Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Was It Worth the Money?

I'm a little late with my wrap-up, but better late than never, right? And before my wife says it, I'll say it—this blog entry may be considered at geek level orange. So if you don't like the typed content, there are links to pictures throughout.

Going to Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) is by no means cheap. It's close to two grand before you add in airfare and a hotel room for six nights. So now that I've attended my first one, the most common question I get is, "Was it worth the money?"

Absolutely! Without a doubt. No question in my mind.

Your mileage may vary, but I got so much out of this trip that I will do it again in a heartbeat. Let me break it down a bit to examine the benefits for me.

Keynote Address: Out of everything at WWDC, this was only marginally better than watching a text feed from my computer at home. Yes, Jobs RDF (reality distortion field) was present, but not very powerful. Maybe because everything announced was already rumored. Maybe because the iPhone product demos went on and on and on and on. They counteracted any excitement that Steve built up.

Sessions: I was pretty lucky and picked many great sessions. Sure I can watch them later on ADC iTunes but the Q & A after each session is missing from those recordings and many of those were golden. Developers—smarter than me—were asking questions that I wish I had the wherewithal to ask at the time. I only felt the need to walk out of one session—and did. Thanks to the MacDevNet podcast that recommended it was okay to do that.

Labs: These were great. Having the ability to monopolize a Core Data engineer and bombard him with questions was invaluable. I only wish that I had been more prepared with questions and could have taken advantage of more labs. Of course, I have plenty of questions now that I didn't ask. Next year I'm taking a few days before WWDC to prep with code samples and questions for these labs.

CocoaHeads: Several top notch Mac developers put on presentations at the SF Apple store. Unfortunately, I arrived way too late to see anything but the top of the screen and the back of the SRO crowd. Another mistake I will not make next time around.

Parties: The parties were good, but not great for networking. Too loud and too crowded to really talk and get to know someone but lots of fun and helped me meet a few people that I only knew via Twitter or email. Apple's Bash was easier because it was outdoors. Still the best conversations happened at the more personal outings at local bars like the Chieftain.

Networking: Outside of the parties is where the majority of the networking happened. It started early on Sunday during registration. I saw a tweet that Fraser Speirs was sitting in the registration hall. Trying to be social, I approached someone that I thought looked like Fraser (I only know him from a tiny Twitter picture) and talked to the wrong person. Of course as I walked away and checked Twitter on my iPhone, Fraser tweets, "Some guy just asked someone two people down from me if he was Fraser Speirs." Nice. I'm outed on Twitter, so I owned up to it publicly and then went back to give Fraser a hard time for letting me walk right by him.

I knew at this point that it was going to be fun coordinating meetings over Twitter. Many of us posted information about what session we were in and where in the room we sat, along with the "shirt of the day" tweets. It's a good thing that Twitter reinforced their servers for the conference (Twitter tends to go down more than Yahoo's stock price) or we would have been lost.

It took every single day that I stayed in San Francisco to meet everyone on my list and I still missed a few. We talked between sessions, ate lunch together, shared code, and opened the door to several opportunities to connect our products. If the only benefit I got out of WWDC was the networking, I would say the trip was worth it.

MacDevNet Roundtable: Scotty held the first Developers Roundtable around an actual table (oval, not round, but that would be picking nits) and I was invited to sit at it. Doing a group podcast with the actual people present is so much nicer than negotiating for your chance to speak on Skype. Have a listen if you haven't already heard it. Besides me, Scotty hosts Dan Wood, John Fox, Daniel Jalkut, and Craig Syverson. Somehow, I even got labeled as the "fanboy" in it.

I did take some pictures with my handy-but-not-good-in-low-light iPhone. Next year I'm taking a real camera and getting better photos. I guess I have a lot of "next year" vows. I hope I remember to read this and do them.