360iDev: 3.5 Days of Awesomeness

I apologise for the length of this post, but I wanted to get it all out in one post, so as not to forget anything…

I thought I’d take some time and talk in detail about 360|iDev. Overall, let me say this: the conference was fantastic. There were about 200 developers there and there were at least 3 talks running concurrently over 3 days with 5 sessions per day! That’s a lot of great content!

I think the easiest way to do this is a day-by-day breakdown, so here we go!

Day 0 – Sunday, March 1st, 2009

I arrived in San Jose on Sunday afternoon and checked into the hotel. I walked straight over to the eBay Town Hall Conference Center where the conference was being held. Sunday had some “pre-conference” hands-on presentations going on, for those who were able to attend.

Joe Pezzillo from Metafy was giving a great hands-on talk on creating 3 “Hello World” apps in 3 different ways. I arrived about half-way through the session so I just sat at the back and listened. What a great session! Dapple hardly uses any UIKit stuff, so I barely touched Interface Builder when I was working on it. Joe’s session showed me some amazingly powerful stuff you can do in Interface Builder with writing hardly any code! He also showed us some really cool stuff to do with memory management that I didn’t know about before. I was very impressed and knew the conference was going to be great right then.

After Joe’s presentation I ran into Keith Shepherd from Imangi Studios and Noel Llopis from Snappy Touch. We all talk on Twitter and it was really cool to meet these guys in person. Noel and Keith are both awesome and the three of us spent a lot of the conference together, as we had interest in a lot of the same sessions.

Sunday night has a Speaker’s Dinner where us speakers all got to meet each other. Then they opened the party up to everyone and we had drinks and played Rock Band and started meeting other people. I also got to meet Jeff Scott from 148Apps.com, who is a great guy. It was a great way to start the conference. Unfortunately, I was kind of jet lagged, so I wasn’t able to stay up very late that night and went to bed fairly early.

Day 1 – Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I got up really early Monday morning and went for a run with Noel before the conference started. It was great to run in the warm weather and not have to wear a hat or mitts. I kind of hurt my knee, though, so that was the only day I was able to run while I was there.

The first session of the day was two keynotes: one from the lead researcher at eBay (whose name I forget…sorry) and another from Mike Lee. Mike’s presentation, in particular, spoke to me as he discussed the need for the iPhone development community to work together and act as a community.

Next up with Julio Barros’s talk called “iPhone and Android?” He talked mostly about the differences in the way apps are created and distributed. It was a neat talk with a lot of questions and discussions that resulted. It’s clear that a lot of iPhone devs are considering Android as an alternate platform and wanted to know more about it.

There was a break for a delicious lunch, where I got to meet a bunch more people, like: Peter and Mike from ByteClub, Chuck Smith, Collin Donnell, Mark Johnson, and Julian Dolce from Fuel Industries (who are based in Ottawa, Ontario). And after lunch I gave my talk. I was lucky enough to be able to give a presentation on the creation of Dapple, the processes I used, and the lessons I learned. The room was nearly full for my talk and a lot of nice people said that they enjoyed the talk a lot.

Right after my talk I went to see a talk on the Unity Engine. The guy who was supposed to do the talk couldn’t be there so 4 students from a local game design school who are working at eBay gave a talk on Unity instead. They had been building a game in Unity and spoke very well about Unity and their processes.

The final talk of the day that I saw was by Scott Michaels, from a Canadian company based in Vancouver called Atimi. This was the presentation that people talked about for the rest of the show. He gave an in-depth and knowledgeable talk on marketing as it relates to iPhone apps. It was full of useful information and recommendations and I was blown away by it. It really showed me how little I understand about marketing. I started thinking about hiring a freelance marketing consultant at that point.

After that there was dinner, talking to lots of people, beer, and more Rock Band. By the end of the first day I was already convinced that the conference was worth more than the price of admission.

Day 2 – Tues, March 3rd, 2009

Up early again, but this time I met up with an old friend of mine I hadn’t seen in about 15 or 16 years. He lives in San Francisco now and I was nice enough to drive out to San Jose and meet me for breakfast. It was cool to get a chance to meet up with him after all these years. However, as a consequence I missed the first slot of speakers that day.

I arrived in time for the second slot and sat in on Tim Burks’s “Deep Geek Diving into the iPhone OS and Frameworks” session. This was a fascinating talk about how to dig into the underlying core APIs and see what’s available. There’s all kinds of cool stuff that Apple doesn’t allow developers access to, and this was just a look at what’s there that we can’t use yet. It was kind of a tease actually…look at all this cool stuff that’s available! But you can’t ship an app on the App Store if you touch this stuff… Still, a great session.

