New year, new activities. It's still January and I'm already on tour. I was heading to the Developer Creators and Online Communities Summit - #GoogleDCOC - in Singapore. It's a global hybrid event - meaning in-person and online. The purpose is to bring together content creators and online community managers in the developer space from all around the world.
Why attending in-person?
I'm excited about this summit for various reasons. First and foremost, apart from blogging since over a decade I'm diving more and more into other ways of content creation. Already back in 2020, we recorded the whole Virtual Developers Conference in Mauritius - 4 tracks over 3 days, more than 100 hours of technical presentations - then post-processed everything and re-published every single session on its own. Everything available on YouTube. That conference alone has over 90 videos in its playlist.
Additionally, I started recording talks happening during our monthly MSCC meetings. Most of them still need processing but are coming to the YouTube channel soon. Pinky promise!
And not to forget: Podcasts!
Although the concept and "launch" of the Talks on Software Craftsmanship has been around since 2020 as announced at the end of the Virtual Developers Conference it didn't take off yet. Unfortunately, for various reasons which are mainly down to the procrastination of the host(s). Which is another pinky promise: Reviving, eh really launching, this podcast.
And what's a good motivator for that? Yes, you're right, podcasting. So, recently my friend and long-time community supporter Loic Forget took the lead in realising the podcast "Mau Pas Konpran!?" (published on Open Spotify). Together with Ish Sookun we are sitting together for a semi-technical, monthly recording session. The fun part here is that each episode is held in typical Mauritian style. We are conversing about local topics in at least three languages - Kreol Morisien, English, and a little bit of French or German. For me, that's a great learning experience on multiple levels.
Attending the summit I was highly interested in networking with other creators and to learn from their experiences. Which equipment to consider and which software applications are recommended for processing. Tips & tricks publishing on YouTube and how to improve the experience for viewers.
Second reason is the destination, Singapore. It's going to be my second trip to Asia after speaking at the C# Corner Conference 2017 in India. I have watched a number of documentaries about the city country during the past years, and the broadcast of the Formula 1 race is one of the highlights in my "sports calendar". Combining my attendance at the DCOC summit with the ability to explore the city of Singapore during two spare days, Wednesday and Saturday, sounded like an opportunity not to miss.
But hang on... JoKi, I thought you'd be a software crafter. How does this relate to your in-person attendance?In my case this might be the answer: "Online community managers: manage online tech communities on Discord, Telegram, Slack or other platforms (1000+ members/subscribers/followers)." - I founded and I'm still co-managing the two largest communities in Mauritius, namely Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community (MSCC) and GDG Mauritius with a combined total count of over 4,000 members. With social media presence on X/Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn reaching almost 9,000 people. Even our YouTube channel has close to 400 subscribers.
So, why attending in-person? The direct interaction with other peers is priceless. Getting into a conversation with other attendees is so much easier than in online sessions (with chats). The learning factor from others' experience is magnitudes higher, more relatable and up close personal. Similar to our regular user group meetings.
Travelling to and fro, and how
Similar to previous trips I decided to travel light again, despite being out of the country for the six days. A small carry-on trolley for a bare minimum of clothes topped up with my daily backpack containing all kind of equipment.
The focus was on everything using a single connector, USB-C. Hence I assembled the following equipment to bring along.
- Lenovo Chromebook (USB-C charging)
- Google Pixel 6a (USB-C charging)
- Google Buds Pro (ANC and USB-C charging)
- Valco VMK20 (ANC and USB-C charging)
- 10,000 mAh battery power pack (USB-C charging)
- Hama 60W multi-plug USB-C charger (4 outlets)
- Cables. Lots of cables. USB cables, an HDMI cable, and a network cable. Let's see whether I get to hack that SmartTV at the hotel. 🤣
Regular readers might have had a good idea already.
At a certain stage I was even considering to leave any laptop at home. But then, why would you go to a Google Summit without a laptop, especially without a Chromebook? For one of the workshops it was communicated upfront that you have to have a laptop with you. So there we go. Unfortunately, I didn't pack my lavalier microphone which would have been very handy for some ad hoc on the spot recordings / live broadcast from the summit or from Singapore.
