple slides to showcase the partnership, the plugin, and a few select multiplatform libraries that are pushing the ecosystem forward. My final lightning slides were finally final and I sent off the email to make it official.

10 Minutes to Speak

After all the prep — the meetup, the webinar, the seemingly endless rounds of practice while editing down to 10 minutes — I was feeling really good. I was still nervous (even writing this, thinking about “the day of” is making my heart race and my hands shake) but I knew it would work.

Thanks to the speaker’s dinner, I got to meet people I’d be sharing the stage with. Talking about stuff other than “the day of” allowed me to relax and, most importantly, understand that everyone else on the stage are also people who get nervous and have to prepare. I could think of them as friends which meant when I walked to the venue the next day, it felt like a reunion.

Because of my prep the weeks before and because of the speaker’s dinner, I was much less nervous. What I was worried about was the execution. Since I used Keynote, I expected the layout, size, animations, graphics would all be fine. But I had never used confidence monitors before and I knew from practice that it’s possible my speaker notes would be too small, I’d get lost in my notes, lose my pacing, and potentially choke (not really, because I did get lost in the Meetup and it was fine, but this was crossing my mind because anxiety is real).

That morning, I saw other speakers running over their talks one last time, I saw them chatting about nothing in particular, and I saw them go to the stage before the audience arrived to become familiar with the setup. So I asked to pull up my slides, I stood on the stage, and flipped through the first few to test the speaker notes. They looked great.

I spent the rest of the time before my talk watching those before me, getting into the feel of the conference, getting wowed at the presentations (while not feeling bad about mine).

And then it was time to mic up. I talked to @lara_hogan, @Geek_Manager, and @samhill303 before the lights dimmed. Then started feeling my hands shake again, but I wasn’t first on stage, so I did some breathing and thinking (sorry @iamagiantnerd for not giving you my full attention).

And then I was on the stage shaking @lara_hogan’s hand. And then I started to talk. And then I noticed I didn’t have the clicker. And then I saw the countdown clock. And then I heard the audience laugh. And then I saw some people look interested. And then I was done.

Closing Thoughts

Speaking in front of so many engineering leaders was amazing and I spent the rest of the day winding down talking to other speakers, audience members, sponsors, and even some potential business partners.

When the recording came online, I was expecting the worst. But other than looking down at my notes a bit too much, I’m actually really proud of how it turned out. Once again, @whiteoctevents did an amazing job with everything.

I know for sure that I have grown in so many ways from this experience and I plan to speak again. The personal benefits of going through this entire journey are immense and I highly recommend giving it a try. I hope writing down my journey helps you on your journey.

Kotlin Xcode Plugin

Kotlin Xcode Plugin

For native mobile developers using Kotlin Multiplatform, the iOS dev experience will be critical. Over the next several months at least, that will be the primary focus of Touchlab’s Kotlin R&D and our collaboration with Square.

Our first release is an Xcode Plugin for Kotlin. Once installed, Xcode will recognize Kotlin files as source files, provide keyword coloring, and most importantly, will let you interactively debug Kotlin code running in the iOS simulator.

 

 

Depending on project setup, that includes regular code as well as Kotlin unit test code. We’ll be providing info on how to run your unit tests in Xcode soon.

Download Plugin Archive Here

 

 

Live Code!

Setting up the plugin and Xcode can be a little tricky. We’ll be doing a live code session Friday 4/26 at 3pm EST. We’ll be setting up a project, demoing debug functionality, helping out some others with setup, and time permitting, checking out App Code as well. If you’d like to watch, sign up here.

If you’re planning on using the Xcode debugger and would like some live help, tick the box on the form above. You’ll need to share your screen, or at least have an open source project we can run. We’ll be picking 1 or 2 projects and attempting to configure them live.

 

App Code?

We are still very much fans of JetBrains tools and look forward to a fully integrated dev experience with AppCode. Check out the blog post about updated support in v2019.1. AppCode has started to ship with an interactive debugger, and we look forward to this product maturing along with Kotlin as a platform.

However, convincing iOS devs to give Kotlin MP a shot is easier with an Xcode option. This plugin is definitely not a full featured tool like IntelliJ IDEA and AppCode, but will allow iOS developers to step through and debug shared code.

Our thinking is that on many teams, iOS focused developers will start out mostly consuming Kotlin. Being able to navigate and debug in their native tools will go a long way towards interest and learning.

