“Flutter starts to like the community, but so far not customers”: interview with Paulina Szklarska
If you try to imagine an Android developer (where it lives, what it looks like, what technologies it uses), then the Polish city of Wroclaw and the Google project Flutter are unlikely to come to mind, and besides, the resulting image will almost certainly be masculine. And the share of Flutter in Android development, and the share of women in IT is still modest. But this does not mean that it will always be like this, and does not mean that they should not be noticed. And since Paulina Szklarska from Wroclaw will come to our Mobius conference to talk about Flutter, we decided to ask her a little bit about everything from cross-platform development to the Polish IT community.
- First, tell us a little about yourself. What are you doing now?
- Development under Android in the Polish company Droids on Roids, we create software for clients around the world. I work in this company for four years.
In addition, I participate in community life. For example, I am a co-organizer of TOAST - one of the largest meetings of Android developers in Poland, held every two months. As well as co-organizer GDG Wrocław and Women Techmakers.
- Back to the communities back, but for now could you tell us how your career began?
- It all started a long time ago, I wrote my first program when I was 15 years old. I recently found her again, and she is terrible, but it all started with her. Then I did not think to do this all my life. At that time women were rare in IT, so it seemed to me that this was not for me. I returned to programming while studying. My specialty is biomedical engineering, it is a combination of medicine and engineering, so it has nothing to do with IT. About then I took a course on Android, and at the same time I decided that I could do this professionally. So it began.
- Of the projects you have worked on, has any of you become particularly important?
- The most important for me was the release of my first commercial project. Then it became clear that I can do what I like (to program), and I will be paid for it. That I can share it with other people, they can download my application and see if it’s a cool thing. For me, then it was important.
The project I'm working on now is also proud, it is called Loop - this is a frame, such a device on which you can watch photos, videos and communicate. She can be put on the table or presented to her grandfather, who is not very good friends with computers to show him photos. I like this project because I see that there is a need for such a thing.
- Why did they initially choose Android, and not something else?
- Specially did not choose. I got acquainted with him on the courses, and this was my first acquaintance with the mobile platform. Android is very popular - there are a lot of resources, there is a large community, there are a lot of questions and answers on Stack Overflow. Therefore, starting to get acquainted with mobile platforms was better from Android.
- Now the trick question. What kind of smartphone are you using now?
- Yes, really with a trick. I have to admit that I use an iPhone. When you tell someone about Android, and at the same time you see with the iPhone, it sometimes creates difficulties. But integration with another hardware that I use is simply working here: my MacBook and Apple Watch. For this, I have an iPhone.
- But there are ChromeOS and Android Wear ... Okay, joke. As for Android - do you like as a developer, how did Android change throughout its existence?
“In general, I like the fact that they add integration to widely used scenarios.” The whole Architecture Components library was created for operations that developers perform many times: for example, Room DB. It is good that they are trying to simplify the life of the developers. This is a great approach.
- How do you feel about the fact that Android has become more tightly controlled resources, like the Doze mode?
- To this, I am also positive. Yes, developers are easier when they don’t need to do things like background processes, but users are worse off. Therefore, in my opinion, it is right that developers are forced to do these things. The same applies to the transition to runtime permissions, when applications request permissions as needed, and not all at once. As developers, we don’t like these restrictions, but for the better for users.
“But every time we have to do something in a background thread in a predictable way, we have to suffer.”
A: Yes. But - in the name of a high goal.
- You are interested in Flutter, let's talk about it. To begin with: did you try other cross-platform solutions like React Native or Xamarin?
- I didn’t use serious production applications, I just tried on very simple projects, so I only have a general idea of how these platforms work compared to Flutter. But he is very different from them.
- React Native and Xamarin could not become a mainstream solution. What do you think, what is the reason? Can Flutter make a difference?
- Yes, they really did not become common. Developers are still very much afraid. For example, when they write for multiple platforms, they fear that many things will not work. But Flutter has not yet emerged from the release preview stage, and this creates the impression that it is risky to use it in production - but this is not true.
Due to the fact that cross-platform solutions are not sharpened for a specific platform, people are afraid of things specific to the platform: for example, background tasks that we have already talked about, or Bluetooth. People may be afraid that these things will be difficult or even impossible to implement with cross-platform solutions, or that the result will not look like a “native” solution. Or they fear that the community will be small, and they will not be able to find an answer if a question arises.
And in all these aspects there are no problems with Flutter: he has a large community and he looks like his own. So, although people have reasons to be afraid of cross-platform, I think Flutter may change the attitude to such solutions.
- With the help of Flutter and similar UI it is created entirely for the entire application. But there are other approaches: Kotlin / Native suggests writing application logic cross-platform, and the UI for each platform separately. This approach may not be preferable?
- This is a wonderful approach for those applications where the UI for some reason is very different. But in many applications, the UI is very similar or even the same on both platforms. And here, in my opinion, Flutter has a very big advantage.
- The Russian Android community has a negative attitude towards cross-platform solutions. When a manager suggests rewriting everything to React Native for the sake of economy, many developers are enraged. Is this attitude specific for Russia, or have you observed something similar in Poland?
- I understand what caused this hostility. As for Poland, I can judge by the number of people giving reports on Flutter at conferences, and by the number of participants of Flutter trainings that we organized - there we taught to use Flutter and write applications on it. So: this number is constantly increasing, and the interest of developers in cross-platform solutions is growing. People get tired of writing everything two times, fixing the same bugs twice, testing everything twice. I think because of this they are looking for new solutions, and this also explains the interest in Flutter. So I would say that the Flutter community is already starting to like it - but so far not customers. This is another story.
