I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Replacing WWDC

Every year, Apple tries to address the excessive demand for WWDC in new ways.

They already make the WWDC videos available promptly after the conference to all registered developers — and every year, they come out faster. They already periodically send the small Developer Evangelism team around the world doing small “Tech Talks” (free, one-day mini-WWDCs, effectively), and they give attendance priority to people who haven’t attended WWDC.

It hasn’t helped.

Developers usually suggest expanding the conference or having more conferences throughout the year, but both of those have big problems. Jeff LaMarche explains why and proposes a sensible expansion idea, but I don’t think Apple would do it, and it would probably only increase the number of available tickets by two or three times at most — the additional scale may ruin the conference, and when you’re already selling out in less than a minute, it’s not going to make a huge difference to availability.

Daniel Jalkut came up with the creative proposal of Apple ending WWDC entirely, then addressing our demands by significantly expanding the online developer resources and documentation. This sounds plausible on paper, but would crush the spirit of our community. Apple should certainly expand the developer resources, but WWDC provides a lot that online resources can’t.

WWDC has an energy. It’s a huge rally to juice developers’ confidence and enthusiasm for the platform. Every year, I’ve been filled with an insatiable desire to just make something the whole time, and that energy gives me a boost for months afterward.

The reason we all want to go so badly is because it’s great.

When you go, you’ve allocated that week to learning this stuff. That’s your only job. You leave most of your workplace and family obligations behind for a week so you can spend all day in sessions, meeting great friends and colleagues in the industry, and immersing yourself in the technology, community, and culture.

Some of the academic and technical benefits can be had outside of that environment, but watching the videos alone at home doesn’t bring the spirit of actually being there. And since watching those videos at home is never going to be your all-day-every-day-for-a-week job, how likely are you to actually watch many of them?1

And while the usual community has been disrupted and we’re likely to see continued growth of the smaller, independent conferences, WWDC is still going to be the big one: the one that most of us try to attend every year, the one that matters most, the one with the best access to the most people (Apple or otherwise), and the one that Apple kicks off with an enthusiastic keynote that excites us with new OSes, new features, new APIs, and potential new markets for our apps.

No matter what Apple does to address the extreme demand for WWDC, that demand will always be there as long as so many people want to develop apps for Apple platforms, and no amount of videos or documentation can replace the real thing.

  1. Personally, I always miss a few sessions that I tell myself I’ll watch on video when they come out. I almost never have. The videos serve as a reference when I look something up, but it’s just never “the right time” for me to sit down and watch a session video just to learn about something cool that I don’t necessarily need right now.

    I’ve asked other developers, and this seems to be the case for most of them. ↩︎