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Fun or frustrating?
THE WAITING GAME

Developers, who fix problems for a living, find solutions to the never-ending lines at Google I/O

By Alice Truong

Deputy editor

“Have you been to Disneyland? That’s what this is like.”

Madhavan Chidambaram, a developer attending Google’s I/O conference, was surprisingly good natured about standing in yet another line under the beating sun Wednesday afternoon (May 18). Having already attended four sessions, and optimistic he would get into a fifth, he fared far better than many of his conference peers.

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Odds of getting in?

Long queues, often hundreds of people deep, were a familiar sight on the first day of Google’s conference. This year, the annual gathering of developers is taking place at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, an outdoor concert venue in Mountain View, California, making the waits even more uncomfortable as the temperature hit a high of 82 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday.

The large venue helped accommodate the 25% increase in this year’s attendance, about 7,000 people in total. But some conference-goers felt it made for a more chaotic environment compared to the Moscone Center, the huge convention center in San Francisco that’s previously been home to I/O. “At Moscone, the rooms were big,” Chidambaram says. “Here, the tents are small.”

Alice Truong/Quartz
A line on the second day of I/O.

Responding to complaints of wait times, Google sent an email to attendees this morning saying it would repeat many of the first day’s sessions on Friday. The note also encouraged people to watch the sessions, which are streamed and recorded, on YouTube.

“It kind of killed my enthusiasm,” says attendee Jonni Gani. “It’s different going to a talk that’s a repeat of what was originally scheduled.”

The fairgrounds of the amphitheater infused a fun music-festival vibe into the conference, but some repeat I/O attendees longed for the old venue. “The conference at Moscone seemed better organized,” says Gio Quinteros, a designer at Deloitte whose shoulders were sunburnt by the late afternoon. “The weather didn’t matter since you’re inside.” This year, he says he’s getting into sessions about 20% of the time, a far lower ratio compared to two years ago when he attended I/O. “They definitely oversold it,” he adds.

One virtual-reality developer named Brian came to I/O for the VR sessions, but didn’t get into any on the first day. By the late afternoon he did duck inside a tent for a talk on Firebase, a developer tool. “It was just too hot, and I needed air conditioning,” he says.

Seeing how developers solve problems for a living, some have come up with strategies to cope with the queues. Daniel Gredy, who lined up for six sessions on the first day and got into two, eventually figured out his best chances of getting in was to lower his expectations. Instead of trying to attend back-to-back sessions, he thought his odds were better if he attended one talk and then immediately lined up for the next about an hour in advance.

Gani, who traveled to the conference from Melbourne, Australia, tried to stream the talks from his phone, but the feed would intermittently cut out over his 3G connection. For the second day, he planned his schedule so all the events would take place in the same venue. He’s hoping to avoid the lines by camping out in one tent all day. (Some attendees said this strategy didn’t work for them yesterday, since the rooms were cleared out between sessions.)

When Shailesh Soliwal missed the second session he lined up for yesterday, he quickly regrouped. “I have to time it,” he says. “I leave a session in the last 15 minutes” to line up for the next one. It seems to work: He was admitted into five sessions using the strategy and was hoping to get into a sixth before the end of the day.

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