- Do you have experience with Flutter in production?
- Because of the aforementioned attitude of customers, no. I now work with Flutter especially for myself. As far as I can see, customers are more wary of changes than developers, probably because they risk their money. It may take some time for clients to gain confidence in Flutter.
- Let's check now if you have the gift of foresight. What do you think, what will happen in the future Android? Flutter is also designed for Fuchsia - how likely, in your opinion, will it take the place of Android?
- Complex issue. I will begin with the future of Android: we have already said that the direction in which they are now moving more closely takes into account the interests of users and to a lesser extent developers. In general, Android begins to resemble more iOS, where the user is very limited and can not change anything, but these restrictions also work in his favor and provide him with greater comfort.
As for Fuchsia, it is still difficult to say anything here, since the project is still at a very early stage. But Google, most likely, is really going to replace Android with Fuchsia sooner or later. I hope that by the time Fuchsia is finished, Flutter will have gained popularity and the developers' fears about it will be gone.
- We will meet in a few years - it will be clear whether you are right or not. For now, let's talk about IT communities. You have already mentioned some of which you are active in - how did your participation in them begin?
- At the moment I am participating in Women Techmakers Wroclaw and GDG (Google Developers Group). GDG is a community of people who are interested in Google’s technology in general, not only Android, but also Firebase, Cloud, the same Flutter. We help these people find contact with each other.
Our group was created in May last during the organization of Google I / O Extended - this is when they organize a joint viewing of Google I / O in different cities around the world. We held our event at the cinema, and, in my opinion, it was a very good idea: usually people watch Google I / O on a computer, and here you could sit with popcorn in front of a big screen. Since January of this year, we have become much more different activities. We organize smaller meetings, for example trainings - we recently conducted a Flutter Study Jam training.
- What is your role in these communities? What are you doing personally?
- I am one of the organizers. This means that I am responsible for organizing events. I find out what the needs of the community are, whether there is interest in a certain topic, as well as doing purely administrative things, for example, defining a place for a meeting and the like. Sometimes I act as a speaker at trainings. Basically my duties are reduced to the above.
- I think the most important question is: why are you doing this? This takes a lot of time, but you do not get any material benefits from it. What exactly motivates?
- Yes, sometimes it is difficult to do this after work, if nobody pays for it. But I just like sharing knowledge. These events provide a wonderful opportunity to meet different points of view. For example, in our Flutter trainings there were people who write every day on React Native. It was interesting for me to compare Flutter and React Native, to discuss the pros and cons with other people. So I not only share knowledge with others, I learn myself. I think this is the most valuable here.
- Now a complex and urgent issue. You are a member of Women Techmakers, and there is a lot of talk about diversity on the Internet right now. What exactly do you think about it?
- For me, this question is also complicated. I am a supporter of such a diversity that would allow no one to be excluded. Therefore, I am wary of everything that is intended "especially for women" or "especially for men." For example, sometimes events are held under the heading “IT for women”. I understand that they may be necessary, but I myself am not a supporter of separation. If you want diversity, then why divide people into two different groups?
When I organize events, I try to make them accessible to people who may have a hard time getting to them. For example, women may be afraid to come to them - and I try to make sure that they also have a place. But I do not want anyone else to be excluded. So I try to accept the diversity of people in its entirety.
- And what is the percentage of women at your meetings? For example, in GDG Wroclaw? In GDG, we found out only 3%.
- I do not have accurate statistics on my hands right now, but not high. True, when we organized a meeting on International Women's Day, where the word "woman" was right in the title, there 90% of those present were women.
- What's in Poland with the development of IT-communities - how mature are they, how many meetings?
- I think that development is going in a positive direction. Our GDG in Wroclaw holds events quite rarely, about every two months. But there are more active GDGs: in Krakow, meetings are held every month, in Rzeszow, too, it does quite a lot. In addition, there are many meetings not related to GDG — about eight different meetings for Android developers take place on a regular basis in Wroclaw.
- Finally, I want to ask about your hobby: your twitter shows that you love to travel. What place of all the people you visited impressed you the most?
- Probably Thailand. I was there last year, and I really liked the people there. Awesome food, great views. In general, he conquered me.
- Can you share a negative experience?
- I do not think that I had it. I enjoy traveling, and not necessarily to the other end of the world. Recently, I first visited the sea in Poland, where I was also struck by the terrain and the city itself. So often for rich impressions it is not at all necessary to go to the other side of the globe.
- Have you been to Russia before?
- No, so for me it will be an interesting experience. I plan to walk around the city for a few more days, so if you can recommend something to watch, I will be glad.
- Would you like to say something to Russian readers or participants of Mobius? It is possible on behalf of all the inhabitants of Poland, if it is not too much responsibility!
- What are you, what a responsibility, just all the inhabitants of one country! If besides jokes, then I would like to convince readers to come to the report, or at least try Flutter. But I think it can be useful to anyone who has ever gotten tired of developing for Android - at least, it makes sense to try. So come to my report, I will tell you what Flutter liked me so much and why, in my opinion, you might like it.
- Thank! Probably, every Android developer fits the definition of “ever tired of developing for Android”.
The Mobius conference , where Paulina will talk in detail about working with Flutter, will be held in Moscow on December 8-9. To understand in more detail what to expect from the event, you can on this video: