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UI5con ON AIR 2020 Brought the Event Format to A New Level

It was a real shock in March, when we had to cancel this year’s UI5con@SAP because of COVID-19. I still remember how I drummed up the organizational team, informing them about the obvious and discussing the next steps. Damn, during that meeting I was extremely frustrated, and I honestly admit: At first, I didn’t really want to think about some sort of virtual alternative. Seeing the UI5 enthusiasts from various countries who stroll around the SAP building in St. Leon-Rot, discovering familiar faces and meeting new one – these pictures in my mind were the real motivation for me to host a UI5con on behalf of the UI5 lab! I am all the more grateful that this time my colleagues convinced me to conceive and realize a new event format for our annual community gathering. Let’s see how it all began.

 

Event Planning

Within the first view weeks after the bad news, we had to ask ourselves: Are we confident that we can quickly initiate a virtual event format true to our maxim, bringing together UI5 framework and app developers to discuss and share exciting potentials? Well, we were confident that we could and cautious optimism prevailed – in early May everything important was clarified and we were ready to announce the all-new virtual ON AIR edition.

The event was due to take place on July 9 and 10, 2020 with a schedule of roughly four hours per day – we just could not imagine that someone would want to watch their computer longer than that.  But to reach as many UI5 enthusiasts around the world as possible, we focused on different time zones each day: Day 1 was more convenient for the Americas, day 2 was rather suited for the European and Asia Pacific time zones.

As for the event platform, we eventually went for the SAP-internal Broadcast Technologies. It provides not only all functionalities important to us but also ensures easy access for all actors and – what matters most to us – comes with a first-class personal support from a team with extensive expertise in audio and video streaming. With this, we became even more confident that nothing could go wrong with the broadcasting and. Our small team were able to keep a clear mind and take care of the rest.

After our in-person events we had often been asked not to provide so many parallel tracks as it was always a real challenge to decide where to go next. Up to now, this was difficult to change due to the capacities of the location, but with the virtual format one straight track was the way to go. This also meant, however, that now our program jury was faced with the tough decision. They had to pick from around 100 excellent proposals to form a well-balanced and attractive program for the two half days. I believe they made excellent choices! At this point, I would like to thank all jury members and especially Greg and Volker for their fantastic collaboration and extraordinary commitment.

 

Sessions and Speakers

In short, UI5con ON AIR broadcasted 14 talks in 9 hours presented by 22 speakers in total. If you missed it, the recordings are available in the playlist UI5con ON AIR 2020 on the OpenUI5 YouTube channel.

Some may say that the event was dominated by talks coming from SAP, and, in fact, 10 out of 14 were presented by a speaker employed by SAP. Personally, however, I think the program was a good mix of the latest news from the UI5 development and field reports from the community. SAP has lots of departments who develop the user interfaces of their own or their customers’ products with UI5, and it was great to see that also they have great interest to share their experiences, thoughts, results and failures with the rest of the UI5 community. From this perspective, 12 out of 22 speakers came out of the realm of the app development.

But enough about trivialities, here a short summary of the individual talks:

July 09, 2020

Opening Keynote – Day One

On Day one’s keynote everything revolved around “Connecting Innovations”. UI5 Chief Product Owner Former Member and UI5 Chief Architect Peter Muessig addressed the latest achievements and how these individual innovations are linked together to advance UI5 into the future. This concerned developments in tooling, testing and rendering. Finally, they discussed their plans to improve UI5 further by retrofitting it with the UI5 Web Components and supporting ES5 and TypeScript. It is planned to showcase this in next year’s UI5con, so watch this space!

WDI5 – Cross-Platform Test Framework for Hybrid UI5 Apps

The name Volker and his affinity to testing is well known in the UI5 community. In this talk, he shared some latest findings on this subject. Together with his colleague Dominik Feininger they developed a plugin to Webdriver.IO which allows to execute the same OPA5 – or rather UIVeri5 – integration tests on a hybrid UI5 app on each platform. Very important to mention: This plug-in is open source! Thus, in case you are dealing with similar projects, this session is something you should watch again.

Introducing Test Recorder

The biggest challenge about writing reliable tests is creating good selectors. And this is where the test recorder comes in: It’s a snippet generator for control locators, the best way to build a good selector. Maxim Naidenov and his colleague Hristo Manchev introduced this new tool to the community and showcased how easy it becomes with the Test Recorder to write OPA and UIVeri5 tests. The Test Recorder is a tool integrated to the UI5 framework and available since version 1.74.

Opposites Attract – UI5 Components in Angular

In this talk Oliver Pehnke presented a real use case of one of his customers. There they used Angular to develop the UIs for end users and UI5 for the administration views.  started with using different web technologies to develop the UIs for end users and administration as they faced the challenge to combine the features out of these two solutions to a third role without writing them again. Oliver shared some great insides also on the pros and cons of Angular versus UI5.

Using TypeScript and PubSub to scale freestyle UI5 apps

I was particularly excited about this speech by Gabriel Borges. Because it was about TypeScript? Frankly, I was wondering if he could really stick to his 20 minutes talk time as I knew he prepared roughly 50 slides for it. Spoilers – he did and gave an excellent performance! Here, again, it was a real customer use case and Gabriel shared his experiences on how to scale a big solution comprising UI5 apps and how TypeScript and PubSub helped with this. Really enjoyable and instructive 20 minutes!

UI5 Tooling 2020

Two years back Merlin Beutlberger and Matthias Oßwald introduced the UI5 Tooling to the community at UI5con 2018. Since then much has happened, and this is what they were talking about plus they shared some plans for the future.

