WWDC: An Indie Developer’s Perspective

Ray Wenderlich
Our WWDC 2012 "uniform"!

Our WWDC 2012 "uniform"!

This is a blog post by site administrator Ray Wenderlich, an independent software developer and gamer.

For an iOS developer from a small town, there’s nothing quite like walking up to a huge building surrounded by thousands of fellow devs from around the world.

“Finally, I’m not the only geek in town!” :]

WWDC is obviously a lot of fun and a great learning experience, but there’s something I get asked all the time: considering Apple is cool enough to release the videos and docs from the conference for free, is it really worth the time and money?

Well, this post is my attempt to answer that question – from an indie developer’s perspective.

I’ll cover the three main benefits of the conference:

  • The Talks.
  • The Labs.
  • The People.

And then I’ll give my opinion on whether these benefits are worth the time, money, and opportunity cost in the end. So read on for my thoughts – and to share yours as well! :]

The Talks

The keynote at WWDC - a must watch!

The keynote at WWDC - a must watch!

The primary activity at WWDC is attending talks – and there are a ton of them. With four different tracks, most of them on interesting subjects, it’s often very difficult (and fun!) to choose which to attend.

I can’t discuss the technical content of the talks due to the NDA, but I can say that as usual they were extremely polished, interesting, and chock full of technical content. Kudos to Apple for doing such a great job on these – I know these take a lot of work to put together.

That said – since Apple is awesome enough to make the session videos available quickly after the conference, I don’t think there’s much advantage to seeing the talks in person.

In fact, I actually prefer watching the videos and reading the docs over attending the talks in person. Here’s why:

  • Speed. When I watch videos, I can choose how fast or slow I watch them. Most of the times I run the videos at 2x or 4x speed, and slow them down or pause them at critical parts that I really want to study. This allows me to get through sessions at a much faster rate, especially since there is a lot of non-critical content in each session that can be zipped through quickly (overviews, summaries, etc).
  • Learning Efficiency. The videos are great because you can try out a talk to see if it’s relevant to you, skip to the next one if not, etc. And you can take learning breaks in-between to try out some of the material yourself, take a look at the sample code, read the docs, etc – which is difficult with the fast paced WWDC session layout.
  • Comfort. Watching the videos is a little more relaxing because you can do it in your favorite chair with plenty of space to spread out, take breaks whenever you want, etc. rather than in somewhat cramped chairs at the conference.

With this combination, I feel that if you were to spend an entire week watching videos, reading docs and sample code, and trying out the material yourself you’d be able go cover a lot more material and more in-depth than you could attending a week of sessions at the conference itself.

The Labs

Many people I met at WWDC said that their favorite part about the conference was the opportunity to ask questions to engineers at the labs, and it helped them a lot with some challenging aspects of the apps they were working on.

I can definitely see the value in this, but it turned out not to be a big deal for me personally. After being an indie developer for three years, I’ve gotten used to having to figure out things for myself and very rarely ask questions via forums, tech support, etc.

If I ever do have a question, it’s a very temporary thing. Even when I have a problem that I wish I could ask someone about, I eventually figure it out. I don’t usually have many “persistent questions” that last for months until I attend WWDC.

I think people who had particular success were those that spent a good amount of time before WWDC preparing questions – maybe even making sample projects demonstrating things and getting advice. If I were to go to WWDC again, I’d probably put aside several days on my schedule to prepare materials for this.

The People

Some great friends from WWDC 2012!

Some great friends from WWDC 2012!

The best reason to attend the conference for me was the people.

As an indie developer living in a very small town, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to interact in person with fellow iOS developers. I have to rely a lot on Twitter, email, Skype, and other online interactions.

These are all great, but sometimes you just can’t beat meeting with someone in person, hanging out, and building friendship. So I really enjoyed the chance to meet up with a lot of my online buddies during the conference.

One night 10 of us from the iOS Tutorial Team met up and chowed down on some great Chinese food at Fang – it was great fun hanging out and chatting about iOS. It was especially nice to meet several of the guys who I hadn’t met in person yet.

The iOS Tutorial Team at WWDC 2012.

The iOS Tutorial Team at WWDC 2012.

