Conference programs

  • Written by: Marko Samastur
  • Published on:
  • Category: Web

We went hiking and exploring north of Spain after this year's EuroPython. Predictably this also involved a lot of frustrations with available WiFi connections. Mobile networks often worked better, but far from reliably so. It is amazing to see how poorly most websites and apps still work in such (common) scenarios with rare exception like Gmail Android app. Keeping all our devices powered required significant planning and spare batteries where possible.

I complained about this before and while it is sad to see how little has changed, this post is not about failing services. It is about web conferences which I believe contribute a lot to this sad state of affairs.

Beyond a talk or two on ServiceWorkers or PouchDB there seems to be little interest from conference organisers to help educate developers on how to develop services that continue to work well when connection is spotty and battery low.

It is certainly not because users wouldn't care. According to Google there are hundreds of battery apps, downloads of which go into 100+ millions. In my own field work I saw that when given choice mobile users will pick services that work better. By which I mean those that use less bandwidth, work more reliably and are easier on battery. I can only think of very few services that have network effects strong enough to be safe from removal, but even their use can be negatively impacted by users limiting or changing their use of the service.

My talk proposal on web's energy use has been widely rejected. It happens. But more disappointingly I failed to find other talks on this or similar topics. Every conference has a right to decide which topics it finds important, but when one is ignored by all of them, it may be correct to conclude that it simply does not matter to community.

If that is true and web developers expect to punt this problem to OS (Android and iOS), then that is a mistake. First, because this is our job that nobody else can do equally well. And second, because operating systems are getting better at pointing out problematic apps to users who are willing to remove them.

My hunch is that most developers are simply not aware of these issues. A good conference program for me is not just about what is currently pertinent, but also what should be. Maybe we could have fewer talks on web game development to find space for topics that affect billions of people every day.