Modernize SAP Fiori app development using SAP Fiori tools

The lecture held by Ashley Tung and Klaus Keller concentrated on the topic how to develop UI5 apps efficiently using Fiori elements and its tools. Especially in the tools area they had news to share, namely the SAP Fiori tools, a collection of individual helpers available as extension pack for VS Code or in the SAP Fiori Dev Space of the in the Business Application Studio.

July 10, 2020

Opening Keynote – Day Two

Also day two was opened by a keynote given by Former Member and Peter Muessig but with a different topic. This keynote had the heading “Developer Experience”. In this context they addressed latest features and upcoming plans around SAP Business Application Studio, UI5 Flexibility and SAP Fiori elements, all complimented by live demos. And there was one excellent news for the community: Fiori elements for OData V4 is planned to be open sourced later this year!

How we develop a state-of-the-art SAP portal using UI5 and more!

What made this session particularly invigorating to me was the enthusiasm of Kristian Kraljic talking about his experiences with UI5. He and Samer Aldefai developed a new SAP Portal using UI5 as the leading UI5 technology and shared and showcased in their talk not only the solution but also talked about their journey towards UI5 and their selection process. It’s really a great talk if you wonder why people decided to use UI5 and what you can achieve with it!

On premise SAP Launchpad as a PWA

Jorg Thuijls was linked to us from Australia and told about how he came up with the idea to turn the launchpad into a PWA and how he did this utilizing the service worker. He demonstrated his app to the audience, and it was amazing to see how smooth the app worked. Like a real developer Jorg preferred to explain everything by showing everything directly than using any slides.

Component based development

Leon van Ginneken and Caspár van Tergouw shared their thoughts and experiences to control the complexity in an ever-growing application. They explained how splitting applications in components helped them in their projects and how they did this.

UI5 Routing with Reusable Components

Jiawei Cao and Florian Vogt told their story on how the development of a new feature heavily requested by the UI5 community, namely the enablement of the routing in UI5 to also load a component. They toke the opportunity to thank everyone for the great collaboration and feedback they received during the implementation, before they went into the details and demoed the new concepts.

Don’t worry, be async

In my opinion this session by Thorsten Hochreuter and Johannes Gluch is a must watch for all UI5 developers not yet aware of the latest best practices introduced with the UI5 Evolution project. They showcased how to migrate a UI5 app from a synchronous version to a most state of the art version that UI5 currently provides.

Mission Apollo: Bring UI5 to the Moon

The last talk of the event was given by Damian Lion Maring and Former Member – this time acting as developer elaborating new things for UI5. Together they elaborated on the question how to use GraphQL, a query language that fosters a frontend first development approach, with UI5 applications. They shared they finding, especially the pros and cons for this approach and demonstrated how this works with Apollo as client.

 

Audience

I wouldn’t have believed it if I had not experienced it myself, but in fact virtual events really work! Especially with such a great bunch of people as the UI5 community! It was awesome how busy the event chat was right from the moment the broadcasting platform became active and to read the greetings coming from all corners of the world. Our statistics showed that people from 49 countries joined us on these two days. Crazy! This was never been reached with an UI5con event before and this was all down to the virtual format. Even though I was not able to see familiar faces, it was still possible to check if old friends also joined as many of the participants used their well-known aliases or even clear names.

In total we had around unique 1370 viewers on the first day and 1050 on the second. A post-hoc analysis of the data showed that in total the virtual format and the different time schedule allowed us to host 1720 unique attendees, a 278% increase over 2019’s in-person event.

The exchange of information among the participants was unprecedented and thinking about this, I’d say, it was somehow even better than an in-person event in that respect. Whenever someone had a question in the chat there was an answer or tip from the group. On-site it’s rather hard to get this working in such a casual way as people often prefer to stick to their own group. What also was worked exceptionally well was the Q&A at the end of each session. The question chat was always well-filled, so you could tell that the audience listened attentively until the end. It was really entertaining and interesting to monitor this from the background but also to get involved. I haven’t asked our speakers, but I had the impression that they also really enjoyed this lively exchange on their projects and ideas with the community. Thanks to all who were involved in these activities – you made this a real community event!

So far we only received very positive feedback on the event and thanks to the instant polling and attendee interaction options available on the Broadcast platform, we were able to calculate that UI5con ON AIR has earned a net promoter score of +64 on average — taken from 3 polls with 544 responses total.

 

Conclusion

All I can say is that UI5con ON AIR exceeded all my expectations. The magic I was hoping for was there, even though I doubted that this would be possible with a virtual format. But none of this would have been possible without a team with passionate commitment and loving attention to details. I’m particularly happy that in addition to my trusty companions for the last four years of UI5con planning – Jacky Dittkowski and Andreas Kunz –, we could welcome some new partners in crime who supported the event actively and enthusiastically. I would especially like to thank

  • Pavel Kornev for the wonderful design for the UI5con ON AIR homepage and the great coordination of all details related to the broadcast platform
  • Oliver Müller and Sabine Loss for their tremendous input in the event communication
  • Daniel Schork for taking the time to support the speakers and Pavel with the broadcast platform also being a complete newbie to UI5 and
  • Conrad Bernal for providing us with overall advice and assistance from the US – he actually planned for a UI5con in the US and joined forces with us since their event had to be canceled for the same reasons as UI5con@SAP as well.

I – or rather the UI5con organization team – was asked to plan two events per year: one in-person event and a virtual one. Well, I am not sure we can cope with this as event planning is not really our actual scope of duties. Everybody who ever organized a community event knows how much personal effort this is. But hey, who knows, if there are enough people out there that are interested and willing to help or that would even lead the organization of one of the next events – you might persuade me to assist as well. 😉

I hope to see you all again next year – in-person!

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