Saturday, June 19, 2010

WWDC 2010 Post Mortem

WWDC. The Dubdub. Christmas in June.

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know Apple's annual developer conference is my absolute favorite week of the year, and it just seems to get better every year. For the days leading up to leaving for San Francisco, I'm like a kid on Christmas eve. I can't sleep from excitement and the time passes way too slowly.

Every year, there are less "must-see" technical sessions for me, personally. That was especially true this year because something like 60% of the attendees were first timers who haven't shipped their first app yet and the session schedule was designed accordingly, with quite a few beginner and intermediate level sessions. But WWDC is so much more than the sessions (and those come out on video anyway). Your first year or two attending, it's all about the sessions, but by this point for me, it's about the sessions that focus on new technologies, labs and, most importantly, a chance to catch up with people I only see once or twice a year. Well, it wasn't just new technology sessions. For obvious reasons, I also attended all of the OpenGL ES sessions this year, and they were great. They were much deeper technically than last year, and were much more focused on the OpenGL ES 2.0 programmable pipeline.

Even thought it was the same number of attendees as the last two years (5,200 attendees plus the various engineers and other staff), this year felt way busier than past years. Lines to get into sessions were often very long, and many sessions filled up. Some even filled up an overflow room. Although we've seen long lines for sessions going back to the introduction of the iPhone, it's never been like this year. Last year, for example, for the State of the Union addresses, I meandered into the overflow room ten minutes late and found a seat in one of several empty rows. This year, I sat on the floor of the overflow room for the overflow rooms. I guess that's good - people were serious about learning this year.

One negative aspect of the massive influx of newbs this year was a certain loss of etiquette. I've always been super impressed by the way my fellow WWDC geeks treat the staff and the facilities. I've never seen garbage left around or more than isolated cases of people being rude to the catering or cleaning staff. This year, unfortunately, that respect was somewhat lacking. During the keynote line, hundreds of people just left their litter laying around on the floor. It was really disgusting and I was embarrassed at that moment to be part of the group. And it didn't end with the keynote line, either, unfortunately. I saw many examples of people not bothering to pick up after themselves, or being rude to the staff. Even a few instance of people being rude to Apple engineers who were trying to help them with problems. I almost feel like I need to add a few items to my annual first timer's guide with things I had assumed any decent person would already know, like throw out your garbage, treat people with respect, and be nice to people who are trying to help you.

Let's be better next year, okay? Almost everybody I met or talked to seemed like super people, so I'm hoping this was just a one-time anomaly. I really, really would like it to be an isolated occurrence. Enough said on that topic.

Although the new iPhone 4 was the belle of the keynote ball, the real buzz at WWDC this year, as you probably know by now, was Xcode 4. For the first time in history, Apple has released the session videos to all registered developers for free, so if you haven't done so yet, you should go watch the Developer Tools State of the Union and the handful of Xcode 4 sessions. Apple's Developer Tools teams have been working really hard for quite a long time on this upcoming release, and even in the early preview state it's in, I already wish I could use it full-time. Fortunately, the Xcode team foresaw this and they made the project file format 100% backwards and forwards compatible between Xcode 3 and Xcode 4, so I can work in Xcode 4 then switch to Xcode 3 to do my ad hoc and release builds.

Honestly, one of my favorite parts of this particular WWDC was having the opportunity to buy a few rounds of drinks for some of the engineers who worked on Xcode 4. I'm not sure if those engineers have forgiven me yet, so I'm not going to call them out by name, but it's important to me during WWDC to show my appreciation to as many as I can of the people who make all the cool stuff I work with everyday. Steve Jobs gets a lot of credit, and rightly so, but he doesn't do it alone. It was really nice to see him call out some of the people who worked on iPhone 4 and iOS 4 during the keynote, but there are a lot of unsung heroes working at Apple, and most of them don't get a lot of recognition for teh awesome they bring. WWDC is the one week a year where we get to show our appreciation in person.

The User Experience lab appeared to be the biggest hit among the labs this year. Each morning, within minutes of the Moscone West doors opening up, there was a long line extending around the corner waiting for the UX lab to open. People waited in line literally for hours to get a UX review. I guess word got out this year about how good those reviews were. I know I saw several people raving about them last year. In general, I think people have really started to grok the fact that the labs represent an incredible opportunity to get questions answered by the people who really know the answers. If you're having a problem or an issue with a certain part of the system, likely you can find someone who actually works on that part of the system to answer your questions.

As for MartianCraft, we gave out all of our away team shirts pretty quickly this year. Sorry to those who wanted one but didn't get one. We way underestimated demand for the shirts and just didn't have enough with us to give them to everyone who wanted one. We'll be better prepared next year, and we're looking into making the shirts available online for anybody who's interested, but that probably won't happen until we've dug ourselves out from the hole that got created as a result of all three of us not working for a week.


Gerard said...

WWDC 2010 was my third time there. I think I actually liked this year the best because I did make use of the labs this year. I've spent a lot of the year building some apps on weekends and at night so things were easier to absorb. I do think things could be improved at WWDC. I don't think it was just the people in attendance. The staff at Moscone keeps trying to squeeze people into every last seat up until nearly the end of a presentation. In particular Marina has a door that opens to the outside sun and they were making it harder to listen to the presenter by opening the door every few minutes to let someone in. I don't like sitting on the floor but if next year someone tries to squeeze me into a seat by disturbing a bunch of people I think I'll kindly just sit on the floor. I went to a total of 4 labs. I agree with you that the labs are very important. The last on Friday I stood around hoping someone would help me and left some time later without anyone having come up to me. Not sure what I should have done but I was tired so left. I liked the UI Design lab a lot since you could register to talk to someone. Time was short but I had a great experience with Apple's staff. If you've got an app you are building they are well worth talking to. As people take more advantage of Apple's excellent engineers I think they'll have to organize things a little better to help as many people as they can. I was also surprised at the amount of trash. I think a few more trash cans near the entrances would serve as a reminder. I was quite happy that it didn't seem we had to wait in lines as long as previous years. I remember sitting on the floor in line quite a few times in previous years waiting to get into a session. This year the wait was short and we got in sooner. Much less stressful. I hope Apple's engineers and the Moscone staff considered us in general a good crowd to deal with.

Ricky said...

Definitely agree with you on the lack of etiquette. Tell me how someone, correction, several people decided to use the Odwalla coolers as a trash bin.

ScottYelich said...

WWDC 2010 was a blast. Jeff -- it was great to (finally) meet you and I really enjoyed the pre-WWDC road-trip and want to thank you, once again, for the effort.

Dave Perry said...

I would have really, really loved to be there! But - the money I saved bought a spanking new core i7 27 inch iMac, with at least $1000 to spare. (Travel from Canada, hotel, meals and admission)

Then Apple gave me the sessions on video anyway.

And last year they brought some of the sessions to Toronto, for free.

Awesome. And thanks Apple!

Bill Clementson said...

Is Xcode 4 available for download anywhere (the iPhone Dev Center only shows Xcode 3.2.3)?

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