 

Xcode Plugin?

A few years back Apple shut down most plugin functionality for Xcode. However, that mostly applies to executable code that may alter output. Although the Kotlin Plugin goes in the “Plugin” folder, it does nothing prohibited by Apple, so requires no special permissions. You can simply copy the language config files and restart Xcode.

Xcode will ask if you’d like to load the bundle on first run. You’ll need to allow that.

Click “Load Bundle”

 

Status

This is definitely a work in progress. There are multiple facets what will be improved upon in the future. However, once configured, this is a very useful tool. Feedback and contributions very much welcomed.

 

Kotlin Source

In order to set breakpoints in Kotlin code, you’ll need the Kotlin source available in Xcode. For those familiar with Intellij and Android Studio, the source won’t simply “appear” because it’s in your project folder. We need to import it into Xcode.

You can import manually, but you should make sure the files aren’t copied out to the app bundle. Xcode “recognizes” Kotlin files, but doesn’t treat them the same as Swift files, for example, by default. You will also need to refresh the Kotlin files periodically as you add/remove code.

As an alternative, we have a Gradle plugin that you can point at a source folder and an Xcode project, and it’ll import Kotlin files. This plugin is very new and some planned features will likely be missed. Kotlin source for dependencies would be the most obvious. We’d love some help with this one.

As another alternative, if using Cocoapods, it’s possible to add source_filesto your podspec, but we’re just starting to experiment with this.

 

Next Steps

We’ll be posting more general updates soon. Subscribe to the mailing list, follow me and/or Touchlab on twitter, or come watch the live stream mentioned above.

Also come hear Justin at The Lead Dev NYC!

Touchlab & Square Collaborating on Kotlin Multiplatform

Touchlab & Square Collaborating on Kotlin Multiplatform

My professional career started in college with Java 1.0. I started working during the bright Write-Once-Run-Anywhere heyday. We were finally going to get one platform!

Well, we know how that went. Java failed as a consumer UI platform. However, as a vehicle of portable logic, Java has been one of the biggest success stories in computers.

Thus one of my favorite quotes:

Shared UI is a history of pain and failure. Shared logic is the history of computers.

-Kevin Galligan (me)

I have been fixated on this for the last few years, because the need is obvious, as seems the opportunity. Native mobile, Android and iOS, are almost identical under the UI. They are architecturally homogenous. The web, although somewhat different, still needs mobile-friendly logic, and as WebAssembly matures, will look increasingly like native mobile at an architectural level.

Kotlin Multiplatform is a great entry into the pool of options for shared logic. It natively interops with the host platform, allowing optional code sharing. The tools are being built by JetBrains, so as the ecosystem matures, we can expect a great developer experience. Kotlin is also very popular with developers, so over the long term, Kotlin Multiplatform adoption is pretty much assured.

I believe in its future enough to move my role at Touchlab to be almost entirely Kotlin Multiplatform R&D. That means I code and speak about open source and Kotlin Multiplatform. As a business, we’ve pivoted Touchlab to be the Kotlin MP shop. We are of course still native mobile product experts, but we are also looking forward to helping clients leverage a shared, mobile-oriented architecture as the future of product development.

Square’s Jesse Wilson recently announced his team’s commitment to Kotlin Multiplatform.

We are super excited to get to work with them on improving the developer experience and catalyzing the KMP ecosystem. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this team, and Square more broadly, is responsible for much of what the Android community considers best practice, if not the actual libraries themselves.

To be successful for native mobile, Kotlin Native needs to be something that Swift developers feel is productive and at least somewhat native to their modern language and environment. I think also selling iOS developers on Kotlin as a language and platform is important. This will largely be our focus for the near future.

Will it work out? We’ll see. In as much as it’s possible to make Kotlin native to iOS, I think we have one of the best possible teams to help us find out. I am very much looking forward to the challenge.

Learning More about Kotlin Multiplatform 

If you want to learn more about Kotlin Multiplatform here are a couple resources:

The Case for Kotlin: Risk-Free, Cross-Platform, Future-Friendly… and Ready to Work – Right Now

The Case for Kotlin: Risk-Free, Cross-Platform, Future-Friendly… and Ready to Work – Right Now

It’s madness, really.

An app is written for the Web.

Then, it’s written for Android.

Same app, different code.

Oh, and it needs be written for iOS, too. At the same time.

Again, different code. The question is, “Why?”

