Tag Archives: conferences

Core Intuition’s 8 years and overselling WWDC

It’s 2 weeks before WWDC, which means it was also 8 years ago that we published the first episode of Core Intuition. At WWDC that year, Apple showed off iPhone OS 2.0, MobileMe, and the iPhone 3G. The yearly cycle of improvements to the OS and hardware don’t look much different today, but Apple keeps rolling, and so the total changes since 2008 are massive.

For as many years as I’ve been out to San Francisco for WWDC (and to San Jose before then), each year I have fewer expectations for the conference itself. Some years I don’t even bother guessing or dreaming about new features — I have no pressing needs, no critical missing APIs, no questions to ask Apple engineers in the labs — and I’m happily surprised by whatever Apple gives us.

This year is a little different. It’s the first year that I can remember since the Mac OS X 10.0 and 10.1 releases where an Apple platform needed significant performance improvements to be usable for anyone except early adopters. The first couple versions of Apple Watch were ambitious on features, but now it’s time to do the less glamorous work of making the platform fast. I hope watchOS 3.0 will be the same kind of milestone that Mac OS X 10.2 was in that regard. (And like Mac OS X, I hope it can be done mostly in new software.)

Back to WWDC the conference. I’m still thinking about the interesting venue change for Monday to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

In the discussion on Core Intuition 229 last month, I kept coming back to the idea that this change has to be about growing the conference to allow more developers. Since more people show up on Monday (press and business folks, for example, who have less interest in the technical sessions or labs), you could have a bigger space on Monday and then oversell the conference as a whole, knowing that some ticket holders wouldn’t be around later in the week back at Moscone West.

Maybe that creates more problems than it solves because of packed rooms and long lines to get into sessions, though. Now that I’ve had a while to think about it, it seems unlikely that Apple would risk making the conference worse just to squeeze in another 500 developers.

Could there be some creative layouts in Moscone West that Apple hasn’t tried yet? There are so many downsides to changing the venue that I want to believe it’s part of addressing the biggest issue with the conference: most people don’t win the ticket lottery.

There’s still the problem of hotels. Linking to my post about not giving up on WWDC, John Gruber singled out Airbnb as a bad solution, since there just aren’t that many rooms available. That’s true. And even worse, potential last-minute cancellations make Airbnb less reliable. Where I said Airbnb, I should have just said “cheaper hotel”.

(Alex Cash also has tips for saving money at WWDC. Casey Liss has a good post about rising hotel prices.)

Nevertheless, I know some developers are using Airbnb this year, and I’d like to try it next year for a change of pace and scenery away from the conference. With the convenience of Uber, the risk of settling for a place farther away seems low.

And finally, I’ve enjoyed many recent podcasts about WWDC. Two highlights: Under the Radar episode 24, where Marco Arment and David Smith share their thoughts on whether to attend the conference; and Thoroughly Considered 12, about not just WWDC but the value of attending or exhibiting at conferences as a company.

Sound Off and AlterConf

When I blogged about Brent Simmons’s list of women bloggers, I said that we need more diversity in what we read. That will naturally lead to more diversity in other areas, such as conferences.

But not everyone can easily get access to conferences or take advantage of everything they offer. Sound Off is trying to help with that, through efforts like funding for sign language interpreters, child care, and scholarships. Gus Mueller, also with a quote from Brent, says it well:

“Sound Off has some very worthy, and very realistic goals. And as Brent Simmons says, people of the future will look back and judge us for how well or poorly we expanded our tribe.”

And Ashley Nelson-Hornstein adds this:

“Sharing the sentiment that it’s important to create more opportunities for marginalized people in technology is great. Retweeting the voices of the marginalized to amplify them to your networks is fantastic. But the best way to drive change is with dollars and cents.”

I’m a little late linking to Sound Off, but it’s a good cause that needs our support. You can learn more here.

Release Notes 2015

The best blog posts we write are as much for ourselves as for our readers. That’s one of the traits that makes personal blogging so special.

I published my essay last week from the hotel at Release Notes, right before heading downstairs as the conference got underway. Almost no one had read it yet, but the essay still helped me because it made me even more aware of when I accidentally monopolized a conversation. I did end up talking a lot about my new project while at Release Notes, but I also caught myself many times, making sure to turn the conversation around and listen.

