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WWDC: Why Would Developers* Care?

A few weeks ago, Apple wrapped up its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Given its ever-growing popularity, attendance is now governed by a lottery selection process. A lucky coworker and I were chosen by the iGods™ to attend, and we joined the thousands of developers making their yearly pilgrimage to the mecca of the Apple world.

I’d like to share some of my insights about the experience and how others can take full advantage of WWDC ’16 and beyond!

The Conference

WWDC comprises of events, sessions, and labs.

The events include the Keynote, the Apple Design Awards, a handful of other engaging presentations, and The Bash.

Sessions are primarily developer-oriented talks given by Apple engineers about the APIs and frameworks new to iOS and OS X. Their format is quite similar to college lectures. These sessions are all uploaded online and available for watching later. New this year is that many sessions are live-streamed as well.

Continuing with the college analogy, labs are like “office hours” with a professor or TA. You can talk face-to-face with an Apple engineer about issues you’re facing with a particular API or some obscure bug you’ve hit and can’t diagnose. They are incredibly useful, and this is one of the main things that you can’t take advantage of without attending WWDC in person. More on this below...

The City

For the many developers that weren’t able to secure a golden ticket to “dub-dub” as it’s affectionately called, some smart people have formed an alternative and free conference, aptly named AltConf! While I didn’t have a chance to attend any of their own sessions, I’ve heard great things about the quality of their content and presenters, and I eagerly wait for their videos to be released. They had quite a formidable list of talks and presenters this year.

Many tech companies and groups in SF host their own parties and mixers at night throughout the WWDC week. It’s a good chance to meet and network with other developers and talk face-to-face with companies whose products and services you use.

Timeline

Some of my highlights throughout the week.

Monday

The first day of WWDC is Apple’s time for the big company and software announcements. The two-hour-long, information-packed Keynote is highly anticipated, and since this was my 2nd WWDC, I knew that people would begin lining up early.

Tip #1: Pick up your badge on Sunday, this will save you some time Monday morning.

Tip #2: If you don’t absolutely have to be within Bluetooth range of Tim Cook and friends, try aiming for seats with clear view of the projectors at the back of the auditorium.

WWDC: The Keynote (10am)

The Keynote was entertaining and informational as always, but a bit longer than our attentions could be kept for cough Apple Music cough. OS X El Capitan and iOS 9 were introduced, and arguably the biggest announcement of the week was the open-sourcing of Swift. Though the keynote was live-streamed, the buzz and excitement in the room could only be felt in person.

WWDC: Platforms State of the Union (2:30pm) 

After grabbing a bite to eat with some other coworkers, we decided to head back to our SF office and watch the Platforms State of the Union from there. +1 to live-streaming!

WWDC: Apple Design Awards (4:30pm)

I did not watch the Apple Design Awards in-person this year, but I’d urge everyone to watch it. The level of detail and love given to the featured apps by the designers and engineers is truly impressive and inspiring for all who build products.

CocoaPods State of the Union (6pm)


Tip #3: Use the Parties app to find post-WWDC events. RSVP to some events you’re interested in. Food is usually provided :)

Most iOS developers are likely familiar with CocoaPods, the de-facto Objective-C and Swift dependency manager.

The core CocoaPods team hosted an evening event at the Twilio HQ and shared some highlights from the past year. Given CocoaPods’ importance in the community, we decided to attend it. We also chatted briefly with a few of the MutualMobile folks (probably most well-known in iOS for MMDrawerController).

ThirstyBear Brewing Company (8:30pm)

We headed to a bar after rounding up a few more coworkers from our office. An opportune moment led to a few of the CocoaPods developers coming in shortly after, and we invited them to join us for a few drinks. @orta, @ashfurrow, and @segiddins were among the crew and  interesting discussions were had.

Tuesday

Sessions began bright and early at 9am. Using the WWDC app, I planned out the sessions I wanted to attend, and we divided and conquered them up as much as possible.

Tip #4: Don’t forget your badge at your hotel throughout the week. Apple won’t let you in Moscone Center without it. I learned that the hard way.

After the conference wrapped up for the day, we went to Layer’s WWDC party. I hadn’t used their products before, but it was great to converse with smart people about building big products and tackling hard problems.

Wednesday

In addition to attending several sessions today, I made my way over to the labs. An iOS app that I’m currently working on was exhibiting a strange and difficult to track AVFoundation-related bug (video recording in particular). I spent over an hour with a few incredibly helpful Apple engineers and exhausted their allotted time. In the end, we were able to find the issue, part of which was due to a bug for which I’ve already filed the requested radar.

The post-WWDC event we attended this evening was the ReactiveCocoa Developers Conference, organized by Justin Spahr-Summers. He shared his experience developing and doing really interesting work on ReactiveCocoa over the past year.

Thursday

The Bash. Food, drinks, and music.

Friday

I made sure to take advantage of the lab hours while I still could. I had some other questions saved from previous months of iOS work and found the appropriate engineers to ask.

Tip #5: Have questions you’d like answered by Apple’s engineers saved and ready to ask during WWDC. Prepare sample projects or stripped down codebases for easy demonstration and debugging.

WWDC was finally over and the iOS team gathered for dinner and drinks to decompress after a long week!

Sessions of Interest

For Developers

For Developers and Designers

Final Thoughts

Definitely take advantage of the labs at WWDC. They are a truly invaluable resource. Spending a few hours chatting about some APIs with the programmer who wrote them is both an educational and humbling experience. If you have some obscure bugs wreaking havoc in your apps, an hour or two resolving them with an expert might save you and your team a week of development time! It likely did for us.

Take advantage of what the city has to offer. There are dozens of companies hosting events during the week. They are great ways to connect with others tackling the same problems and fighting the same fights. It’s also great running into or seeing “iOS celebrities” you recognize from the Internet. Meeting the developers that created a framework you use extensively or write a blog you frequent or a book you learned with is just plain cool.

WWDC is one big developer family reunion. For first timers, you’ll be meeting friends and relatives you didn’t know you had and making connections with incredibly smart and motivated people. You’ll experience a city filled with positive energy. You’ll spend your days soaking up content and nights going out and networking and meeting people. You may or may not indulge in the free drinks at The Bash. You’ll be sleep deprived and burned out by the end of the week. And you won’t regret it.

  • And designers!
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