The gotoAndSki Switzerland conference

Disclaimer: I’ve kept the session descriptions short. I recommend keeping an eye on the video site on which the session videos will be published.

The rural village of Stechelberg in Switzerland was the setting of the second edition of the gotoAndSki() conference. Skiing in the Alps is always a great experience and combining this with networking, fun and presentations is a terrific concept.
This edition was organized by Fernando Colaço and David Almeida. They chose the picturesque village of Stechelberg as the conference location. Stechelberg is a beautiful little village situated in between the mountains and close to the skiing areas.
After being picked up from Geneva airport by Fernando we headed off to Stechelberg. It was already dark so we didn’t see much of the Swiss alps.
When we arrived at the hotel most of the attendees were already present and quenching their thirst with Swiss beers. After eating röstis and drinking beers we were invited to drink some Polish wodka which Maciek brought with him. It ended up being a very fun night.

Drinking beer after a day of hardcore skiing

The next day we went out to explore the skiing area. It was very quiet on the slopes because it was off-season. The more space the better because I’m a bit of a clumsy skier. I got through the day without breaking anything or hitting someone so this could be considered a very good day.
After a quick nap and shower it was time for the sessions to start.

The conference was kicked off by Adobe’s Mihai Corlan. He talked about building mobile apps with AIR, Flash Builder & Flex hero. He showed off some new features and also showed how you  can use AIR on the Blackberry Playbook. Very interesting session.

The interlude was used to fill our stomachs with quality Swiss food. Fernando had a nice surprise for us because he invited the local yodelling choir to come and sing for us. I was only familiar with the fast-paced eccentric yodelling but this version was much more refined and slower than that. It gave the evening a true Alpine atmosphere.

The second session was done by Peter Maseide. Peter is a Game designer & developer for Agens. He showed us some very nice game examples and he explained which techniques they used to make their games truly engaging. He also announced the release of Fungrid, an open source Flash Game API for 2D/parallax scrolling games. The framework looked very easy to use and flexible. An inspiring session by someone with a lot of passion for game development.

The last session of the evening was done by Mihai Corlan again. This time he talked about optimising Flash & AIR applications. Very handy tips & tricks that are always useful to have in your toolbox. A good ending to a great night.

The second day we went to the skiing area on the other side of the mountains. We had a pretty intense day of skiing because we were trying to keep up with Maciek, the human cannonball who disregards human life. Ricardo suffered especially because he never had an intense skiing session like this. But he managed to stay on his feet until the very last end. Respect! The day ended with me being in a rush to get in time for my session, running out of the restaurant and forgetting to pay for my beer (thanks guys for paying for that one ;-)). Although I ran to the bus stop to be on time I ended up in the same bus as them. Pretty useless exercise.

After the quickest shower ever it was time for my session. It went well except for the fact that my system crashed (Murphy’s law was proven several times this evening). After a quick reboot I was able to show my demos (I will put these on youtube later) and they were received well.

Dinner time after that. Swiss cheese fondue with white wine. Absolutely delicious. This time not accompanied by yodellers unfortunately. You can’t have it all :-)

It was Michel Wacker’s turn to entertain an audience that were half human, half cheese. Not an easy task but he managed to pull it off brilliantly. His talk was called “Hot Wireless Data Fudge” and dealt with the exchange of data over wireless LAN between an AIR application running on a desktop and one running on a mobile device. He showed us how he found the optimal solution by trial & error. I’m definitely going to play around with this. Fortunately he is going to release his source code so keep an eye on his blog.

Last session of the evening. Tiago Dias talking about “Developing AIR for TV”. Very interesting because this was something I absolutely didn’t know anything about. He showed some demos using StageVideo, a P2P multiplayer game and using an Android phone as a remote controller. Learned a lot from this one!

After the sessions there were more beers and some really tasty Portuguese drinks (thanks to Hugo the Swiss cheese killer & Ricardo for that!).

The last day was an early one. We decided to beat the crowds because it was a Saturday and a lot of Swiss went out to the slopes as well.
During lunchtime we went up to the “James Bond” restaurant to have some food, some more beers and a power nap.

Then it was time to kick off the last three sessions. First up was Trine Falbe. Her talk was about cognitive psychology. A lot different from all the other sessions and refreshing because of that. She explained some of the theories behind interaction design. Lots of very good & useful insights and a very professional presentation.

Next up was a proper geeky session. “Flash + Arduino: A Connection With Feelings” by Ricardo Castelhano. A very inspiring session showcasing some awesome interactive installation work & interesting demos. I wasn’t the only one being inspired by this & I think most of the attendees are going to order an Arduino kit now! It was Ricardo’s first presentation in English and he did a great job at it.

Then some more food, more beers, interesting chats and an ice & chocolate dessert.

Time for the last session on the last day. Not an easy job for Sandro Ducceschi. His talk was about accessibility and he jokingly called it the “awesomest accessibility talk ever”. Accessibility is never an easy topic to bring to an audience but he mixed it with jokes & games which made the talk quite entertaining. He talked about the cons of the current accessibility options in Flash & Flex and he showed us how he managed to simplify his way of working. He also proved how irritating Jaws can be because Jaws just doesn’t shut up!
He announced the release of his open-source accessibility framework called JAcc. It makes it a lot easier to make Flash & Flex sites more accessible. A highly recommended framework!

gotoAndSki() was an amazing experience. Because the conference is smaller in size than other conferences you really get to know most of the people who are attending. It is the best networking event that I’ve been to. It goes beyond superficial contact and you actually make new friends! I’m sure you’ll hear that from everyone who was attending. Fernando said he will be organising gotoAndSki(“Switzerland”) again next year. Fortunately you won’t have to wait that long. Jens & Thomas told us that they will be organising another gotoAndSki(“Norway”) in June. So if you’re up for networking, fun, great sessions, eating, drinking, etc …. go there!!!

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