My WWDC Impressions

Well, WWDC has been over for more than two weeks, but I’m only now getting around to posting about it. I was on vacation right after WWDC, then last week got eaten up by fixing my site getting hacked.

Since the entire conference contents (except the keynote) are covered under NDA, I can’t talk specifically about the talks, so I’ll try to talk more about my experiences there.

The Sessions

The sessions are the meat of the conference. They have several different sessions running concurrently from 9:00am to 6:15pm every day. Most days in the middle of the week had 6-8 sessions running during every time slot, plus labs, which I’ll talk about later. There’s an incredible amount of content being presented.

Apple organizes things nicely so that the first day is very high level, giving overviews of major announcements. Each successive day dives deeper and deeper into specifics. So if you go, make sure to go to the keynote and the State of the Union sessions on the first day, as they’ll help you to determine what you want to see for the rest of the week.

The sessions are divided into Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert levels. What several of us quickly discovered is that the Expert-level sessions provided the most value. The Beginner and Intermediate level sessions were too high-level and too basic. Most of the best sessions I attended were at the expert level, and if I go again next year, that’s what I’ll be concentrating on.

The sessions are good, and I feel like I learned a lot, but I also felt like I would have liked to have learned more. A lot of sessions felt like API overviews, when I would have like to have seen a lot more talks on techniques for using the APIs well. I would have also liked to have seen more sessions talking about low-level iPhone hardware stuff and how that affects code optimization. But all in all, I felt like I got a lot out of the sessions.

The Labs

A lot of people had told me that the labs were one of the best parts of WWDC. The labs let you talk to Apple engineers and experts about a variety of topics. So if you’ve got a problem with a sound API, you can go talk to the guy who wrote it (if you’re lucky).

Unfortunately, I was at a state where I really didn’t have any questions about Dapple, as it was already released, and I wasn’t far enough along in my next project to have many useful questions to ask. However, I did make some use of the labs towards the end of the week. I got help with an Interface Builder problem I was having (the guy fixed my problem in 30 seconds that I had spent 2 days trying to figure out), and talked to an Apple UI consultant about the layout of my new app’s UI.

Given my experience, if I’m back next year, I’ll have a whole slew of questions ready.

The People

I met a lot of great people at WWDC. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet other iPhone/Mac developers who you’ve talked to on Twitter or over email. I spent a lot of the week attending sessions with Noel Llopis, Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova, Bryan Duke, Serban Porumbescu, and PJ Cabrera.

As an independent developer, it was really nice to be around other developers and talk in person about what we love to do. If for nothing else, the week was worth it for that alone.

Serban wrote up his WWDC impressions at his blog, and I agree with him when he says, just introduce yourself to people in the sessions or at parties. You’ll meet some amazing people.

The Parties

The parties were probably the highlight of the event for me (and I think for a lot of other people). There are parties, and lots of them, every night of the event. Most nights we were going to between 2 and 5 parties.

A tip for other indies: WWDC doesn’t provide free dinner, so make sure you find a party that serves free food to go to first. 😉

The parties were fantastic. It was at these events that I got to meet a lot of really interesting developers. I also got to meet some great people from iPhone review sites and blogs. The parties are an incredible business networking opportunity, as well as a great way to have fun.

Final Thoughts

Five days of getting up at 6:30am and going to bed at 3:00am gets to be pretty tiring. By the end of the week I was pretty wiped out. Going to sessions for 8 hours a day tires the brain, and then 5 parties afterwards tires the liver. My biggest recommendation is: pace yourself! If I go again next year, I’ll try to pace things a little better so that I’m not exhausted by Thursday morning.

The best part of WWDC for me was being in a place with thousands of other developers who are all excited about the same kinds of things. It got me really excited about continuing to develop for the iPhone, and it got me excited about the cool things that other developers are doing with the device.

So, was it worth the cost? I’m going to say a qualified yes. As a Canadian developer, I’m penalized for being Canadian for some reason. The cost of admission to the show for an American is $1295 USD. However, the cost to a Canadian is $1699 CAD. At the current exchange rate, it should have been about $100 cheaper, but they tack on an extra fee. But was it worth it? For me, yes, I think so. I met a lot of interesting people, I learned a lot, but most importantly, I was inspired. I think it was important for me to go at least once. I’ll be in a better position to make an informed choice next year about whether or not it’s worth it to go again.