And there was plenty to hear at Release Notes. I got something out of every talk and from many conversations with developers who I had never met before. Congratulations to Charles and Joe for putting together a great conference.

Highlights for me included Myke Hurley’s opening talk on Wednesday night about quitting his job and the first full-time year of Relay FM; Rob Rhyne’s fantastic whirlwind tour of accounting, which scared me a little because of everything I still don’t know about being independent; Jean MacDonald’s talk about podcast sponsorships and the fundraiser for App Camp for Girls; Pieter Omvlee’s advice on aiming to build a bigger business; and David Smith’s talk, which I’ll get to later. I could pull out lessons from each of these talks as well as the others from Rachel Andrew, Georgia Dow, John Saddington, Chris Liscio, Daniel Pasco, and Jim Dalrymple.

Thursday night was the “dine around”, a clever idea to split attendees into groups of about a dozen people, each meeting for dinner at an assigned restaurant. It’s easy to fall into cliques at conferences. This was a great solution to mixing it up, all but guaranteeing that you’ll meet someone new.

It’s worth saying something about the venue. Converted from the Indianapolis Union Station, which was built in 1853, the conference center and hotel served as a beautiful backdrop to the conference. My hotel room was even made from an old train car. As we left the conference center late Friday afternoon, I took another look up at the vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows, making a mental note to read more about the history of the original train station.

On Saturday I checked out of the hotel, walked up to Bee Coffee Roasters (where I ran into a couple other attendees who were also still processing everything we learned at the conference), and then took an Uber to the airport. My driver was a musician; he had toured the country playing with bands, was working on a soundtrack which he played on CD for me, and had such an optimistic take on the world that it struck me in obvious contrast to the negativity we see online sometimes.

And he said something that stayed with me even longer while I waited at airport security and for my flight to board. He said that everything he had wanted to do in life, he had done. Sure, he’d love to tour with another band, he’d love to find success with his new music. But already he was content. He laughed when he said he could die happy, and he was not old.

David Smith mentioned in his talk at Release Notes that he used to want to do everything. Have a best selling app, win a design award, be admired by his peers, and other goals that many of us share. It was only when he set out with a more singular focus — judging every decision by whether it moved his business forward so he could continue to support his family — that all the other secondary goals started taking care of themselves as well. It was a great talk and something I needed to hear.

As a community we’re ambitious. We want to build something amazing and we want to make a positive impact on the world. But this week was also a reminder to me that it’s okay to be more focused, to tackle niche vertical apps, or make small boring decisions that will help our business. It’s okay, even as we want to do more, to slow down and be proud and content with the path that we’re on.

Conferences in cool places

Last week my Instagram timeline included a bunch of really beautiful photos from folks in Ireland for Úll. Jason Snell writes about the conference:

“The location, in Killarney in county Kerry, is spectacular. It’s rainy and windy and the different patterns on the surface of the lake right outside the hotel are beautiful to watch.”

There were a lot of neat ideas for Úll that I bet made it special, including a kids track and the train ride. I’m a sucker for anything train related, for example the train car hotel rooms in the upcoming Release Notes conference venue.

These special touches transform a conference into half work, half vacation. Every technical thing you might want to learn is on the internet these days anyway. Conferences should be about inspiration as much as anything else, and a great setting is part of that.

Here’s Jason again, writing about the national park location for Yosemite CocoaConf:

“As I just experienced at Úll in Ireland, these sorts of conferences are truly special. It’s a chance for a small group of people who share an interest in Apple and related technologies to spend a few days together. They’re always a blast, but add in the unique setting of Yosemite National Park and this one promises to be that much more amazing.”

I’m sorry to miss that one. For the last several years I’ve mostly fallen into a pattern of traveling to attend just one non-WWDC conference a year. This year I’ll be speaking at CocoaConf in Austin and hope to make Release Notes as well. Tickets for CocoaConf are on sale now, and Release Notes tickets should be announced soon.

CocoaConf and Core Intuition 83

We just posted episode 83 of Core Intuition, with a preview of my trip up to Dallas for CocoaConf this weekend, and a discussion of Safari extensions, WWDC videos, Michael Jurewitz’s blog posts, his return to Apple, and more.

It looks like you can still attend CocoaConf if you grab a ticket today before they close registration. Check out the web site for details on the Dallas event.