Development teams are essentially tripling their coding and testing efforts to ensure cross-platform coverage. It’s costly. It’s time-consuming. And – this might be the craziest part – it’s uncertain what the shelf life of the code will be. As we know, the future is unwritten.

As always, the goal is to be able to implement products more efficiently, and with better testing across platforms. And up to now, every cross-platform coding solution that has come along really hasn’t worked that well.

The good news is that there is now a better way. And a proven way.

We at Touchlab have been writing code in Kotlin and deploying it to Android and iOS platforms, with no hiccups.

That’s why we’ve gone all-in with Kotlin.

Kotlin is a true multiplatform language

Kotlin enables you to write once, and test once. No siloed development teams. The same code can be used across Android, iOS and Web apps with no changes, eliminating the need for a translation layer. In essence, you’re reducing the amount of business logic coded by frontend developers by consolidating it efficiently with native code, but not oversimplifying abstractions.

What’s not to love about that?

No wonder there’s a groundswell of enthusiastic support in developer communities around the world. There are 1.5 million developers currently using Kotlin, with 96,000 GitHub repositories containing 100 million lines of code. And the numbers keep growing. It’s one of the top two languages that developers are hungry to learn.

Kotlin was developed as a completely new language eight years ago, built from the ground up as a pragmatic approach to coding – a way to develop cleanly, clearly, and quickly. Simply put, Kotlin is more readable, reusable, interoperable, and safer, offering a first-rate developer experience.

Kotlin is your best bet on your complete tech stack

More important, it’s a low-risk way to code because it dovetails seamlessly with the native platforms on Java, iOS, and the web. It’s a modern language that enables you to build on what you’ve already coded, without re-working or re-inventing what you already have. Plus, because the code you share is optional, you can start small and increment as desired.

Kotlin is really an extension of Java, so it’s not a big leap for Java developers to start using Kotlin at all.  In other words, you don’t have to make a big, potentially expensive decision to get started.

In fact, on Android, Kotlin was built for direct JVM interoperability. On iOS, Kotlin is ready for prime time, and the first half of 2019 will see rapid mainstream adoption. And Google officially recommends Kotlin as a language of choice.

The big considerations for any development team are cost, time, resources, and risk. And the big problem with the siloed approach is that organizations are often tripling them.

At the same time, the wrong teams are working on the wrong projects. Back-end developers should focus on architecture as well as APIs – but not UI. Enabling your back-end developers to code and test the client and server features as a unified whole enables more rapid development with safer, higher quality and identical implementation.

Our experience with Kotlin so far?

No siloed teams. More streamlined workflows. Real cross-platform functionality.

Yes, it’s working now!

Saner Concurrency (and the cost of change)

Saner Concurrency (and the cost of change)

I’ve been talking about Kotlin/Native for a little while now, and one of the big things I tell people is that threading will be very different than what they’re used to. It’s just something that you need to learn and understand.

Kotlinconf was a couple weeks ago. Progress on Multiplatform was definitely a big topic. A more general discussion surfaced around how Jetbrains and the Kotlin team are thinking about concurrency. Andrey said in his Keynote that future Kotlin will focus on Saner Concurrency. I think we should unpack this a bit.

It is generally accepted that managing concurrency by using mutexes, synchronized blocks, etc (AKA. “manually” or “status quo”), is difficult and error prone. Concurrency in Java, with Java’s concurrency primitives, is difficult.

Some languages attempt to improve upon this situation using various approaches. Another point from the keynote I thought was great is that being unique is not important. Assimilating the best ideas of other languages is important (2:40).

Saner Concurrency

Kotlin/Native has baked into it some ideas about concurrency that make managing it safer. Andrey alluded to the idea that Kotlin, across variants, will start attempting to tackle “Saner Concurrency”. This is good to watch (37:00) to get a sense of where Kotlin is going, which makes me hopeful that not only will the various incarnations of Kotlin share the same concurrency concepts, but that those concepts will start to emerge as first class parts of the language at compile time rather than strictly runtime (Rust-like?).

By “various incarnations” I mean Kotlin-JVM will hopefully start getting some of the “new stuff” Kotlin/Native is getting🚧.

One of the consequences of change is that things will be different. We’ll need to learn new ideas, build different libraries, and adopt different ways of coding. That inevitably means resistance and time.

