Is Google I/O worth going to?

In one word - yes.

If you're not sure, check out some of the session videos on

There are many reasons to attend I/O! It's a conference with many options of activities and opportunities, so attendees can have very different experiences. For example, some people exclusively attend workshops, while others spend most of the day networking.

If any of the following piques your interest, you should consider going. It's an amazing experience.

Meet cool people.
At I/O, you're surrounded by developers, designers, and others who are passionate about technology and Google's next steps. Many tech companies try to send some of their employees to network and soak up everything the conference has to offer. Learn about their projects, companies, and goals. It's great talking to people with different perspectives.

You'll often run into famous people as well. You'll run into researchers, professors, entrepreneurs, founders, and other people you only read about in tech blogs. For example, I met Luis von Ahn (Duolingo) and David Byttow (Secret) within an hour of each other last week. My conversations with each were about completely different topics.

Google I/O boasts many different sessions, with almost 80 speaker sessions in 2014 over a period of two days. You get to attend sessions that aren't aired online, ask questions, and learn from some of the brightest people in the world.

Try the latest gadgets.
The latest hardware is available for you to try out! Pretty much everything announced at the keynote is ready for attendees to check out. You can learn about the products from multiple point of views: developer, designer, marketer, and consumer.

Build something.
There are code labs and workshops held all day, which means you can get your hands dirty with a (literally) just announced API, try some tutorials, or create your very first Android app. You get to experience this with the help of Googlers, who will guide you when you run into a roadblock.

Get free stuff.*
I'd be lying if I said that I/O attendees don't speculate about the freebies. On top of the attendee gifts, there's access to new hardware, tablet giveaways, dev kits, and other things that are available only for attendees at the time being. The cheaper 'free stuff' includes, of course, shirts, toys, swag, and meals/snacks. Some 3rd party booths also hold competitions throughout the conference and give away items such as Google Glass.

* Not really free if you count ticket, flight, and hotel costs

It's so much fun. Oh goodness.

I got sponsored to go to Google I/O 2013 by Research at Google (thanks!!!). I almost didn't go, but some careful nudging from my soon-to-be intern host. If you are an intern (or a new hire, etc), check with your host to see if anyone from your team is going to be at I/O. Happened to be that one of my teammates was presenting my friend's intern project at I/O, so I got to meet him early! Super cool.

Let me preface this entire answer with the fact that there are a ton of pictures, but I actually did write words to accompany them. These are, in fact, my pictures too! When I went to I/O, I stayed with a friend introduced to me by Jennifer Apacible, so that was fun too.

First of all, there are TON of people. This is just for the keynote, and I'm not even in the front of the line! Definitely make sure to get there early.

The keynote is amazing. Like, this is the opening slide, but they went through SO many different topics. I hadn't ever been to a developer conference before, so this was a real treat. Everything from consumer products to improvements in existing products to new products to philanthropy (who knew that MALAYSIA would get mentioned during my first trip to a Google I/O?!). It was incredible. I loved the keynote. Definitely worth getting there early!

Some really cool people show up!

^If you couldn't tell, that's Larry Page. Sundar and other VP's also showed up as presenters! The keynote is probably on YouTube or something if you're looking for a full list of speakers. They introduced the Pixel (and announced the giveaway) and demo'd Chrome Racer, extended Google Now, Google voice command to search, new Maps, and other cool things.

There are a lot of cool talks too. I tried to find pictures that didn't have people in them, but this was the only one I found. I happened to know one of the speakers and the other ended up being one of my teammates for the summer! The talks were super awesome. There were some that were more like tech talks and others that were panels. Either way, I learned a lot not only as a developer but also as a student and someone just generally interested in Google.

There are TON of cool office hours. I wish I had gone to more of these. If you're a developer or just curious, it's totally worth it to talk to the people at these stations regarding projects you're working on or just ask them about what they work on or why they love it. You'll learn something new!

Last year, there was an entire track about Glass and they had a station where you could try Glass (if you asked nicely).

Last year, they gave away a Chromebook Pixel (which I still use!) and had a lot of displays related to it. There were some really awesome demos that showed off the Pixel's screen and capabilities. Needless to say, I was sold.

There was an entire station dedicated to Chrome and Chrome Apps. Omg. Those people are all crowded around a Chrome Racer station.

Of course, a crazy section dedicated to Android.

This was one of the smaller groups, but Google Play for Education was SUPER cool! It was great to learn about some of the technologies that Google was developing outside of the general consumer scene.

Those were just a couple of the displays. There were TONS of things to see and do! Some of the other groups that I remember that I didn't include in pictures include G+, Maps, YouTube, and some small businesses. There were some other groups like Code for America and stuff related to the spread of disease that also had displays up too.

Of course, there are giveaways. Last year, it was a Chromebook Pixel, an Android figurine, and a t-shirt. They also have shirts for purchase.

And a party where robots make drinks....

....and Billy Idol performed. That was cool. And no, I didn't recognize him because I'm a child.

And of course, there was time for me to do some "light reading" in preparation for my internship.

All in all, Google I/O was truly an experience. I wish I had time to go again this year! If you are going, enjoy your time there! Make sure to explore.

Relevant: Elynn Lee's answer to How does an attendee make the most out of Google I/O?

I've included a couple of tips, but the BIGGEST piece of advice I can give you (based on my experience last year) is to be strategic in how you plan your time at the conference. There's a lot going on and it's really easy to get swept up into the city (if you're not local) or all of the shiny things. And, of course, HAVE FUN!