The choice of airline was easier for this trip. Although there are direct flights from Mauritius to Singapore, operated by Air Mauritius, there are a limited number of flights per week only. Such a flight would take roughly eight hours but the available options didn't fit well with the agenda scheduled. In consequence, I looked at the multiple flights per day on Emirates. and booked the round-trip taking into account that it took twice the time including a short stop-over in Dubai. Surprisingly, the price difference between those two choices is marginal. The flexibility advantage is impressive and actually I'm fewer days out of office than otherwise. Who'd expected that?
Speaking of expectations, Singapore requires all foreign travellers to submit the SG Arrival Card (SGAC) before arriving. There are two options to complete that requirement. Either you use their SGAC e-Service online or you install their MyICA Mobile application. I went for the later and it was done after a few clicks here and there, and uploading a scan of my passport. The SGAC is equivalent to the All-in-One Health Form when someone travels to Mauritius.
After the welcoming stop-over at the Emirates Business Lounge at the Dubai airport I arrived a little bit ahead of time in Singapore. And wow, what a difference the airport is.
Changi Airport and public transport
I've been to a few airports around the world so far and Changi is by far the most impressive one. Think of an airport inside a huge shopping mall and entertainment facility and you might get an idea about it. This thing is huge! Did I mention that free WiFi is offered everywhere?
Next task was to purchase one of those NFC cards for public transport. To my understanding there are at least two possibilities - ezLink and SimpleGo. I spent like $S 10 for the ezLink card which came pre-loaded with a balance of $S 5 to ride the MRT lines and busses.
As for mobile data it was even easier. Ahead of my trip I purchased a SingTel Tourist eSIM for their 5G network online. Then you install their hi!App and you can register/activate the eSIM card in your mobile after you have connection with their network. A few identification steps and confirmation emails later I was able to use their 5G data network instantly. Checkout the speed rates.
Another positive surprise was the automated immigration and passport stations. Armored with your passport, the SGAC code received and yourself you have everything to get through. For me, it was as smooth as the automated passport stations at German airports. Maybe even smoother...
Next, I went straight to the MRT station at Changi airport to catch a ride into the city. To get around I installed the MyTransport.SG mobile application which provides the network layout of the different MRT lines and the bus lines with all stations. Alternatively, Google Maps works just fine, too. Actually, I downloaded the map of Singapore for offline use. You know, just in case I might get lost without data network, etc.
Chinatown and staying at a capsule hotel
I boarded the MRT green line shortly after 22.00 hrs, and had to change to the Downtown (blue) line at Expo station before arriving at the DT 19 - Chinatown - station. Despite the late hour businesses and restaurants are still buzzing over there. Glad I chose this suburb to stay the first night. At least, I knew there would be various options to have a tasty dinner, and opportunities to shop anything I might have forgotten to bring along.
The capsule hotel I booked was within 5 minutes walking distance from the station exit Pagoda Street, and following the directions on Google Maps got me there easily. A quick scan of my passport at their automated check-in kiosk checked me in, and I received the key card in exchange. Again, really smooth and user-friendly processing. Here are a few impressions.
With the key card you get access to the different levels and amenities of the hotel. I reached my sleeping capsule, dropped of the luggage in the designated, key card secured locker storage, and then went on tour in Chinatown for dinner. I wasn't sure how long restaurants would be open but thought that probably midnight might be a closing time anywhere. In short distance across the hotel I found a place with yummy-looking dishes and I decided to give it shot. I mean, what could possible go wrong? BTW, the ratings on Google Maps for that joint are positive and their range of dishes offered is wide.
Around 1:30 hrs in the morning I finally went to sleep in my capsule. Well fed, cleaned up after having had a shower in the common washroom area of the hotel, and tired from the long trip.
First day in Singapore had no fixed agenda and it gave me the opportunity to explore the city freely. After a few hours of rest and the generous offer by the capsule hotel to store my luggage beyond the checkout I asked them for a few must-visit places in town.
As I spent the night in Chinatown what's more obvious than to discover the suburban during the morning hours? A quick check on Google Maps that the famous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is literally just around the corner. By the time I got there prayers were still in full swing and it has an enlightening experience to stay for a while
Down that same road I went to visit the Sri Mariamman Temple and there also had been prayers. Taking into consideration that Thaipoosam Cavadee was on Thursday I assumed devotees would be at the temple for prayers. Although I went back through Pagoda Street towards the colonial street shops I only saw the Jamae (Chulia) Mosque from a short distance but didn't go there. I was reminded of Mauritius with those three places in close, peaceful coexistence.
The Bay area
Closing the loop through Chinatown I went back to the TE 18 - Maxwell - station of the MRT and headed to the line's final destination in the south east: TE 22 - Gardens by the Bay. The weather was holding and so I first went to the Marina Barrage to get a view of the barrage bridge and dam, and the many ships out on the sea. The barrage building itself is super interesting as there are several slopes that allow you to walk on the top of it.
Despite the light rain, yeah I brought a lightweight rain jacket with me, I then ventured to the Gardens by the Bay. Coming from the south I first visited the Kingfisher Lake with its small waterfalls and statues. Passing the Water Lily Pond and Sun Pavilion I headed straight to the Floral Clock. From there I got tickets for the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.
The Cloud Forest with its indoor waterfall and six levels of nature exploration is impressive and amazing to visit.
There are different sections of floral diversity which the Flower Dome has to offer. I enjoyed the smells, the tranquility in certain areas, and the massive educational factor across the dome. One could easily spend the whole day there.
As lunch time started to close in, I went along the Dragonfly Lake towards the Bayfront Ave and ended up in The Shoppes at Marina Sands Bay. That's like shopping heaven on Earth :)
To wrap up the tour I took the Downtown line from DT 16 - Bayfront - back to Chinatown. Stopped by at the capsule hotel to charge my mobile a bit, chatted with the family back home in Mauritius, and then grabbed my luggage to move to the booked hotel by Google. This time I caught a bus and got off the station right in front of IKEA Alexandra. Our hotel - Momentus Hotel Alexandra - is next to it.
After all the walking and discoveries during the morning and midday hours I was a bit exhausted and therefore relieved to stretch out on the bed to rest. The little time left until the official Welcome Reception next to the pool I used to review the tons of pictures I had taken, chatted a bit more with my wife and the kids, and had a refreshing shower.
Our organising team from Google invited us to an informal welcome/reception dinner at the Momentus Hotel to gently kick off the summit. After a brief exchange with Dirk Primbs - asking him about getting accustomed in Canada - I took an empty chair at one of the tables and joined a group of developer creators from Hanoi, Vietnam: Huy Dang, Dang Dong, and Nguyen Hai-Truong. It was interesting to learn more about their activities and how they organise events. Thanks for the pin and stickers!
Shortly after I spotted Yesaya Athuman who I missed talking to at DevFest Dar es Salaam. I went over to him joining others standing and chatting about all kind of community stuff. There I got introduced to Dariusz Kalbarczyk, organiser of ngPolandConf, and we exchanged a bit about our common friend Dhananjay Kumar, organiser of ngIndia. By chance we were also joined by Mazlum Tosun whose YouTube videos fascinate me as he creates Google Cloud content in French and English language, and promotes them equally. We instantly spoke about common friends in the community like Ezekias Bokove, Louis Japheth Kouassi, and Guillaume Blaquiere. While having dinner fellow creator and book author Muhammed Ahsan Ayaz spent some time and interesting stories with us.
With the evening progressing and having had dinner from the buffet you could observe the forming of multiple groups based on either geographical vicinity or established connections on Discord. It always amazes me how easy it is to connect with other during such in-person gatherings. Together with Yesaya, I then sat down with Daisy Auma and Ezinne Osuamadi to learn more about their professional whereabouts and community involvements. It was actually fascinating to learn that Daisy moved from Kenya to the UK, whereas Ezinne is from Nigeria and working in Germany since a few years.
The world is such a small village after all.
During the evening I got to meet other participants from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, France, Italy, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and many more countries. Each single one with fascinating stories of content creation and community engagements. Very inspiring actually!
