The day started off with Sebastian Trzcinski-Clement, the Outreach Lead, talking about what to expect of the event. Ahmed Hamzawi, the Head of Engineering, MENA, then spoke about Google’s goals for MENA, which have been set based on the varied opportunities the region has to offer such as, the high percentage of the young population among the internet users, 3 times growth rate in the number of internet users and the extremely high increase in the number of mobile internet users. He also spoke about having a Google global cache in the MENA region, local apps support programs in UAE, adoption apps for education purposes and training and development. He also spoke about ways for Google to sustain its products in the MENA region which is by providing translation tools, localization of global products which will help in them having a wider reach and being more approachable in the region, having MENA specific products, more local content in products such as youtube, where 7 new country specific sites have recently been launched; and localized versions of maps.
Nelson Mattos then spoke about the different sessions for the day and exhorted us to “pester” the googlers with any and every query we have regarding anything related to Google because he said that’s what he paid them to come here for!
Then a round of demos started, with Sebastian and Ahmed giving a demo of the “google cars”, cars that can drive on their own, using an automated system that uses the GPS to navigate the roads, which was followed by a demo of the use of the translate feature on android for having a conversation with a person who does not share a common language. Demos were also given on voice search and image search both of which gave highly accurate search results. It was followed by a brief discussion on a couple of other major Google products, Google+ and Youtube.
Finally … the actual seminars started, with 3 parallel tracks. The one I went to was on Google Web Toolkit (GWT) presented by Aly Ibrahim. The main aim of GWT (also pronounced as “gwit” ) is to use the existing java tools to build a no compromise ajax for any modern web browser. The benefits of GWT are that there are no plugins involved and it also gives a rich user experience. Using GWT “browser proofs” the java code, hence the developer need not spend time on making sure that the site runs as expected on every major browser.
The GWT designer is a WYSIWYG tool which makes it a lot easier for the developer to get an idea of how the end product is going to look like and the development cycle is a very simple one too! All you have to do is to edit the existing code (or add some!), hit refresh and voila the app gets updated! But it is this easy only in the Hosting Mode.
And with AppEngine, all the headaches of hosting a site and maintaining it on the servers are taken care of , by Google. Also, once the web app is uploaded, the scalability is no longer an issue as it can be adjusted according to the expected traffic and with HTML 5 features present in the toolkit, it only lets you give a richer experience to the user!
We then had the lunch hour … and all I can say is that the food was simply amazing, though it was a bit too healthy for my liking!! So, I was munching on the muffins all throughout!
The next session was on HTML5, presented by Timothy Jordan. It was the liveliest session of them all! He simply left us mesmerised with his presenting skills on the topic at hand. He talked about what HTML5 is, and its advantages which include a rich user experience, an offline application cache, making uploading files easier and working offline!
He then spoke about the Google Identity Toolkit which can be used to simplify a potentially complex and frustrating sign up to a new website. It currently supports gmail, yahoo mail, aol mail and hotmail among a few others. He then showed us how to make the website in a local language, instead of just translating it once it’s made in English.
The next session was on Google APIs and was presented by Adam Mathias. He showed us how to embed videos using the youtube APIs. He showed how a map of any location can be embedded into a site and integrating Google+’s +1 button into the site as well. He then spoke about the AdWords API which is a third party advertising platform that can be integrated into any site, once the person registers in AdWords as a developer. The system can be used to effectively manage huge amounts of data and generate ads based on the analysis of the data being accessed.
The last session was about the Google Translate APIs and the potential they hold in reaching out to the millions of users who are not well versed in English. It was presented by Adam Mathias and Fayeq Oweis, a Localization Specialist at Google. They spoke about how the websites can be effectively translated into the local languages, which will enhance the rate of accessibility of information to people who do not know a language apart from their native one. This API translates from one language to another using huge amounts of data about the functionality and the grammar structure of different languages stored in the databases, but most of the difficulties arise when it has to translate from a left-to-right (LTR) language to a right-to-left (RTL) language, as it does not know how many words to take at a time, for translation.
The closing comments had the winner of the GTUG (Google Tech User Group) Hackathon give a small demo of his winning app and collecting his prize. All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I felt it was an amazing opportunity to rub shoulders with the tech world’s global greats!