TrailheaDX, Salesforce’s first-ever developer conference, had it all: indoor trees, campfire discussions of the Internet of Things, and demonstrations of how bots can help us buy houses. There was a bear and badges and —… what? What is TrailheaDX? Why, just the best (and only) mid-city edutainment-based developer-centered two-day camping trip featuring Lenny Kravitz. The June 7-8 conference took place in San Francisco’s venerable music venue The Warfield as well as a space decked out like a forest (only with product demos and panels on integrating multi-channel marketing into your apps). Lunch was provided.
There was much excitement, and not just over the socks you’d win if you completed a trail. The developers who attended were thrilled to be with like-minded folks and to discuss where their industry might just be headed, and the tools that will build it. Amid the friendly woodland creatures and process-building, here are 10 things I learned from TrailheaDX.
1. There Are a Lot of Developers and a Lot of Developments
In his keynote opening address, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff dropped some huge numbers on the crowd: there are currently 2.8 million Salesforce developers, 4.2 billion transactions daily, and 5.5 million apps powered by Salesforce tech. TrailheaDX attendees saw some of these developers in the more than 100 viewing audiences tuned in to the conference remotely.
2. Badges? We Don’t Need No Stinking— Oh, Wait, Yes We Do
Trailhead’s gamified education system lets developers and admins (and others interested in app development — an ever-expanding demographic) learn how to use Salesforce tools by working their way through “trails” and earning badges. No surprise here: the badges were hot commodities. People love a journey. Completing a trail at the conference earned you a canteen and socks, though the actual value of what is learned is kept in the individual brain of the user.
3. Being a Developer Is Not a Job So Much as It Is a Movement
One thing TrailheaDX made clear, in the interactions among people, in their enthusiasm for technology and its ability to make change, is that it’s becoming a very diverse worldwide community. The people chatting and talking about badges and playing with the new products: they wanted to be there. They were excited.
4. The Future Is AI, Internet of Things, “Low-Code,” and, as Always, Taxes
The future does indeed look like our machines will be smarter. Some of the panels got into how machine learning will make our apps serve us better and how Salesforce’s IoT Cloud and Thunder will give users real-time insight into events and how to leverage that information to make a more responsive app. Also, how low-code tools like Lightning will allow just about anybody to build apps without needing a coder’s deep well of knowledge, what Adam Seligman, Executive Vice President and GM of App Cloud, calls “clicks, not code.” And, of course, mobile: this year, we heard, 11 million people e-filed their taxes on their phones using Salesforce tools on TurboTax!
5. It is Possible to Write Songs About Apps
...or at least adapt them. Apex and the Limits, a very code-friendly band made up of Salesforce MVPs, played for the audience of developers, who got the references, one assumes, in songs like “Hit Me with your Best Case,” “(Can’t Get No) Trailhead Action,” and “99 Apps” (“If you got code problems I feel bad for you son / I got 99 apps and I ain’t broke one.”)
Also, Lenny Kravitz played.
6. One Word: Bots
Get ready for your machines to get really curious about your architectural preferences. Salesforce is investing in machine learning in a big way, and we saw a little of that with an app built on Heroku that talks in real time through Salesforce bots to a real estate site, getting updates on availability and prices. What’s cool here is that the bot can ask the potential buyer if she has a Pinterest board with the kind of houses she’s interested in, and can extract from those images an idea of what kind of house the buyer really wants, and offer options accordingly. Another bot can schedule viewings. (Salesforce hasn’t yet built a bot that will move your grandmother’s heavy armoire, but give it time…) Read more about how AI can learn about your preference for Tudor, Contemporary, or Greek Revival and find you a house here.
7. Devs Come From All Over These Days
With so many developers out there (2.8 million!), expect some diversity. There were panels and presentations on extending just who can be a developer these days, and how to get them there.
9. The Woz Loves Pranks … and DIY
In an intimate sit-down at The Warfield, Steve Wozniak, hero to developers everywhere, talked virtual reality and learning computers and being nice to AIs that might someday run the show (“After I got that idea I started feeding my dog filet steak, because I believe in do unto others.”) He also talked about his lifelong pranksterism, from his phone-phreaking days with Steve Jobs to his made-up jokes and not-entirely-scientific equations (here’s one: H = S - F; or, Happiness = Smiles Minus Frowns). He also invoked the Silicon Valley DIY ethos for the crowd, reminding them that “the best marketing in the world is: if you want the product, you make it yourself.”
8. The Next Generation of Developers Gets a Boost
Salesforce donated $5 for every earned badge at TrailheaDX to San Francisco’s Mission Bit, which connects tech education to youth living in poverty and rural conditions. Other nonprofits celebrating diversity in tech that were on hand include Code 2040 (engineering opportunities for black and Latino populations), Girl Develop It (web and software development for women), and The Stride Center (tech development skills for the underrepresented).
10. TrailheaDX Is Still Going On Somewhere, Because the Internet
While you may not have gotten to wander through an indoor forest and tussled with a selfie-crazed bear (good old Codey), you can still watch the keynote and learn about what’s going on in The Age of the Customer. Beyond that, there are plenty of trails out there for the curious, the innovative, the badge-hungry.
By now you’re probably ready to check out what Trailhead itself is all about. Go ahead. You won't get lost.