Firebase, the simple way to scale

When developing a new product, you want to move fast.

But shaping and putting together the building blocks of your app takes time.

There’s no way passed it (unless you ship something dirty – but anyway you’ll have to come back to it later to refactor it so that you can scale).

flash-fast

To solve that problem, several companies worked on products that would help you validate your hypothesis rapidly, scale and implement all the features you would expect from a world-class app.

The most famous of those products is probably Firebase from Google.

Many developers who attended or watched Google I/O this year were super impressed by the Firebase demo.

In less than half an hour, the Firebase team was able to setup a back end environment with all the latest features you would want for your app (real-time Database, authentication, cloud messaging, notification, storage..). I you haven’t yet, you can watch it here.

firebase fast and cross-platform

We too were really impressed. When talking to some of our community members, we realized some of them had just heard about Firebase but never really got a chance to truly try and implement it.

That’s why we reached out to Google to suggest the idea to organize a Coding Battle around Firebase.
They were really interested.

With the great help of Friedger and Yannick from GDG Brussels, we were able to put up this event.

The timing was great, just a couple of days after the Firebase summit that happened in Berlin!

Like at I/O, impressive features were shown. If you want to catch up with those, you have a whole bunch of videos over here.

Automate the process during the Coding Battle

For this Coding Battle, we wanted a way to evaluate teams rapidly, without having to do the usual manual check. To automate the process, we used a slackbot from the hack-league slack.

firebase fast and cross-platform

The teams would register their names on the slack bot by using a special command.

The Coding Battle is separated in multiple challenges. For each challenges, the idea was to generate a secret code that the team would receive once they completed the challenge.

Once done, they could then give the code to the slack bot. The slack bot would then add their point.

That means that at any time each team could see the other teams’ progress and figure out where they stand.

Unfortunately, the timing was too short and we didn’t manage to implement this method on time. All the checks had to be done manually. Next time, we’ll manage to have a fully automated scoreboard.

The challenge

The goal of this Battle was to give a hands-on experience on firebase in a fun and thrilling way.

fun coding battle firebase

Many participants had heard about Firebase. Only a few had already worked with it.

Taking that into account, we worked on having easy challenges in the first place to onboard participants and give them a good feeling about Firebase. Then we would go into more complex integrations.

As always, to avoid losing time creating the building blocks, we gave participants a starting point, the boilerplate code from Google I/O.

The great part about it: it covers web, android and iOS. This is great, as it allowed us to also welcome new members in our community.

Coding Battle Firebase new members

How it happened

The nice people from SNCube received us in their nice cowoking space in Kraainem. Except from the fact we had to improvise a screen with tables put one over the other, all went well.

Friedger from GDG was there to help participants during the Coding battle.

Friedger helping

Most of the teams managed quite rapidly to access the setup the project and connect to the chat. Live interactions (everyone could see who had already posted a message on the chat) is great to get the competition going.

The next steps took more time to complete.

Eventually, no one was able to reach the challenges that would make us of the Google Cloud platform in time.

As most of the team managed to reach the same number of challenges, we had to use the speed criterion to determine who won the Coding Battle. At this game, it’s two students who were the fastest: Lionel and Martin.

Friedger helping

Some of the teams continued at home their implementation. It’s the case of Philippe who gently shared his work for the cloud messaging challenge (web).

Conclusion

From the feedback we gathered, this hands-on experience gave participants a fairly good command of Firebase.

While most of them rated their Firebase skills at 0 before the battle, most of them got out with a better feeling 1-2 on average (on a 0 to 5 scale).

On the competition side, we’ll strive to allow more space for creativity and get a better introduction or preparation for the challenges. Also, we’ll work on our automation process to smoothen the scoring part of the event.

Do you see any other method we could use to automate the scoring process?