This year’s much anticipated event has come and gone. GSouthAfrica, or G|South Africa 2.0 as it was called this year, drew to a close today after two fun-filled days at Johannesburg’s Turbine Hall.
The event, which was first held in Cape Town last year, is Google’s opportunity to showcse its products to the local market. It is primarily targeted to two distinct groups – businesses and marketers who use Google tools and products – and the second being software developers who use create software using Google’s APIs.
With last year’s event being the first of its kind in South Africa, it was easy to impress and for the most part attendees were. However, with having whetted the collective appetite, the pressure was on Google to improve upon the inaugural event.
Turbine Hall – a building which has an interesting history – was chosen as the venue. Other than being situated in Johannesburg’s city centre there was nothing to fault the choice. Google’s SA marketing team worked hard for their salaries this month to ensure that you knew you were at a Google event. Not a wall was spared from having some sort of Google branding liberally splattered all over it. It looked good.
With back to back talks and multiple streams running concurrently it was hard keeping track of everything that took place. I’ll try highlighting the sessions that stood out for me.
Both days started off with a keynote by Nelson Mattos who is the Vice President for Europe and Emerging markets. He highlighted the challenges facing the industry as well as the opportunities those challenges present. He also outlined Google’s mission for South Africa which is to ‘Get others online by enabling an accessible, relevant and sustainable Internet ecosystem’. Part of this was installing regional points of present on the African continent. The big announcement out of the keynote was the launching of YouTube in Afrikaans and Zulu.
Google are trying hard to build an interactive social media platform that rivals the likes of Facebook. Google+ is the latest attempt. The Google+ demo was pretty cool and saw the introduction of a new feature – the ability to play YouTube media from within Google+. Google+ hangouts were also demoed courtesy of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. You should watch that video on YouTube.
I never felt comfortable using Google Wave and I quite liked Buzz. But they’re both gone now, well almost in the case of Buzz. With G+, Google look like they’re onto a good thing. The interface is fast and clean and the Android app works well. New features are being released constantly so it should get better. One of the interesting features in G+ is Ripples. This allows you to see how your posts go viral across the net as other users continue to share it.
If your business depends on you staying ahead of the latest developments in your field, then Insights and Trends are for you. These two products allow you to see what is currently trending as well as view patterns in searches.
Luisella Mazza gets a special mention for returning to South Africa. I really enjoyed her presentation last time round and this time was no different. The emphasis here was on site optimisation and decreasing load times. It goes without saying that Google have tools available for this purpose. Check out these links.
I created a Google Analytics account after #gsouthafrica and have enjoyed the benefits of monitoring traffic flow and other data available about visitors to my site. I have as yet to follow some of the suggestions from the Webmasters blog. I’ll get there some day.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the developer day was the hands-on HTML5 coding session. This was a serious win and is something g|southafrica could use more of. The session required those present to complete a set of exercises involving writing snippets of code to complete an offline browser-based ticketing system. There was an Android cellphone up for grabs for the best piece of work. I hadn’t played with HTML5 before but after participating in the code lab I am hoping to change that.
Android is the biggest thing since sliced bread – so it goes without saying that a lot of developers attended in order to gain some tips and tricks from the pros.
UI design is critical in the success of any app. You can have the most awesome functionality but if the UI is cluttered or confusing you’re going to lose users. Mike Springer’s tips on UI design were extremely helpful. I’ll see if I can lay my grubby paws on the presentation. That’s something worth sharing.
That’s about it! You’ll notice that there isn’t any mention of hard-core Android programming. That’s because the session was rather basic. It needed to be more in-depth.
All in all g|southafrica was pretty good. If the aim was to generate interest in and drive up usage of Google products then I would think the two days were successful in that. I for one have definitely started using G+ a lot more than I had previously – you’ll notice the +1 button next to this article *hint hint*.
What was lacking for me was the focus on Android development. I really expected a more hands-on session similar to the HTML5 one. Also, I was somewhat disappointed that Google didn’t use the opportunity to show off the Galaxy Nexus. Guess they were concerned that it might sprout legs and take a walk. I’d like to see the developer day become something more like Google IO.
Check back again for the presentations – if I manage to get them.