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The Final Big Android BBQ

The Jackrabbit Mobile engineering team attended the 2016 BABBQ, which was held in Hurst Texas October 21-22, 2016. The Big Android BBQ is an annual event hosted by IDEAA in Texas that ran from 2010 to 2016. The organizers announced that 2016 would be the last year for the event. The event consisted of 30 talks day by 29 speakers and the theme for this year’s conference was connection.

The Big Android BBQ gets it names from its famous closing BBQ dinner.

The famous closing BBQ dinner
The famous closing BBQ dinner

Twitter Fabric hosted a happy hour at the end of the first day.

We also visited booths featuring the latest virtual reality hardware such as the Samsung Gear, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens. There was also a Sony booth demonstrating their new tinker-friendly Android phone line.

The Gear VR headset
Caroline playing a game in the Gear VR headset


The speakers covered many topics, but our favorite talks focused on techniques for managing the  challenges of building complex mobile applications.

Architecture with RxJava” by Jolanda Verhoef.

Jolanda Verhoef explaining Blendle's app architecture
Jolanda Verhoef explaining Blendle’s app architecture

Jolanda traveled from the Netherlands to share how her team at Blendle uses RxJava to coalesce requests for static web resources so that they only get downloaded and persisted once.

RxJava makes the static data available everywhere immediately and the data is passed by reference using an identifier so it’s all performant. Blendle also use a “use case layer” between their data and presenter layers to prevent redundant asynchronous web requests in an approach that’s similar to the VIPER architecture pattern popularized by the folks at Mutual Mobile.

“Service Oriented Architecture – Why Enterprise Android is Awesome” by Lorne Liechty.

Predictions about the future of enterprise software
Predictions about the future of enterprise software

Most enterprise software customers are looking to purchase full-feature solutions from a single vendor.  Lorne explained that this requirement leads to large development teams working on complex code bases. Complex code bases and large development teams individually are difficult, but together are a nightmare.

Lorne’s solution is to break up the large code base into a modular suite of apps that are each maintained by a small development team. The suite of apps integrate to provide the full-feature solution that customers want. Android is especially well suited for this approach. He said “services oriented architecture is the manifest destiny of Android that’s been in the cards since Android 1.0”.

“Using Android DataBinding with MVVMP” by Adam Newman.

Adam explained how they use MapStruct for data binding at bottlerocket. MapStruct adds the glue code between your different object models automatically using sane defaults and at compile time so there’s no performance hit for using it. Data binding is an essential part of MVVM because it tells the presenter what happened in the view and the view what has changed in the presenter while still allowing each to only be concerned with its own responsibilities.

“ConstraintLayout, the next steps” by Nicolas Roard & John Horford

View chaining styles
View chaining styles

This talk on the new ConstraintLayout layout type in Android was interesting because the engineer that wrote ConstraintLayout into the layout engine, Nicolas Roard, was presenting. He talked about the new layout type and how to edit one in Android Studio. He also explained how flat layouts are better suited than deep layouts to this new layout type, especially if you want performant animations.

Closing Ceremony

Aaron Kasten
Aaron Kasten

Attending the Big Android BBQ was a rewarding experience. We came away from it with a bag of new tricks, some useful insights into how other companies are managing complexity in their apps and a bonding experience that you just don’t get sitting behind a computer in the office. The conference was really affordable, at less than $100 per ticket, which brought in a wide range of attendees from junior developers to directors of Engineering, from high school students to retired hobbyists. Unfortunately that price didn’t bring in enough revenue for the conference to run again in 2017.

Aaron Kasten, who founded the Big Android BBQ in 2010, explained his vision to create a low barrier tech event for people getting into programming. Today there are many such events competing for the same pool of sponsorships. The competition for sponsors prevents the Big Android BBQ from getting the funds it needs to continue, but it shows that the core vision of the conference has succeeded.

The team enjoying a meal at Abuelo’s, one of Hurst’s two fine dining establishments
The team enjoying a meal at Abuelo’s, one of Hurst’s two fine dining establishments

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