Friday, March 6, 2009

Geeking Out (including my Trip to the Mothership)

The last couple of weeks have been extraordinarily good, and I wanted to share a few things. Maybe if I write these things down, I will come down a bit and can get some sleep. Some of the news is making me feel like a kid at Christmas.

The first piece of news I want to share (which you may have heard if you follow me on Twitter is that by the end of our month, Beginning iPhone Development will be for sale in 50 of the Apple Stores. They're going to start with the 50 highest-grossing stores, primarily the larger stores in more urban areas. If it sells well, it's possible that they will expand it out to the rest of the stores.

I have never personally seen a programing book in an Apple Store. I don't know whether they've carried one before, but I've never see one on the shelves, so this is unexpected and pretty darn cool. Unfortunately, I don't live near a "Top 50" Apple Store, so if anyone sees my book on the shelves at an Apple Store, please snap a picture for me!

On a related note, our book is already available in Apple's Company Store, which is the store at Apple Headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop (the coolest address in techdom, by the way). I wanted to get a picture of the book on the shelves there, but they were sold out the day I went. In a way, that fact is almost better than a picture. I did get a picture of Dave's Learn C on the Mac bok on the shelves, but Learn Objective-C was also sold out.

Speaking of pictures, here's one that was sent to Dave Mark by someone inside Apple. If I recall the story correctly (I may not), it was taken by one of the evangelists who work at Apple. He saw one of the engineers walking down the hall with the book and asked if he could take a picture of it, then sent that picture to Dave. As someone who has owned and programmed Apple computers continuously since 1980, and as someone who's earliest realistic ambition (starting in about sixth grade) was to work as a programmer at Apple, this picture just sent me over the moon:

For me to know that there are people inside Apple who know my name and who feel that something I've written (or co-written, at least) is worth underlining, highlighting, and sticking post-it notes in is just... I can't even explain it. It makes me giddy.

I went to San Jose for the 360 iDev Conference (a subject for a different blog posting) this past week. Since we were only a few miles from Cupertino, Scott Knaster very kindly invited me to two meals away from the conference. The first was an informal meal with a group of his friends comprised of people who have some connection with Apple - mostly employees and ex-employees, who meet once a month. Apparently, Woz attends sometime but, alas, not that week. It was still a pretty neat experience for me. Scott's just a great guy, and it was a very fun evening hanging out with him and his cool Apple friends.

Two days later, Scott offered to drive me over to Apple headquarters so I could geek out and buy stuff at Apple's Company Store, y'know, do the whole "tourist thing". That, alone, would have been cool, but he made the trip so much better by calling a friend who still works at Apple and had him hook us up with visitor's passes so we could eat at the cafeteria and walk around the campus. I got sushi (several types of nigiri), meaning I got to have one of my favorite foods at a place that's seemed almost mythical to me for several years. My "Geek Mecca", in a way.

For lunch, we were accompanied by three of Scott's friends who still work there, all great guys, and I got to "talk shop" a little at the Mothership while we ate.

Interestingly enough, a few years ago, Scott took me on a similar lunch-time tour of Google, and it was an interesting contrast to see them both in the same way. Both places are known for being very selective and for hiring really bright people, but there is a completely different vibe to the two campuses. Once I got over a little of my awe at being at Apple Headquarters, I found the environment of the Apple campus to be extraordinarily comfortable and surprisingly normal. Google, on the other hand, always felt a little disjointed and tense. Not in a bad way - it wasn't that people there were unfriendly, just they they all seemed a bit distracted and not completely in the moment. I know it's not exactly a scientific survey, but there was definitely a different feel to the two places, and yes, I know that's probably just my own personal biases talking.

After we were done, we headed over to Company Store, but with visitor's passes, we were able to cut across campus. On the walk across, someone came over to say "Hi" to Scott. I thought I knew who it was, but didn't want to embarrass myself, so had to wait for introductions to be sure, but sure enough, it was Chris Espinosa. Now, if you've been involved with the Mac development community in any way, I don't have to tell you who he is, but for those of you who don't know, I'll explain. Chris's bio on Twitter says, simply, "#8".

That number that makes up his bio is his employee number at Apple. Chris is like the Cal Ripken of Apple employees, having been there since the very early days continuously. I'm not sure of his exact title now, but he's head of the Xcode team, or perhaps the whole Dev Tools team. If you are an iPhone coder or use Xcode regularly, you should absolutely follow Chris on Twitter, if for nothing else than to read his Xcode Tips of the Day (hash tag: #XCTODT #XCTOTD). Today's tip of the day pointed to an invaluable Tech Note.

Anyway, I had never met Chris, but I knew his name and have known him by reputation for years. He's somebody I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and about whom I've only heard great things. And when I was introduced to him, he recognized my name and mentioned the book. Chris Espinosa knew who I was and knew the book I had co-written. For me, that was heady. We only talked with Chris for a couple of minutes, but that exchange was the highlight of my trip and really meant a lot to me (thanks, Scott!).

After that, we went over to the store and I got my "I Visited the Mothership" t-shirt, along with a couple of books, an Apple pen and something else I can't remember, and went back to the conference in a bit of a haze.

It's nice to be reminded once in a while that I'm not as cynical or jaded as I think I am. It's nice to get news that makes you feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, and it seems like this past week has been a lot of that.


John Keyes said...

Jeff -- Congratulations to you and Dave on how well the book is doing. I just received my copy yesterday (via Amazon), and I have to say that (having made it through the first several chapters), I love it. I've read a lot of what's out there (in book and web form), and I really like the approach you've taken. I feel like the concepts (like, for example, how IB and my classes connect to each other) are finally becoming clear to me.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Thanks, John. It's nice to hear that. It has been quite a ride so far. The book has far surpassed my expectations in terms of sales (I was concerned we might not earn out our advance, to be honest - programming books don't usually sell like this).

Fortunately, thanks to good timing, a popular subject matter, and a lot of good reviews early on, we're getting opportunities I never expected we'd have when we started writing the book.

Ken said...

Congrats to you. I just bought a macbook pro a month ago with the intent of learning iPhone app development. I can't even remember how I subscribed to your blog, but it turns out I bought your book too! Glad to hear I picked such a highly esteemed book :)