I also got to hang out with some old friends like Rod, Brandon, Juraj, Markus, and Charlie as well as meet some great guys I had never met (at least IRL) before like Ricardo, Cory, Anthony, Doug, Barbara, Scott, Jason, Dennis and more. It was a blast hanging out and talking all about iOS, and making some new friends.

My buddy Juraj with his Apple Design Award!

My buddy Juraj with his Apple Design Award!

And speaking of meeting people – WWDC is a huge conference, and meeting up is hard! If you meet someone, it’s very unlikely you’ll see them again. I tried a bunch of ways to meet up with people such as email, Find my Friends, Twitter, and Google Groups, but with such a large conference the most reliable way was plain-old text messaging/phone calls.

I know some people came to San Francisco during the week of the conference just to enjoy these social aspects – I think it’s called “showcializing”. I’m really curious how it went for you guys – please let us know in the comments if this worked out well for you!

Some people I know brought their families along with them – they just had fun around San Franscisco while we were at the conference, and many took a mini-vacation afterwards. Looking back this seems like a really good idea to me, if I attend again I will bring Vicki along :]

Conclusion

Attending WWDC is expensive. It’s about:

  • $1.5K for the conference ticket itself
  • Around $1-3K for the hotel
  • $500 or so for the flight
  • $250+ for food/drinks

So it could easily be $4K spent in total, plus a week of time that you could be spending on other things.

If your company is paying for this, maybe this isn’t a big deal, but as an indie developer or small development shop that’s a big chunk of cash and time that could be spent on other things. And as far as meeting other people goes, there are other opportunities for that.

Personally, I attended WWDC this year because I never had before, because I wanted to get started ASAP on the new book we’re working on (iOS 6 by Tutorials, coming soon!), and because I wanted to hang out with the iOS Tutorial Team and a bunch of my buds.

But from now on? Personally I might just do what I used to do and watch the videos/do self-study due to the cost/benefit evaluation.

Again, kudos to Apple for making such an awesome conference, and even better for making the session videos available to everyone free of cost so we have the option. This is a huge deal for making the platform accessible to everyone, and a big reason why developers are flocking to iOS.

Thoughts or comments? I’d love to hear what other attendees think – please chime in below!


This is a blog post by site administrator Ray Wenderlich, an independent software developer and gamer.

Ray Wenderlich

Ray is an indie software developer currently focusing on iPhone and iPad development, and the administrator of this site. He’s the founder of a small iPhone development studio called Razeware, and is passionate both about making apps and teaching others the techniques to make them.

When Ray’s not programming, he’s probably playing video games, role playing games, or board games.

User Comments

28 Comments

[ 1 , 2 ]
  • I really enjoyed my first WWDC last week, but I doubt I'll return next year. I just think it is not cost effective for my circumstance. The talks were fast and furious, and the queues were sometimes onerous (i.e., the first day). I'll do better with the online versions. My favorite part was meeting the incredible people. Scott (you know who you are) did a great job of organizing lunch Wednesday - who knows what kind of meat that really was.

    I also got a feel for the type of brains and courage it takes to enter into this realm. Here's a story to illustrate my point. I had lunch with a couple of SV types who have a new start-up. They had really great non-tech jobs, but had a unique and potentially lucrative idea for a company that they were talking to each other about for a couple of years. The week prior to WWDC, they both quit their jobs, moved in with their parents or in-laws, and got their wive's to take on full-time jobs. They haven't even incorporated yet! Talk about being "all in!"

    Ed
    ebender001
  • hi Ray,
    I was looking for you comments about wwdc !
    the first reply - from simmsmo- has a great suggestion : meeting the iOS team and people on this forum once a year !
    what you think ?
    Manoel
    manoelaudaz
  • Most of the tutorial team and forum moderators attend different conferences throughout the year. I wasn't able to attend WWDC this year, but will definitely be there next year. I'm thinking about attending either iDev360 or Voices that Matter. Another conference that I'll be attending is in Ohio, Cococaconf. All of these conferences are cheaper than WWDC plus you get to meet a lot of people in the dev community.

