Countdown to Google I/O: Youthful inspiration

June 21, 2012

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By Will Smidlein, with Katie Miller, Google I/O Team

Google I/O 2012 is fast approaching, and to help energize you for three packed days of demos, announcements and developer fun, we chatted with a few attendees to see what excites them about this year’s agenda, and to get some tips on how to make the most of the event.

Today’s conversation is with 15-year-old Will Smidlein, one of the youngest I/O attendees. Will began developing at the age of 10, after checking out Teach Yourself Visually Html and Css from the local library to find out how websites work. By 13 he was teaching himself PHP to make his websites functional, as well as convincing his parents to take their next vacation in San Francisco so he could attend Google I/O. Will has developed everything from a web-based podcast client, to a JQuery script that uses the HTML5 Audio tag to run a function at a certain timecode, to creating an alarm clock that uses data from the web, such as Google Calendar, traffic, and weather information, to wake you up. This will be Will's third I/O, and he's most excited to meet with and get advice from other developers. Here’s what Will had to say:

Why is it important to you to attend Google I/O?
Google I/O always has been, and will be, a must attend for me. While flying both my father and myself from Cleveland and staying in a hotel for the length of the conference isn't exactly cheap, I wouldn't have it any other way. The people attending I/O are some of the most skilled developers in every field, and just being in the same room improves your knowledge. After almost every session I attend, I think to myself "wow, a side of a programming language was just explained to me by the person who created that language".

On a technical level, I've always been a web guy, so HTML5 is a big thing for me. I love the demos that Google puts together and the sessions from the experts about new web technologies and how to integrate them in actual applications. Having the Chrome team there is huge because you can talk with the developers of one of the most popular browsers in the world about new specs and ideas.

What do you hope to experience at Google I/O 2012? What themes or technologies will you be watching for?
One of the biggest reasons for me to attend I/O is to meet other developers, see what they're up to, and get advice. I love connecting actual faces to the IRC, GitHub, and Twitter usernames I interact with every day. I also love going to sessions that don't necessarily apply to what I do in case I need what I learn later. Just because I don't program for Android professionally now doesn't mean I won't at some point, or it won't be useful to me. Every I/O track is like its own conference, so by attending I/O, you don’t just interact with people or topics in your line of work, you're able to explore and diversify.

For people coming to Google I/O, what are your tips for making the most of the event?
Take the time to meet people. Everyone is extremely friendly, and even if they don't program in the same language as you, you'll have a blast talking to them. Go to the Sandbox presenters and see what they're showing off. Ask the session speakers any questions you have.

Also, use it as a chance to try new things. For example, before my first I/O, I had never seriously programmed with Java, but on the plane ride home from that event, I wrote my first Android app and have fallen in love with the language since. After last year's Chromebook giveaway, I challenged myself to write a web-based media center that could be controlled by my phone.

If you could send a message out to other young developers, what would you tell them?
Take this time to learn all that you can about programming. Don't pressure yourself with building a portfolio, or working for a startup, or getting to the top of Hacker News. Learn from open source, and make connections in the tech world so that when you do need to make money, you've got a 5 year head start on the competition.

Not coming to Google I/O 2012 in person? Not a problem. Watch the keynote and dozens of other sessions streamed live at

Will Smidlein is a 15-year-old web fanatic who jumps from project to project learning new things and technologies along the way. You can follow Will during Google I/O at @WS.

Edited and posted by Katie Miller and Scott Knaster, Google I/O Team