SXSW 2012 and Twitter API innovation

The short version of this post is: “please vote for my SXSW talk”:http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/11867, which I’ve proposed with David Barnard of App Cubby. If selected, we’ll be talking about how to innovate on top of Twitter, using examples from the history of Twitter apps in the App Store including Tweet Marker, Tweet Library, and David’s upcoming app Tweet Speaker. Equal parts business and APIs, I hope it’ll capture how much we can still do if we think beyond the Twitter basics.

The longer story is that SXSW is always changing. I started this blog on the first day of SXSW 2002, when the conference was just a few rooms in a single hallway, and I’ve seen it grow to more than a few venues spread across downtown Austin and even farther out. That’s okay. There’s a place for small events, as SXSW once was, and there’s a place for the event where the blogging, design, social network, and software folks can meet in one place.

Take the Mac and iOS development world. This year alone has NSConference, Voices That Matter, 360|iDev, 360|MacDev, CocoaConf, MacTech, Çingleton, and SecondConf. These attract developers from all over the country, but most people can attend one at most, and many events are regional conferences at heart.

We need WWDC as the single place. No matter how great the smaller conferences are, WWDC is the big one, the one you don’t miss. And so it is with SXSW.

I believe SXSW 2012 is going to be fascinating to watch. A couple years past when everyone already thought it was too big, 2012 could see real turnover. Some previous attendees will skip it, and many new people will speak for the first time. I want to see that conference, to find out what its themes and focus will be, and hopefully “our talk”:http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/11867 can be part of it.

360iDev Austin (in tweets)

On “episode 35 of Core Intuition”:http://www.coreint.org/2010/11/episode-35-wrap-it-up-in-cocoa/ I mentioned attending the 360iDev conference, and we brought it up again on the next show while plugging 360MacDev. I had a great time at the conference and hope to attend another one in the future.

The best part was meeting all the iPhone developers who I’ve never crossed paths with, and catching up with others I’d only met briefly before. iPhone developers come from a mix of places, from old Mac developers to web developers to traditional mobile or game developers. While there’s a risk that having so many small regional conferences will fragment the community, this concentrated group of mostly iPhone-only developers made for a great few days of sessions and discussion.

And my main concern leading into the conference — that the hotel location would make it difficult for people to head downtown or see other parts of Austin — turned out to be mostly a non-issue. I had a great time hanging out with everyone in the evening, and hope some of you will be back for SXSW.

I used Tweet Library to “collect about 120 tweets from attendees”:http://www.tweetlibrary.com/manton/360idevaustin at the conference: reaction to sessions, quotes, speaker slide URLs, dinner out, and more. Capturing an event like this is why I built the app. What you had for dinner isn’t interesting by itself, but in context it is powerful because it tells a story.

I didn’t go to C4

C4 was last weekend and looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately I was about travelled-out this year with RailsConf and WWDC. Perhaps next time.

Daniel Jalkut was the first I saw with nice write-up. He provides “a speed-through of sessions”:http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/213/c4-abridged and closes with what is probably the biggest draw for attendees:

“As inspiring and as much fun as the scheduled speakers were, the unstructured social time both between sessions and in the evenings were just as much fun, and probably just as educational.”

I subscribe to a couple dozen Mac developer blogs, and keeping an eye on Flickr and Technorati tags for C4 is another great way to see what developers are up to. Mr. Rentzsch himself has a “set of links here”:http://rentzsch.com/c4/zeroLinkage, and Mike Zornek just posted some “short videos of the room”:http://clickablebliss.com/blog/2006/10/25/c4_photos_and_movies/ that give another view of the show.

When I go back through my older Mac programming posts, I’m reminded that I don’t really blog about Mac development as much as I used to. Perhaps that is because there are so many other good Mac guys blogging now.

Mac OS X Conference blogs

It’s fun watching the posts come in to the Mac OS X Conference “Trackback” feed. Hopefully more people will hook into it before the conference is over. It’s a good way to learn about other blogs that share a common interest.

MacCentral has a short write-up on James Duncan Davidson’s Cocoa talk at the OS X conference. One quote that stood out for me: “Project Builder was the first IDE I actually liked”. That’s funny — the more I use Project Builder, the less I like it.

There’s also some coverage at the O’Reilly site.