Lunch time again, more tasty treats. More chatting.

After lunch I attended Noel Llopis’s (Snappy Touch) talk on “Becoming Indie: A Professional Game Developer’s Change to the iPhone”. It was a great talk and I learned a whole bunch of information about iPhone hardware. I wish Noel’s talk could have been twice as long as there was a lot of stuff he talked about that I would have loved to have seen more on. Noel is also a huge proponent of unit testing and talked quite a bit about it in his presentation. It’s definitely something I need to do more of.

Next up with Peter Bakhyryev’s (ByteClub) presentation on “Making Multiplayer iPhone Games: Theory and Practice”. Peter had a great talk, mostly concentration on all the things you need to take into consideration when you’re designing a multiplayer game. This talk sparked dozens of ideas for new games or multiplayer extensions to Dapple in my head. I spent quite a bit of time talking with Peter and Mike at the conference and they’re both great guys. They’re doing some really cool stuff around releasing a multiplayer gaming framework.

The last talk of the day was Jonathan Saggau’s (TouchEngine) presentation on “Connecting iPhone to Google’s App Engine”. I made a bit of a mistake here and assumed this would be much higher-level than it was. The started his talk assuming that everyone knew what “The Cloud” and how Google’s App Engine worked, and so most of the presentation was kind of over my head. It wasn’t until later that I realised the talk was a 300-level talk, meaning it was an advanced topic. Oops. I’m sure it would have been cool if I’d already known how to use App Engine.

Dinner, more beer, more networking. Met some more people. Back at the hotel I ended up in the lobby with a bunch of people talking about iPhone stuff. It turns out I was talking to one of the guys who first jailbroke the iPhone, as well as the guy who wrote Cydia (saurik). They were really interesting to talk to because they have a very different perspective on things.

Day 3 – Wed, March 4th, 2009

Another early day…got up to make it to the keynote presentations. This time by Eric Litman from Medialets and a guy (whose name I forget, sorry) from AdMob. They both talked about analytics software and advertising in apps. They were neat talks. The AdMob guy talked a lot about monetizing apps by ad-enabling them, which I have no interest in, but he also talked about how I could run ads in other apps. That’s something I might look into at some point.

Next up was Sean Christmann’s presentation on “Powerful Visuals with Quartz 2D”. I didn’t know much about Quartz 2D, so this was a really neat presentation for me. I learned a lot about how it works and now I want an excuse to play around with them.

Final lunch break.

After lunch I went to Danton Chin’s “Managing and Optimizing Memory Usage”. I had hoped that this talk would be a little more in-depth, but a lot of it covered the same kind of stuff I’d written up in my Leaks Tutorial. I think it would have been a great presentation if I didn’t already know how to use Instruments to track down memory leaks. However, I did learn some things about using the Static Analysis to find mem problems at compile time.

Next I popped into a talk being given by Jeff LaMarche and another guy whose name I forget (sorry) on Open GL and the iPhone accelerometer. The accelerometer stuff was quite neat, but the OpenGL discussion kind of got side-tracked by people asking a lot of questions about how it works. OpenGL is difficult to learn in an hour. It was still a good presentation, though.

Finally, the last presentation of the show I went to was Dom Sagolla‘s “Why a Dollar?” presentation. His was about why his company only releases $0.99 apps and about the process he uses to create these apps. It was interesting to hear his point of view and to see how he does it.

With that, the conference was over! There were a bunch of us who weren’t flying out until the next day so we headed out to a Mexican restaurant for drinks and food. The conference organizers, Tom Ortega and John Wilker, were there too, so it was cool to get to hang out with them a bit. I also spent some time talking with one of the guys, Azeem Ansar, from PinchMedia, which was cool, as well as Mark Thomas, who had flown all the way from the UK for the conference.

After that, I went back to my hotel, exhausted from all the excitement and brain activity. I was up bright and early yesterday morning (4:30am) to get on a plane back to Ontario (via Chicago of course). Today has been kind of a wash. I’m having trouble concentrating as my brain tries to sort through all the amazing things I’ve learned this week and all the things I want to do in the future!

If you weren’t able to make it to 360|iDev this time, I highly recommend it. They’re talking about doing another one in 6 months, but possibly further East. When tickets go on sale, get in early!