In just six days, I’ll be heading down to San Francisco to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (also known as WWDC). After all of these years, I’ve never been to one of these. I’ve been to more MacWorld Expos then I can count, and even attended 2 or 3 years of MacHack, the annual code-all-night-and-show-off-your-clever-kludge-in-the-morning event in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ve had programmer friends suggest I go to this, but it always seemed to come at a time where I was either on vacation or just returning from/just getting ready to go on vacation. Now, with San Francisco being a lot closer, and my luck this time (or bad luck, depending on how you look at it) of not working, I can finally see what all the fuss is about.
Boy, this year there is a lot of fuss. WWDC is entirely sold out. According to Steve Jobs’ keynote from 2007, there were over 5,000 attendees that year, 159 sessions, 94 hands-on labs and 1,200 Apple engineers on site. Jobs will be doing the keynote again this year, and the schedule for sessions already says there are well over 150 this year, in 3 tracks, iPhone, Mac, and IT. I plan on going to mostly the iPhone and Mac sessions, and there are a couple of key sessions on Wednesday morning regarding User Interfaces on the iPhone that I’m really looking forward to.
Tips from a Past Attendee
I noticed an entry online from someone who had attended last year, and they recommended, among other things:
- Be Prepared
Bring a water bottle. The Odwalla juices on offer are *really* sweet and run out quickly, and there’s no way you are going to stay hydrated from drinking that and coffee/tea all day. There are plenty of water refill stations all over the Moscone.
Bring a jacket/jumper. Unless you come from Norway or Siberia, you’ll probably find the weather in San Francisco really chilly when the wind gets going. Dress in layers. Even if you don’t plan on getting out much, the labs and lunch areas are *really* cold at times too.
Bring extra cash for food…Unless you’re on a tight budget like me, bring extra cash for getting food outside of the Moscone if you want to keep your spirits up throughout the week. All food at the Moscone is cold, including breakfast. Lunch is served in plastic boxes.
- Get to San Francisco early.(He includes some info about jet lag — not a problem for me, thank goodness).If you plan on sightseeing around San Francisco, do it before WWDC instead of after. If you’re a developer, WWDC will give you a huge buzz and you won’t be able to resist quickly flying home after the conference is over to start working on the new stuff you’ve learned.
- Have a blog or website? Put a picture of yourself or your team online.
There are loads of people who would love to talk to you about your product, your blog or your site during WWDC. The first step in making sure that people can even find you during the conference is to make sure they know what you look like in the first place.
- (This one surprised me): Don’t waste time planning your schedule far in advance.
The session and lab time-schedules change during the conference. You may also change your mind about attending certain sessions during the week itself, so don’t waste too much time planning your schedule too far in advance. Just plan a rough guide during the plane and you should be set.
- Partition your laptop hard drive before you leave.
If Apple is going to give out a new developer seed during the conference, you won’t be able to resist installing it on your laptop. I’ve personally heard of two fellow attendees who, in the excitement of it all, installed the developer seed onto their existing Mac OS X installation without first backing up. Ouch. (Good thing this isn’t an issue for me).
- Live close to the Moscone.
Attending technical sessions and labs all day is tiring work. Commuting for a long time after each day at WWDC will quickly sap your energy. Do yourself a favour, and don’t bum off your friend’s apartment on the other side of the city to save a few bucks. Get yourself a room somewhere close to the Moscone and get a lot more energy throughout the conference. (Check. I’ll be staying only about 4 blocks from Moscone this time.)
- Business cards.
Whenever you receive a business card, write a description about the person on the back of the card as soon as possible.
You’ll thank me later when you’re on the plane, sorting through the huge stack of business cards you’ve received, and you’re trying to recall whether “Johnny Foobar” was the guy you met during lunch with an awesome new idea for your app, or the guy that you’re supposed to send a review license to. (I learned this one a long time ago)
- Make use of the labs.
Your mileage may vary with the labs, but personally, i’ve got a huge amount of value out of the labs. Broken code got fixed, new features got implemented *on the spot* and magic developer dust was given out. It’s been awesome. (Again, probably more useful for a coder)
- Talk to everyone around you.
The food at the Moscone may be tragic, but the lunchtime conversations are awesome when you manage to find the right group. If you’re an indie, you know how hard it can be to get a good technical discussion with anyone in real life, so you really owe it to yourself to find a good lunch group. The amount of energy and buzz you get out of it can carry you for a long way throughout the week.
Don’t limit yourself to lunch either. There’s great conversation to be found just standing in line. Just try not to do that at the long queues for the male restroom. (duly noted)
So there you have it. Thanks, Joe.