At the beginning of March I had the pleasure of attending try!Swift Tokyo 2018 in Japan ⛩. If you have never attended a try!Swift conferences, they are an immersive community gathering with curated talks by the organizer and top of the line workshops the days before and after the conferences. They hold 3 conferences every year: one in New York city, one in Bangalore and one in Tokyo.

I had the pleasure of attending try!Swift New York in previous years, so I knew the format and what I could expect from the conference - or I thought I did! In fact, try!Swift Tokyo managed to exceed all of those expectations. While I knew the talks were going to be good, since the speaker line-up looked really impressive, I highly underestimated the effect that being in Tokyo would have on the conference. And don’t worry if you were unable to go, I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites talks later in part 2 of this post!

day time view of Tokyo from sky tree

On the first day we got to visit Tokyo with some conference attendees

Another Point of View

Japan is an incredible country to experience, full of warm people, incredible food and amazing design. And the conference was just as impressive: the organisation was faultless, the food and drink was delicious, and the talks, speakers and attendees were all excellent.
800 people attended try!Swift Tokyo 2018, and out of those 800, only 200 were foreigners like me. That was an incredible experience, because even though most of the time I’d be having a conversation in English with someone from Japan, and translation could be a bit difficult, it did help me to realise that the problems they encounter in Japan can be a bit different from ours.

tatami mat at the conference

There was a tatami (a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms) zone to rest and watch the talks - what other conference has that?

A couple of things that stood out to me was the importance of Networks and API, and how subtly different their design approach to apps was. As developers, we know we need to build robust network layers to be able to handle high traffic and poor internet conditions. But apparently, in Japan people do not use Wifi that much. Whether they’re living in the city or not, they expect fast loading times over the cell network. Also their design approach was a bit different. Most of the companies I talked to were keen to implement new products and tech in their app, even if those were initially out of the scope of their business model. This is quite different to the European approach, where the focus is on delivering what’s in the brief.

Take for example LINE, one of the top apps in Japan and one of the sponsors of the conference. LINE started as a messaging app, but now doubles as a camera and as asocial network (with a recent livestream feature). You can also use it to pay for things online and in enabled stores, and while I was there they showed us a prototype of an IOT device for the home that they’d developed in-house, similar to Alexa or Google Home.

Line Alexa hardware companions

The speakers are designed to look like two of LINE’s most well-recognised characters from the app

This translated into some very interesting tech talks about deep knowledge of Swift Intermediate Language (SIL) and/or how to use Machine Learning to optimize manga compression.

A white board with stickers and architecture questions

How to get shy devs at your booth? Ask them about frameworks and architecture

The Talks

On the first day we were given a translation earphone box for the rest of the conference, since some talks were going to be given in English and some in Japanese. The conference had set up real-time translators, so you could sit down and watch the talk while listening to real-time translations in English. It was a really good set-up and it worked really well, but it was sometimes a couple seconds slower than the speaker and some metaphors and adjectives got lost in translation (that meant some of the notes from Japanese talks were a little shorter).

You can see the full talk line-up on the try!Swift page and the videos of the entire conference will be uploaded to their youtube channel and if you want to see my opinion and notes on some of the talks checkout the second part of this post


try!Swift was an incredible conference and experience, it allowed me to meet loads of new people - and in particular, those from a culture and language completely different than mine. And not to mention the fact that I also heard some amazing talks, that will help any future project that I am assigned. Check out part 2 of this post to see my notes on some of the talks

So, if you have the chance of going next year I would highly recommend you take the trip, keep and open mind and bring some business cards with you 😉


We traded flavours of Kit Kats for stickers


And met some amazing people!