Finally the day has arrived! The summit is happening officially. A shuttle bus took us the short distance from the hotel to the Mapletree Business City where Google Singapore has its office.
An empty stomach isn't capable to study. Hence breakfast buffet had been offered by Google. A number of conversations from last night were reignited and new conversations came to life. Big Hello's and cheers everywhere around; this summit was so inclusive and welcoming.
Our two Masters of Ceremony Alicja Heisig-Chiarello and Dirk Primbs launched the Summit officially and also welcomed everyone on the live stream. Meanwhile our two radio / live streaming moderators Nathalie Pereira and Alfredo Morresi had started already. Oh yes, amazingly the whole summit was a hybrid event with in-person and online participation.
BTW, here's the agenda: https://rsvp.withgoogle.com/events/developer-creators-and-online-communities-summit/agenda
Next up Janise Tan welcomed us to Singapore and the SEA developer community landscape giving us some details about the region, its numbers regarding to communities and activities. Fun fact, while introducing Singapore to the audience she highlighted some of the key factors of the city's success which miraculously match the secret ingredients being a successful content creator online or running thriving communities.
True to the nature of a hybrid summit, we then watched the Creator keynote as a remote session with Stephanie Wong. After the Google Cloud Tech X/Twitter Space in April last year about How to make the most of Innovators Plus subscription I was eager to meet Stephanie IRL. Hmm, didn't happen this time...
Her talk gave some good insights based on her long-year experience as a successful content creator. Building and telling a concise story is one of those golden aspects to take into consideration.
Got an idea how Home Assistant started? Well, I didn't know until watching the Online communities keynote by Paulus Schoutsen who started one of the largest open-source projects on GitHub based on the basic need to / problem of improving home automation. The main takeaway for me was to create and nourish a culture of inclusive, friendly, and safe online community with gender-neutral terms.
The following panel shared more tips on being successful creating content as well as entertaining a healthy community. Very helpful information has been shared by Stephanie and Paulus.
After the well-deserved morning break that allowed us to reflect and network we got an Intro to Gemini, presented by Dirk Primbs.
During the past decade there had been major breakthroughs in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). And although these days most people might talk about AI in the context of conversational bots or generative content creation there have been more highlights, i.e. in research & development sector, in the medical sector, and others. One should also understand that Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence go way further back into the past than a decade but it's the magnitude of advancements that has happened recently only thanks to broader access to information and more capable computing power thanks to hyper-scaling data centres.
Breakout sessions I attended
Choosing a session was tough because all breakouts covered interesting topics. Here are the ones I found most attractive:
- Tips on creating a winning content strategy for your YouTube channel
Ever wondered how YouTube handles recommendations? Tra Nguyen gave us a few insights and tips:
✅ Know your audience's needs and adapt accordingly
✅ Focus on your audience and the algorithm will follow
✅ Keep experimenting!
- The Simple Superpowers of Mozilla Hubs Part 1: Unleashing Innovation Through Community
I was intrigued about a Mozilla session at a Google event, and had never heard about Hubs before. It's a private, virtual 3D world with endless possibilities of collaboration, according to Michael Morran. I'm wondering whether this could be a feature for the Developers Conference 2024 in Mauritius.
- Mastering Personalized Bot Build: A Discord App-building Workshop
With just a few lines of code you can create your own bot(s) for Discord. Dirk Primbs explained to us that bots are literally treated as a Discord user account with permissions granted to react to certain events. The actual functionality of such a bot is down to your imagination.
- Podcasting on YouTube
Following the sunsetting of Google Podcasts I wanted to know what's next. Thankfully Russell Yap had the right content for my curiousity. However with their move to YouTube Podcasts and YouTube Music I'm not thrilled at all, given that both services are not available in Mauritius. Plus, it requires Premium subscription to enable background play.
Whew, people, I was exhausted after that whole day of high-value information. Lots of new impulses and aspects to reflect on. The complete (raw) recording is accessible here: Radio studio pre-show. Most likely post-processing might is going to chop the stream into individual sessions (soon).
Lastly, our wonderful masters of ceremony Alicja and Dirk wrapped up the day with their closing remarks, informing us about the obligatory group photo, and how we are going to spent the evening together having dinner.
