Sunday, 1 March 2015

#TwitterFlock - exploring the mobile apps developer community

Last week I found myself surrounded by the developer community at South Bank in London. Surely, it was not my normal milieu to be at #TwitterFlock surrounded by coders, but as a member of the twitterati I could not resist attending the first ever UK mobile developer conference by Twitter.

Mobile apps have officially entered the workplace. Considering their undeniable impact on how we communicate, being aware of how they are built can be useful even for people who don't necessarily code or define themselves as 'tech types'. So, what better opportunity to learn how this explosion of applications is driven by some of the greatest experts in the field?

The interactive presentations ran throughout the day centred on Fabric. Attendees saw a live demo of this modular mobile platform to build apps and heard about its "Kits", which is 'tech-speak' for key features.

Here are a few highlights I took away.

Crashlytics Kit

I found particularly interesting the Crashlytics Kit, which captures apps' crashes in real time and provides developers with actionable insights as they happen. The functionality creates powerful and elegant reports very quickly. Thanks to advanced aggregation algorithms, the feature analyses stack traces and de-prioritize lines of codes that are not relevant while highlighting the interesting ones. In other words it highlights the small part of code that is causing all the trouble. Like finding the rotten apple in a barrel of Braeburns.

As part of the analytic functionality called Answers, developers can also view the top issues at a glance through a graph, and know what needs their immediate attention. As a result, dealing with crashes becomes easier and faster.

"All apps crash. But if you understand why this happens, then you can address core stability issues," said Product Manager Brian Swift.

Crashlytics also examine the performance of the devices as well as the operating systems that an app is run on.

Every metric is accurately kept up-to-date, which means that if someone would like to know whether the new version of their app is better than the old one, they just have go to the dashboard to find out. Plus, the feature provides real-time alerts when it detects new issues. Yet, to minimise noise and maximize action all the notifications can be customised - so developers feel in control of the information. 

Among the apps that are benefiting from Crashlytics is BlaBlaCar. Product Manager Benjamin Retourne talked about how their ridesharing app has become more stable and reliable, while experiencing a crash-­free user ratio above 98% on both Android and iOS.

The same benefits seemed to be felt by the event booking app YPlan. CEO Rytis Vitkauskas said that Crashlytics has helped them to maintain a success rate of 99.8%. "Thanks to this stability we have been featured multiple times on both the iOS and Google Play Stores, and have one of the highest 5* ratings in our category with over 5,500 four or five star reviews."

Digits

What about signing up to an app through your mobile number? Digits lets users safely create an account as well as sign in to an application with neither password nor email authentication or other social media accounts; a simple code is securely sent to their phone once they enter the number. The benefits are multiple not just from a technical viewpoint - it makes onboarding very easy - but also this approach reflects a shift in the way we are managing our online identities. 

Firstly, not everyone is keen to disclose their entire social history and personas - a thing that easily happens when signing in through other apps (e.g. You enter Pinterest with your Facebook account). But by contrast your phone number is already an identity that you publicise everyday.

Also, this type of sign-in can involve a wide range of demographics across the globe - think about emerging markets, which account for more than 70% of the world’s mobile population, and for which the telephone number if the primary identity.

Twitter Kit - When Twitter amplifies your app's voice

Twitter Kit also provides an easy-to-use mechanism for showing tweets within an app. Why is that useful? Because, as Bryan Sise put it, "Apps are competing in a crowded marketplace," and "enabling users to share great tweets can help developers to drive app growth organically."

For example, we heard from Mobile Lead at Citymapper Joe Hughes, how their urban navigation app is using Twitter Kit to feature live tweets from transport agencies. On top of that, their app for iOS is also able to pull the tweets from its users on to their City pages. Thanks to this crowdsourcing exercise they are giving real-time and useful information to people.

"The Tweets we pull into the app fill the gaps in the status info provided by the travel agencies. We love that our users can benefit from Twitter content inside of our app, giving them a more complete picture of their city’s transport options."

So when you are planning your journey you will get live tweets from others on the same journey warning about delays.

Another interesting example came from Game Insight, a global developer of games for mobile and social platforms. We heard from CEO Anatoly Ropotov that his app uses Twitter Cards to let players move directly from their Twitter feed to the sections of the game that are more relevant to them such as player profiles, groups or replays.

Also, the sharing of tweets allows Game Insight to create conversations among players both within and outside of the game. “We added a real­time feed of the #cloudraiders hashtag right into the game to ensure that any game-related conversation on Twitter appeared completely native and that players could reply directly.”

So what?

I came away from #TwitterFlock with the head buzzing with coding jargon, but I have to admit that as a communicator I really enjoyed the event. 

When you get closer to the coding community you begin to realise the challenges behind the miracle that gives you more information in your hand than astronauts had on the moon. I revelled in the enthusiasm for building new tools and creating new ways of working and living that are truly changing our society. 

As communicators we tend to reflect on what the world is like; at Twitterflock they have their eyes firmly on what the world could be like.

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate