2016 DevFestMN app

Minnesota’s Google DevFest App

GDG-TC DevFest App Screenshot

Concurrent sessions shown in a concise layout.

Attendees of the 2015 Google DevFest received lots of freebies, including food, drinks, door prizes, stickers, and a t-shirt, but the Android app developed specifically for the conference struck me as unusual. Building an Android app for a small regional conference might be less daunting for this group, but not easy. Few volunteer-run organizations could complete such a task.

The app provided attendees with an updated conference schedule and facility map, a handy tool given the number of presenters and concurrent tracks. It was available from Google Play and required no special permissions. The schedule database was in Google Sheets, and changes made by any of the core volunteers would update both the DevFest app and website.

Curious to know more, I contacted Patrick Fuentes, an Android developer at The Nerdery and GDG-TC organizer. Patrick, along with local developer rock stars Bryan Herbst and Chris Black, and user experience developer Russell Ahrens, collectively donated hundreds of hours to the project.

Ongoing effort

When asked about last year’s app, Patrick admitted feeling some disappointment. Despite the recognition and appreciation that the project received, the overall scope had to be limited to fit the volunteer group’s capacity. A revised app is in development, but it may not be available in time for the 2016 conference. The group is hoping for a volunteer with Android visual design experience to help meet the second iteration’s main objective: building a stable foundation and feature set that could benefit the larger Google developer community.

A generous donation

Patrick Fuentes

Patrick Fuentes

I asked Patrick to describe his motives for, in effect, paying for the privilege to build an app. “I love making apps, and I know how much a well-made app can drive engagement,” Patrick wrote. “I’m also passionate about the excellent developer community we have here in the Twin Cities.” The DevFest app later served as a teaching aid–a case study example–for Android Study Jams, an ongoing volunteer project sponsored by the Twin Cities group that Patrick supports as an organizer and instructor.

The latest revision project harnesses this energy and, by making the code open source and generalizable, could benefit Google Developer Groups all over the world, not just the local conference attendees. As Patrick put it, “I really feel like we can help a lot of people.”