Remaining in the same office building we went upstairs to the 30th floor. There you have an amazing over Singapore. Can't remember how many panorama shots I took but I must have been in each single corner of the building.
Over dinner more networking and conversations happened. This time I buddied with fellow creators Alex Patterson who runs CodingCat.dev and Jai Campbell who's a Cloud Architect from the UK. Most interestingly we talked mainly about Singapore, discontinued food products and healthy nutrition, and about a variety of documentaries broadcasted on Netflix.
Back at the hotel I "had to go" to IKEA, of course. Not because of me but rather due to the shopping list of my beloved wife. Given the dimensions of my carry-on luggage I could purchase a few smaller, lighter items only. The most important, pressing ones so to speak.
Back at the hotel I didn't even bother to go upstairs to the room but stayed right away down in the lobby joining Karen Hsieh, Liang-Bin Hsueh, and a local friend of his. We kind of picked up the conversation(s) from earlier today. It was interesting to learn more about Taiwan, Mandarin language, and Chinese/Asian culture. Likewise they were open to learn more about Mauritius.
Meanwhile Muhammed Ahsan Ayaz reached out to me asking where I would be around. I suggested to him to join us down in the hotel lobby. Already last week Ahsan posted in our DCOC summit channel on Discord and kindly offered physical copies of his updated, second edition book Angular Cookbook. I'm really happy about this addition to our community's book library.
Funnily, he was a bit surprised when I asked him to have the book signed by him. "That's the first time someone is asking for a signature!" - I'm grateful for this. How often do you have a chance to meet a book author in person?
Another summit fellow, Robert Theo from Indonesia, also got a signed copy and he then joined our little group for more networking fun. From there on we spoke a lot about Indonesia, Taiwan, Mauritius, food and cultural aspects, and so forth. Time was flying.
That night I managed to catch a few more Zzzz's, and like the previous morning we took the provided shuttle to get to Google Singapore. Rinse and repeat, one might think. Absolutely not, today was community day!
Following yesterday's sessions mainly provided by Googlers and partners, the content for today was sourced from the community itself. A total of nine creators offered their knowledge and expertise. Plus, the various time slots in the podcast studio. Our fantastic masters of ceremony - Alicja and Nathalie - launched the day with a brief overview of what to expect and introduced the speakers. Each presenter had an opportunity to pitch their content in front of the audience. Another tough decision process to choose three out of nine.
Breakout sessions I attended
- Making a Mark on YouTube and Google: My Story
First-hand shared experience always attracts my interest, and so I went to Abu Anwar MD Abdullah talk on the origins of The Flutter Way. It's kind of amazing how he started and is now entertaining the second most followed YouTube channel in the Flutter space globally.
- Podcast 101 - Dos and Don'ts
Starting a podcast is easy and success follows instantly? Nope, think again. Being a co-host on the Mau Pas Konpran!? podcast and having a dangling Talks on Software Craftsmanship show I needed to know more. Thankfully Stefano Le Pera shared all the up's and down's of the ChatGDG podcast. A lot of what he mentioned resonated with my own experience. Time to get recording again...
- Generative AI for Visual Content Creation
Are you concerned that AI might render your job position redundant? How about leveraging Generative AI to improve your skills and be more successful? Margaret Maynard-Reid, a ML Engineer / 3D Fashion Designer, gave us an overview of available types of Generative AI, and how she's benefiting from them in her daily work. Very useful content for my own needs.
During lunch break I seized the opportunity to hang out with numerous participants. Among those are Sathish VJ, Madona Wambua, Neïl Rahmouni, Cyrus Wong Chun Yin and Kuan Hoong Poo whom I follow on social media since a while already. Another fellow creator from the Sub-Saharan Africa region, Amani Bisimwa, had arrived at the summit. It was a great time to network again.
And like the previous day, the recording is available here: Welcome to Day 3 and introduction to community-driven sessions
Gardens by the Bay and Spectra - At night!
I knew about the light show at the Gardens by the Bay and I had planned to go there tonight. So, it was a delight for me that Arianna Capizzi of ChatGDG announced that there would be a group of people heading to the same destination. Awesome let's do it!
