RWDevCon 2017 Post-Mortem

Ray Wenderlich

We recently finished our third annual hands-on tutorial conference: RWDevCon 2017.

During our three days together, we had 2 workshops, 3 open bars, 6 inspiration talks, 24 hands-on tutorials, and 275 attendees from 19 countries across the world!

The conference was a massive success, with an average 4.63 overall rating, and everyone seemed to love the both the unique hands-on aspect of the tutorials as well as the feeling of friendship and community throughout the conference.

Now that Vicki and I are back home, we thought you might like to see to see some pictures and feedback from the attendees, so that’s what this post is all about.

Then we’ll get into the post-mortem, with three things that went well, and three things that we can improve upon in the future. Let’s dive in!

Conference Highlights

This year, for the first time ever, we offered two optional pre-conference workshops:

  1. Advanced App Architecture: This advanced workshop by Josh Berlin and René Cacheaux covered how to create a well designed boundary between subsystems, dependency injection, use case driven development, and more to result in a clean architecture for your apps.
  2. Advanced Apple Debugging and Reverse Engineering: This “mind-blowing” workshop by Derek Selander covered how to wield the power of LLDB and other debugging tools and dig deep into code.

RWDevCon 2017 Workshops

After the workshops, we had the opening reception for the conference. This was a chance for everyone to get to know each other, and enjoy some passed appetizers, beer, and mojitos! :]

RWDevCon 2017 Opening Reception

The next morning, Marin Todorov kicked off the conference with his inspiring speech titled Reflect & Refactor. He challenged us all to take stock of our lives at this moment, and ask ourselves “what do you need right now?”

RWDevCon 2017 Keynote

After that we started the main event of the conference: the 24 hands-on tutorials. The key difference is that instead of just watching the instructor talk, you code along with him or her!

RWDevCon 2017 Tutorials

Some of our most popular tutorials this year included Swift Playgrounds in Depth, Server Side Swift, Advanced Auto Layout, Machine Learning, iOS Design Patterns, and Swift Memory Management.

After two hard day’s work on tutorials, we switched over to inspiration talks. These are short, 18-minute non-technical talks designed to give you a new ideas and some battle-won advice, so you can go home energized and excited.

RWDevCon 2017 Inspiration Talks

Don’t worry – aside from all of these tutorials and inspiration talks, we had plenty of time for fun too. We played board games at lunch, and during our Friday night party we had the first ever James Dempsey Game Show!

RWDevCon 2017 James Dempsey Game Show

During the James Dempsey Game Show, contestants answered Apple and iOS trivia questions. Some were technical – like “Will it Compile?” – and some are non-technical, like “Who Said It – Jobs, Cook, or Ives?”

The last day of the conference was on April 1, so of course we couldn’t miss the chance to play an April Fool’s joke on everyone: the “release” of Programmer Dancing by Tutorials!

Then we had the real special surprise of the conference: all attendees got a free print copy of our new book RxSwift: Reactive Programming with Swift, and an advance copy of our upcoming book Advanced LLDB Debugging & Reverse Engineering (that isn’t even available on our site yet)!

RWDevCon 2017 Surprise Books

Overall, the team and I had so much fun learning, getting inspired, and meeting friends both new and old. We can’t wait for next year!

What Went Well

From the evaluation forms and people I spoke to, people seemed to really love the conference and look forward to attending next year.

Here are a few comments from attendees:

“For the 3rd straight year you both, and your incredible team, have put together the best technical conference of the year! Thank you very much! I will be seeing you next year!”

“This was my very first dev conference and I have to say, I came with high really high expectations but the actual event was event more amazing than I could ever have imagined!”

“I truly love my first (of many) RWDevCons!”

Here are three things I think went particularly well about the conference.

1) Hands-On Tutorials

RWDevCon is the only conference that focuses 100% on hands-on tutorials, and people seemed to love this hands-on approach.

“The demos and labs are invaluable! Excellent practice. Would come back in the future, and would recommend to a friend (and have already).”

“I’ve been to many conferences, and RWDevCon is so much unlike all of them. It was awesome getting hands-on experience with interesting concepts. Very well run.”

“Most informative conference I’ve been to. I attended some seriously great tutorials/workshops with some amazing instructors.”

If you are the type of person who learns best by doing, this is the conference for you.

2) Friendly and Supportive Community

Another thing I heard time and time again from attendees was how open, inclusive, and friendly everyone was. We make an effort to encourage this, since the best thing about conferences (other than what you learn) are the amazing people you meet. It was wonderful seeing speakers and attendees making new friends!

RWDevCon 2017 Attendees

“I felt more at ease meeting everyone at this conference vs other tech conferences. The RWDevCon crew and attendees have made this conference a psychological safe environment for me.”

“It’s definitely not natural for me to go up to strangers and talk to them and I felt like the conference environment made it a lot easier for me to go out of my comfort zone.”

“I love meeting friends and this is the first conference that offered a very open and friendly environment where not all devs were just staring at their computers/phones and open to meet & talk.”

I was so happy to see folks going out of their way to make folks feel welcome, because as an introvert myself, I know how hard it can be to go up and say hi to people, or to even know what to say sometimes.

A huge thanks to everyone who helped all the introverts like me – I feel so lucky to be a part of such an amazing community! :]

3) Team Coordination

At RWDevCon, we carefully coordinated every detail as a team: we chose the topics as a team based on an attendee vote, we tech edited each other’s materials, and we went through 2 round of practice for every tutorial.

We even created a 450+ page conference book!

RWDevCon 2017 Conference Book

Our goal is to make sure every tutorial at the conference is up to the high quality standards that folks know and love from our site.

“The organization, practice, and polish really show and make a difference.”

“Well organized! Pre work pays off!! Lots of real world examples and use cases.”

“Professional materials! Love the hands on demos!”

What Could Be Improved

As with anything, there are always some things you can improve. Here are the top 3 suggestions:

1) Less Tutorials, More Time

The most common piece of feedback I got from attendees is that they wished we would have a few less tutorials, but more time on each tutorial so we could go a little bit deeper.

RWDevCon 2017 Tutorials
So next year, we’re considering going down from 24 tutorials to 18 tutorials, but with more depth on each tutorial.

2) Rethink Labs

After each tutorial this year, we offered a lab where the speaker would go to another room to answer questions or talk about their subject.

A lot of attendees liked this idea, but didn’t like having to miss a tutorial to go to the labs. So next year, we’d like to find a way to do this (or something similar, like guided breakfast or lunch discussions) that doesn’t cause people to have to miss tutorial time.

3) More Pacing Tweaks

Pacing is one of the biggest challenges with hands-on tutorials, as some people are more advanced than others, some people are faster typers than others, etc. Getting it “just right” is quite difficult!

RWDevCon 2017 Registration

Although I think we made some improvements this year, I think we can still do better here. A lot of attendees had some good ideas that we intend to investigate to improve further in this area.

Where To Go From Here?

For everyone asking – yes, we are planning on having a RWDevCon 2018 next year!

The conference has sold out for three years in a row now, so you won’t want to miss your chance at getting a ticket.

We will email everyone who is on our conference newsletter first before we announce the event publicly. If you’d like to be notified if/when tickets become available, sign up here.

The RWDevCon 2017 Vault

The RWDevCon 2017 Vault

If you didn’t get to attend, definitely check out our massive vault of tutorial videos from the conference – 24+ hours of video tutorials, plus a 450+ page conference book.

Thanks again for everyone who helped make the third annual RWDevCon a success!

Ray Wenderlich

Ray is part of a great team - the raywenderlich.com team, a group of over 100 developers and editors from across the world. He and the rest of the team are 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.

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