I wound up on the closing panel of the conference (thanks Hadi!), and one of the questions I gave an answer to addresses this issue. It wasn’t actually a question so much as expressing concern that the different threading model will slow down adoption (at 18:00)

I jumped in because, frankly, I had the same concerns earlier on. A few months ago I drafted up a blog post talking about how such a departure will impact adoption and may ultimately derail the effort. Thankfully, like most of my blog posts, I never finished it, and I don’t think that way anymore.

Considering it was on stage, at the end of a conference, I think I expressed my thoughts OK, but let me expand a bit here.

At the beginning of my talk, I told everybody about how I got there. I’d spent a couple years working on an architectural framework based on J2objc called Doppl. In short, compatible Android structures, lots of familiar libraries, and a gradle tool. Replicating testable mobile architecture across Android and iOS, in a familiar and practical manner.

How practical? The day after Google announced room, I got Room working on iOS, from the java source jars, in about 90 minutes.

Here’s the thing, though. Nobody cared. I bet more people read this post in the first week than read that post after a year and a half.

Obviously these aren’t direct parallels. The Android community wants Kotlin and iOS wants Swift, so pitching a Java/Objc thing isn’t fun (trust me). Community interest is critical, no matter how practical your pitch may be.

However, I think it’s also important to have a vision. Kotlin wants to adopt better, safer concurrency practices. They’re making the language available on many platforms, including Webassembly, and making “tough love” choices for a better future platform.

I think building something practical but somewhat compromised will make it easier to learn, and definitely easier to develop the library ecosystem necessary to support what currently exists, but it’s also uninspiring. It does not encourage change.

In short, yes, I think “giving up” on change would make adoption quicker for an individual iOS developer, but I don’t think it would be appealing to the iOS developer community. Change and new ideas, although they will take more work, are appealing and inspiring, and will ultimately be the best bet at gaining adoption.

When somebody says, “Kotlin is just Swift for Android”, this is meaningful pushback. It’s not simply “another language”.

In any case, it doesn’t matter. They’re doing it ✈️

This post started as one post, but turned into a monster. Part 2 will be released after my Droidcon UK talk Friday where we announce a new Kotlin Multiplatform state management library…

🚧 I didn’t want to derail up top, but one major issue for right now is that JVM and Native do some runtime things fairly differently. That is likely to create confusion early on, especially with teams that have engineers fully on one platform or the other. It would be great if we could run JVM with the same runtime checking as Native, even if just in a debug configuration.

Future of Shared Code = Kotlin Multiplatform

Future of Shared Code = Kotlin Multiplatform

If you’ve been following our development of Doppl for the last couple years, we’ve built a Gradle toolset for J2objc, an architectural structure with an Android compatible API, and published a number of popular libraries for that ecosystem. In other words, a full toolset extension of J2objc which allows sharing logic and architecture from Android to iOS.

J2objc is a mature, stable technology. If you have an iPhone, you’re more likely to have some J2objc in there than all the other non-HTML frameworks put together. J2objc makes sense not because it lets Java developers publish iOS code. It makes sense because it allows a platform native language produce platform native libraries, with optional code sharing, without any significant barrier or translation layer.

We use this framework with current clients, and would absolutely take new projects with it if we have the bandwidth to do so.

However, we’re officially out of the Doppl business.

The future of shared code and architecture, as far as we’re concerned, is Kotlin Multiplatform.

Some of the reasons we like it are the same as why we like J2objc. Native language, optional sharing, platform compatibility. As of the last few months, all R&D and open source development has been focused on KMP. As of KotlinConf this year (or shortly after) the tooling and libraries will be ready for production work. It is time to burn the ships.

To be better open source citizens, and to avoid internal distractions, we’ll be unpublishing Doppl and related libraries. If you’re one of the handful of orgs who use the library, please reach out and we’ll make sure you can access the repos.

I want to be clear that this doesn’t mean I think J2objc is bad tech. I still think it’s amazing technology. If you wanted to maximize your shared mobile architecture today, it would be significantly more productive than other options.

However, the community excitement around Kotlin Multiplatform is intense.

Over the next several months there will be a number of library announcements. It’s also not just for Android/iOS logic, but back end and front end architecture, including native mobile, web with JS, and webassembly. There is a lot of work to be done, but there’s a much wider scope of problems to solve.

We are, of course, looking for products and orgs interested in getting started. Also, I’m starting the search for our first Multiplatform specific engineer (besides me). Reach out.