If I recall correctly, we were roughly twelve to thirteen people - the Dirty Dozen figuratively speaking - that met down at the lobby of the hotel and hauled a few Grab drivers to get to the Gardens. It was definitely quicker and more comfortable than using public transport and while sharing the cost also not so expensive after all.
With a selection of songs from various world-known musicals we enjoyed the light spectacle right in front of the Supertree Observatory and under the Skywalk. It was enchanting to say at least, highly recommended. Meanwhile I animated Lisa Carpenter to re-activate her account on Ingress and join me playing. We gladly explained to Monika Janota the purpose and the mechanics of the game. There is a crazy amount of portals all over Singapore.
As the hunger kicked in slowly but surely we decided to head over to the hawker centre in the Marina Sands Bay. Taking the Marina Bay Overpass we crossed the Dragonfly Lake and went straight into The Shoppes at Marina Sands Bay. Down the escalators and then the long straight to the food court.
Finding enough seats for such a big group at this time seems very challenging. And so unfortunately we had to split into smaller units, chope'd our places and went off exploring the different stalls sourcing for food. There is an incredible variety of dishes available.
After we concluded our culinary adventures we headed to the Waterfront Promenade and attended the Spectra - A Light & Water Show. What a joy for eyes and ears.
Later on we strolled down the Waterfront Promenade fully indulged in conversations of all kind of sorts, and marvelled together at the night skyline of Singapore. With all the talking we needed some drinks and therefore stopped by one the pubs in the surrounding. Before returning back to the hotel, we managed to visit Lau Pa Sat, the "old market" and first hawker centre in Singapore.
What a remarkable day full of sharing community experience, learning, exchanging, networking, conversing, dining, and fun it was.
Exploration time, again!
As my flight back home was scheduled for the evening, I decided to spend my last day in Singapore (for now) in Chinatown, again. Like previously, I checked out of the hotel first thing in the morning but also asked the concierge desk to store my luggage until the afternoon.
Shop until you drop: Chinese New Year (CNY)
Starting at the People's Park Complex mall I explored the street market in Chinatown, went to the Chinatown Complex, then back to Pagoda Street where I found a nice place to have lunch. As I was looking for something specific I went across the overpass back into the People's Park Centre discovering all kind of items at the Night Bazaar. And after checking out all levels inside Chinatown Point mall I was finally done.
Unsurprisingly I had to buy another backpack (50l volume) to fit in all the items purchased. Given this half-day shopping spree I am not so sure about organising a (one week) vacation with the family here in Singapore is such a good idea. Especially around the time of Chinese New Year. Just kidding!
See you soon!
Reflecting over those past few days in Singapore while writing this blog recalled numerous conversations I had with other participants. I was excited meeting my community friends from the SSA region, finally being able to associate a face and person to the countless peers from the Google Developer Community Discord server, and massively enjoying the amount of new contacts made. Hooray to LinkedIn's QR Code feature which smoothlessly allowed all us to foster that new acquaintance on social media.
I don't know about others, but looking at my photos collection I have close to 600 pictures taken. Singapore by day, Singapore by night, during the presentations at the Summit, and a couple of selfies with like-minded community folks. For the next few weeks I'm going to sieve through everything recorded and noted down, going to deepen those newly established connections, and looking forward to apply other creator's experience to my content creation process. Whether it will be more blog articles or fresh podcast episodes.
To each and every one I met during the DCOC Summit:
You're incredible and thank you for spending some time with me. I appreciate you.
For now it's Goodbye community, goodbye Singapore, see you soon.
Shout out to the organising team
My heartfelt thanks go to Dirk Primbs, Alicja Heisig-Chiarello, Alessandro Palmieri, Monika Janota, Alfredo Morresi, Nathalie Pereira and the rest of the team at Google for organising such an amazing summit and bringing Developer Creators and organisers of Online Communities world-wide together in one place.
What a remarkable, first Developer Creators and Online Communities Summit it was. Well done!Image credits: Own snaphots and pictures taken by other creators and shared in an album on Google Photos.