    http://360idev.com/
    http://www.voicesthatmatter.com/
    http://cocoaconf.com/
    n_dubbs
  • This was my second WWDC and I think it was better than the first. I also think the value is in the people you meet (met dozens of interesting people) and the labs (got some great advice on OpenGL that re-inspired me about a project) rather than the sessions. If I was independent I would certainly spend my own money on WWDC. Since I'm not I make sure that my employer commits to sending me in plenty of time to be sure I'm going or I get another job! (Hope they're not reading!) I know they get their money's worth by having me back reinvigorated and filled with desire to be up on stage receiving a design award next year.
    I do think this is the best value in iOS education and inspiration around, not to mention that San Francisco is an awesome city especially once you get away from the conference-and-tourist hub that is the Moscone/Union Square area and start exploring. (I found a pirate supply store, http://826valencia.org/store/)
    aeberbach
  • And the developer videos are up already: https://developer.apple.com/videos/wwdc/2012/
    aeberbach
  • Ray,

    Good post. I cd have written this exact thing 2 years ago (and I think I did on some blog). The cost in money and time is tough to justify. When they started releasing the videos (free) the next week (available now) I can get more out of them, in less time, etc.

    Like you, I rarely used the labs there - just once, I think.

    The best part is meeting and hanging w other devs. I've considered "showcializing" but haven't done it yet. 360iDev is a great alternative - you and I met at the Austin one.

    It's a great offering by Apple for those that want/need/justify it and great for those that don't. Especially given the videos and docs available: I was able to review the docs to see what I should update the book with.

    Good stuff. Great site!
    bearc0025
  • tmcnamara
  • Could not agree more. In-fact I learnt more at VTM-iOS - Seattle than my first WWDC (2009) ... Of-course I was 1 year old to iOS in Seattle and total beginner at WWDC.

    WWDC is huge. It lacked the warmth of a small conference where you could interact with the speakers over breakfast or other sessions even.

    Agree to watching sessions at home is a blessing ... it was pretty taxing staying awake at all sessions at the WWDC (had a terrible jet lag :D) ... I could get the knowledge from sessions in a better way if I do it slowly over a long period of time. I would prefer all that info in 15-20 days (2 sessions per day) rather than 5 a day back to back in 5 days.

    Its amazing that Apple has already released the sessions. Any particular session you recommend that you enjoyed?

    There are about 97 tracks and I know most of them will be hard to keep up with but I am gonna watch them anyways :)
    Wish there was some introductory level talks for OpenGL.

    Also, I would like to point out that if you do not buy the conference ticket, you could still hang around in the bars after the WWDC and interact more closely in all those parties. Its fun to meet and talk to people when they are couple of beers down and lot more informal :)
    Dev
  • Great article! I decided not to go to WWDC this year after looking at the costs and benefits since, as an indie developer, I'd be paying my own way. Like you said, the sessions are available online and most of my questions can be answered either on raywenderlich.com or on stackoverflow. But I do understand the importance of socializing and meeting other devs. It's almost worth the price tag just for that!

    What do you think of this idea? Instead of buying a ticket to the conference, just show up in San Francisco during WWDC and try to meet people at after parties and other events. Do you think it would work? Or does too much of the "networking" happen inside the conference?

    Updated:
    I see that @Dev has the same idea. Anyone else tried it?
    dnorcott
  • Hi Ray,

    Great article on your perspective at WWDC. It's helpful to see the total cost of WWDC and the things you learned from it.

    Definitely looking forward to iOS 6 by Tutorials. You guys did a great job with iOS 5. Thanks Ray!

    Jeff
    Jeffamine
  • Hi All,

    How to open wwdc_2012_session_code.dmg file

    thanks
    William.
    William1988
  • William1988 wrote:Hi All,

    How to open wwdc_2012_session_code.dmg file

    thanks
    William.


    If you're on a Mac, all you should need to do is double click it. ;)
    n_dubbs
  • Hi Ray & team,

    I'm new to iOS development, even I have some C++ background but there are a lot on iOS to learn. Fortunately I've found this site and you guys, great info on iOS development, great contribution. I've just started with "The iOS Apprentice", it's very nice and easy to understand. I'll finish it soon, can't wait to go with "iOS 5 by Tutorial" and finally try to put my first iOS App on the App Store.

    Because of the "money", I may not have a chance to attend or enjoy WWDC, but I'll continue my life as Indie developer, thanks a lot for your contribution.

    Regards,
    Ob. :]
    oboberon
[ 1 , 2 ]

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