Chronicling GDG DevFest 2015


DevFest is undoubtedly one of the must-go events on your calendar if you happen to fall under the categories of a code junkie, a techie or at least a Google super fan. It happened on the 10th of October at a place known for hosting Google events; the Foundation Institute. This year DevFest started with something new called the Codelab sessions, which happened from morning until lunch. Straight after that, we moved on to the conference. So what happened at these two sessions? Let’s take a look.

Codelab Sessions  

There were two hands on sessions done by industrial experts and importantly only for a selected number of heads. These were genuinely hands-on sessions rather than the speaker explaining the theories in slides. Participants were advised previously to bring along some prerequisites including their trusty laptops, an android device and few software installed. It was like of a workshop where they were guided step by step by the experts.

The first segment was about using Unity 3D on development for Google Cardboard. It was Thilina Premasiri, the Lead Gaming Engineer at Arimac who conducted this. After an intro to the software, Thilina briefly demonstrating the process of developing a game using unity from beginning to the compilation and building it for Android.

Next was the Firebase session. The presenter for this session was Chathura Dilan Perera, a Senior Software Engineer from WSO2. Before moving straight away into Firebase, Chathura gave a quick intro to what JSON is (P.S: not who ‘JSON’ is) since Firebase uses JSON in its database. “Let’s get started” and he walked through the development process of a chat application for Android from UI development to coding.

GDG DevFest 2015 – Main Conference

8 talks for one evening is taxing unless you have Shafraz Rahim refreshing you at the end of each with a question and a free T-shirt for the correct answer.

Jeggan Rajendram, Country Consultant for Google in Sri Lanka
Jeggan Rajendram, Country Consultant for Google in Sri Lanka
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

The event kicked off with Shafraz welcoming the gathering followed by the keynote speech by Jeggan Rajendram the Country Consultant for Google in Sri Lanka. In his talk, Jeggan spoke about the different initiatives by Google like the Google Developers Group (GDG), Google Business Group (GBG) and Google’s Women Techmakers program which support and empower women in the industry. He also mentioned the Google Developer Expert network where they mentor and teach people.

He then introduced Udacity’s Android development & design courses for the curious young developers attending. Taking it to the next step, Jeggan said that they are working on a group learning program for Sri Lankan Devs.

“Why it’s a great time to be a developer because your idea could be a business.” – Jeggan Rajendram

Concluding his presentation, Jeggan introduced everyone to the Google Launchpad initiative which helps you to launch and scale your app. This includes access to Google’s technology, events, online resources, expertise and community. For example, they offer your app a UX review by the Google design team during the scale stage.

Next was a video clip sent by Erica Hanson – Developer Relations Program Manager, Southeast Asia at Google for DevFest Sri Lanka 2015. She spoke about what they do as the developer relations team; in her words it is there to help developers and startups to become more successful.

To GO or not to GO

Muhammed Thanish, CTO - Kadira Inc.
Muhammed Thanish, CTO – Kadira Inc.
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

Taking up the stage as the first speaker of the conference, it was Muhammed Thanish, the CTO of Kadira Inc. He spoke about GoLang; a programming language created by Google. Guess what, his presentation too was built on Go.

“You can learn enough Go in a week to start writing real world application. It uses many things you already know.” – Muhammed Thanish

He compared Go with other popular languages by using the number of books that one have to read to understand that particular language. In the case of Go, it happens to be a booklet of few pages.

Thanish also told the story of Go at Kadira. They had been testing out most popular database systems and have found out that each have a drawback one way or the other. As the solution, they handcrafted their own database written on Go which Thanish claims it to be extremely efficient in meeting their requirements. If that wasn’t enough motivation for you to Go, then there’s nothing more.

Agility is not enough

Charindra Wijemanne, ‎a Senior Software Engineer at 99X Technology
Charindra Wijemanne, Senior Software Engineer – 99X Technology
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

The second speaker of the day was Charindra Wijemanne, ‎a Senior Software Engineer at 99X Technology. Her presentation focused on how waste could be eliminated to deliver proper products with the Agile development methodology.

“A delighted customer will give you 5 times more business than a satisfied customer.” – Charindra Wijemanne ‎

She spoke about the difference between satisfaction and delight. This is what she pointed out is in Agile.

“Is agile holding back? No agile makes you very efficient in your development.” – Charindra Wijemanne ‎

She said the problem isn’t about efficiency, it’s effectiveness. “We very efficiently create products that customers don’t want.” What’s the solution? This is where Charindra introduces the Lean concepts; eliminating waste when developing products.

“Lean startup never believe in anything (opinions) until they validate it (facts).” – Charindra Wijemanne ‎

Unit testing for Android

Kasun Dananjaya a Software Engineer from WSO2
Kasun Dananjaya, Software Engineer – WSO2
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

Kasun Dananjaya a Software Engineer from WSO2 was the next speaker. Kasun wasn’t alone, we also saw Inosh Perera, another Software Engineer in the WSO2Mobile team. The duo walked through the vast topic of testing for Android.

“You need to test at least 80% of the functionality” – Kasun Dananjaya

Kasun spoke about the different frameworks that can be utilized for unit testing, like JUnit and RoboSpock and Espresso and Robotium for UI testing.