Plan your schedule ahead of time - Google releases the Google I/O schedule ahead of time, so check out the talks and presentations and find the ones that are the most interesting to you. From my experience last year, there are a couple of different tracks and each track has a series of talks. While I haven't been to many Google I/O's, I would guess that they'll still have a track for Android and Chrome & Apps. Some of the other tracks that year included G+, Maps, Glass, and Google Cloud Platform [1]. Check out sessions from different tracks, even if you haven't heard of it before. Who knows - maybe you'll discover something interesting! Anyways, make sure to plan your schedule ahead of time so that you know where you're going.

Get to the talks early... - There's always at least one talk (at Google I/O 2013, it was the Glass talks) that fills up like 10 minutes before it's supposed to start. It's impossible for me to guess which one that'll be, but I'm sure you'll be able to figure out what the popular track will be once the schedule comes out.

...and have some back-up choices - Like I said, some of these talks get filled up VERY quickly! There are overflow rooms available if necessary, but even then, there are only a limited number of seats in those rooms. Have a backup choice or two, just in case.

Don't be afraid to ask questions or present your work to panelists or other attendees - It's a developer's conference! Don't forget that. If you have a cool idea or you want to ask another question about how something works, go for it! Maybe the panelist or person working at Office Hours can help you out. Who knows - you solve a problem that launches your idea into an amazing start-up or even find someone who wants to work with you!

Walk around the floor and check out the demos - The talks are excellent and you should definitely go to them, but there are also a LOT of cool demo's and organizations littered around the floor. Last year, they had a full blown Chrome Racer table with a leaderboard! I also got to talk to some of the awesome Code for America and education related initiatives that were in attendance. It's Google I/O, but there were also initiatives and smaller companies that I guess used Google products or were somehow able to get in. There were also a lot of cool Map-related demos (navigating with a Wii-U, leap motion, Google Maps car, etc) and even a whole section dedicated to Glass. Make sure you take time to walk around!

Get there early for the key note - Seriously though, get there early. Fire codes and space/furniture limitations dictate how many people can be shoved in a room in general, so it only makes sense that not every single person will get to sit in the room for the key note.

Bring a bottle of water and a bag for swag - Bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Bring a bag to carry any free stuff you accumulate at the conference :)

Bring a camera - Record all of the wonderful memories :)

Last minute tips:

  • Always, always, ALWAYS wear your name tag. They'll chase you out if you don't wear it.
  • If you're bringing electronics like a laptop or phone, there are charging stations! If your phone uses micro-USB, you're good. If you want to bring a laptop, there are outlets too.

Have fun at I/O!!!

[1] The
Google I/O 2013 webpage

I've attended the last two I/O conferences, once as a sandbox exhibiter and once as a speaker. It's very well run, although you'll find that many of the sessions are very popular and will fill up quickly. Plan your schedule carefully ahead of time and expect to rush from one session to another if you think the next one will be popular.

I/O runs on a number of tracks which vary from year-to-year, but are generally aligned with Google's developer technologies: Android, AppEngine, GWT, etc. Sessions in each track run throughout the day, depending on how many sessions they lined up.

There are areas scattered around the concourse for vendors to showcase their stuff built on Google technologies. If you are interested in a particular technology, they are usually developers manning the booth that are more than willing to discuss their experiences.

Last year's evening activities were held upstairs in a large area. There was an amazing video/music montage playing about the room. There were a bunch of neat demos around - including the mechanical walking spider from burning man and a high-speed camera. It's a good time to mingle, but it was too loud for me to hear much.

There's always snacks in the main concourse and lunch is served in a large room, so there's never a real rush to grab something to eat around then. The evening activities tend to be a little more chaotic for food, but you don't need to wait that long.

back in 2013, I almost got one (got assigned one from the pool, of which they give you 15 minutes to actually buy it, but it took like 20-40 minutes waiting to even be assigned a ticket from the pool - you went into a global queue then), but Google Wallet failed (it greyed out), even though I had everything set up properly with it beforehand.

In 2014 and 15, I think they took the approach of using registration forms of interest and only a select 'random' (they ask for your skills/role background) around 6k of people get a ticket from those registrations. Facebook F8 works in this way too. I think a few Easter egg tickets have been available in the past too, usually found in technical online Google docs.

I've heard it's even hard for Googlers to buy tickets or time off to go. (Unless they are presenting) which makes sense, since it is primarily a Developer/consumer show, Googlers would already be in the loop of what's coming and have live/post-stream access any ways.

All of the opportunities at the conference makes I/O worth attending. There's a number of experiences you won't be able to get from just watching the videos online.

These opportunities include, but are not limited to:

  • Networking with people around the world
  • Asking questions to the experts and receiving answers right away
  • Meeting famous people, including those with huge influence in the tech community
  • Trying new gadgets or technologies hours after they're announced
  • Hands on learning at code labs

I go into a bit more detail here:
What are the benefits of going to Google I/O? Who should go?

Google I/O or Innovation in open, is a conference for all the developers from all around the world. This year, Google took this platform virtually and if you want to particiate you can register for it online and the best part, this year it is free. Visit this link to register:

Google I/O 2021

YES! but it is only valuable if you listen and learn while you are there

and as a student, you get discounted rate: "We offer a limited number of tickets at a discounted rate of $300 for academia. To qualify, you need to be an active full-time student, professor, faculty or staff at a high school or higher education institution."

That unless you are there to sell somebody something you are completely wasting your time and money.