Inosh Perera, Software Engineer - WSO2Mobile team
Inosh Perera, Software Engineer – WSO2Mobile team
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

Inosh taking over the stage spoke about UI testing. After an overview of what UI testing is, he moved on to introducing Espresso where he spoke about the different components available in it.

Data Driven Analytics

“Usually when people develop apps or games, they go through many ideas before they make a hit” – Hung Nguyen

Hung Nguyen - Analytical Lead at Google
Hung Nguyen, Analytical Lead – Google
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

App developer? Want to make money by monetizing your app? Heard about AdMob? Hung Nguyen – Analytical Lead at Google for South Asia Emerging Markets was the next speaker after the break and he introduced the AdMob platform; the mobile advertising platform with Google Analytics built into it.

He took the case study of Mehmet Ecevit the Founder/CEO at Gram Games who dropped out of college to teach himself to code and built his game development studio. He spoke how Google helped their business grow 7 times larger and how they earn $5000 per day purely through AdMob.

“Developing 100 games but maybe 1 or 2 will earn enough revenue to support the company” – Hung Nguyen

Nguyen went through the different types of ads that are available on AdMob which includes; Native Ads, Lightbox Ads and TrueView Video Ads. “Native ads takes the look & feel and the functionality of the app. The call to action button mimics the same design so lesser intrusion”. This is the biggest pitfall about ads, people simply don’t like them. According to Nguyen, at Admob, they are constantly refining their designs and strategies to provide the best user experience possible.

“If you don’t measure, you can’t understand thus you can’t optimize. You should be able to segment your users.” – Hung Nguyen

Next he moved into the Analytics, he advised that it is always necessary that you realize the full value of each user. He separated them into three categories; users who are likely to spend on in-app purchases, users who click on ads and users who share on social media. You shouldn’t feed everyone with the same spoon isn’t it?

Material Design for Android

Chathura Dilan Perera, a Senior Software Engineer from WSO2
Chathura Dilan Perera, Senior Software Engineer – WSO2
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

We had Chathura Dilan once again in the evening conference as well. His presentation mostly was an introduction to material design.

“Material surfaces are like paper. It has a 1dp depth. No more because Material is NOT 3D” – Chathura Dilan

Anyways it’s also good to start off with the basics. Chathura covered everything from the definition of material and the key components of it, like the elevation and shadows, the three key categories of colors, motion and response and the color palette.

First things first, Material is the metaphor. It is a design language inspired by the study of paper and ink. The use of elevation is an approach to give the elements similar qualities of objects in the physical world and shadows to provide the visual cues to them. Talking about the color palette, it comprises the primary and accent colors. You may use them in such a way to complement your brand. How do you use colors on the UI? Pretty simple; colors are categorized into 3 types. The primary color which represents your branding (example: red for YouTube and blue for Inbox). The primary dark color can be used to represent the status bar and accent color to be used on elements which you need to grab the attention of the user.

It was at the later part when things got quite interesting. He did a hands-on session here too; in fact, he demonstrated the designing of a material UI and how depths and color should be varied in order to mimic the feel of paper.

Inside Google Maps and Mapmaker  

“How many of you used Maps to get to here?” well we should accept that most of us depend solely on maps to find our way around Colombo, but how did Google Maps become so accurate? You can thank the hours of dedication put into that effort by our Lankan Google Mapmakers. Who are they and what do they do? To explain that, we had Charith Mallawarachchi, a Software Tech Lead at Zebra Technologies. Technically he is one of those people you should connect with if you also want to become a mapmaker.

Charith Mallawarachchi, a Software Tech Lead at Zebra Technologies
Charith Mallawarachchi, Software Tech Lead – Zebra Technologies
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika

Charith spoke about the Sri Lankan Google Mapmaker community, how they work and what they do. He shared their story of how they transformed our map into a one with such detail. Charith gave out an open call to anyone who’d also like to be a part of it, because “you know your part if the world better than anyone”.

Moving on, he briefed the guidelines and common mistakes new mapmakers do. These mistakes included the use of shortened forms of names, tagging on unrelated categories, duplicates and incorrect data on speed limits. He strongly recommended that if anyone is willing to volunteer, don’t start it all alone but join the community.

Design Sprint Methods  

The last talk for the evening. It was Thisara Alawala an Associate Technical Specialist from Pearson who took the stage. Thisara opened with a brief introduction to the product backlog in the Agile framework.

“Scrum and agile doesn’t have project managers as in other methods, it’s the development team who selects what to do. At the end of every sprint, there will be a workable product” – Thisara Alawala

First he explained what a sprint is, these are time boxed goals composed with prioritized user stories. In the end, the outcome should be a shippable product. He then looked at the issues with the current system and how the Design Sprint concept by Google Ventures solves those. Thisara explained each stage of the process in-depth and check out this video from TechCrunch to learn more about the process.


As prizes were handed out, tokens of appreciation were given and the vote of thanks having been delivered, it marked the end of GDG DevFest 2015. Trust us when we say it was a lot of talks! The best thing is that each talk catered all the audiences in the dev space. From entrepreneurs who strive to grow their startups to project managers, code ninjas, designers, quality engineers and most of all for the enthusiastic community. Everyone had something to take home (other than the t-shirts and stickers). Why does DevFest even exist? “From Developers to Developers” that is the meaning of DevFest.

Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika
Photo Courtesy: Oshadi Prabhashika



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