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AltConf 2015 Highlights

Check out the highlights of AltConf 2015 – an iOS developer conference across the street from WWDC!

Update August 25, 2015: Added links to the actual talks – special thanks to Arwa Jumkawala for providing the links!

Every year, thousands of developers descend upon the Bay Area for WWDC, but there is another draw too — AltConf. Since you need luck on your side to score a ticket to WWDC, AltConf has become a popular alternative gathering.

AltConf offers something for those who couldn’t get in to WWDC, or just wanted an event that is a bit less official. It’s also a great opportunity hear from some of the best and brightest from the iOS community. Best of all, AltConf is free!

This year, AltConf took place at AMC Metreon, just on the other side of street from Moscone West. It used three theatres: two were dedicated to talks and the third was for televising talks from different conferences, including RWDevCon!

According to the organizers, about 1,000 people attended, many of whom wore WWDC badges while walking around and listening to talks. But the coolest thing was that even with so many attendees, you could always find a seat. :]

Around 30 members of the raywenderlich.com team, including me, attended AltConf this year, and we all had a blast.

In this article, I’ll share my take about how the conference went, along with recaps of the raywenderlich.com team’s favorite talks. Let’s dive in!

“I still think it is cooler to hang around with indie devs and meet everyone from the community. That is the reason why I choose AltConf and didn’t even participate in the Apple’s lottery.” – Marin Todorov

Apple Streaming

This year’s conference started with an unfortunate dose of controversy: Apple decided to prevent any streaming of WWDC content. AltConf quickly posted a press release to explain the situation.

Almost immediately, discontentment began to manifest around the web, as you can see in this article from Mac Rumors. One day later Apple rolled back and allowed the Keynote and State of the Union to be streamed. The community responded positively!

How myself and the raywenderlich.com team feel about AltConf!

How myself and the raywenderlich.com team feel about AltConf!

Design is Not for Designers, by Joe Cieplinski

This one was quite a nice surprise! Joe demonstrated why designers should design for the average user, and not to impress their friends and competition. He asserted that design should be straightforward and not full of gimmicks.

Joe showed some examples of good, clean interfaces and compared them with the kinds of designer-driven designs that serve up confusion and frustration to users. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Mac Pro website). Among the team here, this talk was one of the favorites.

“Joe is a designer who learned to code, which is nice since I’m a developer too, and he can “talk design” to us nerds.” – Greg Heo


Objective-C++: What could possibly go wrong? by Peter Steinberger

While everyone is hopping aboard the Swift train, Peter presented on how he leverages C++ 11 in his company. He shared some interesting examples of how C++ has progressed in terms of syntax and features from one version to another. Also, he showed some code snippets from his own PSPDFKit and explained how it’s helped him.

This talk will definitely appeal if you are curious on how you can use C++ in your own apps.


Overloading Comparison, by Ray Wenderlich

Just two days before this talk, I was talking about how the imposter syndrome affects some of us (me included!) in our industry, in one way or another.

As Ray explained, every single one of us has our own strengths and weakness, more than that, we all have different goals in life. So, it becomes impossible to compare people with different ambitions. We should focus on what’s important: improving ourselves and never stopping learning.

By the way, did you know that Ray once won a beach beauty contest? :]


250 Days Shipping with Swift and VIPER, by Brice Pollock

The first time I saw Viper was a while ago in an objc.io issue.

My feelings, even after attending this talk, remain the same. It looks interesting, but the architecture’s complexity means the burden shifts to the amount of classes and different components/entities you have. However, I’m intrigued enough that I will have to find time to try it myself so that I have a better understanding of what it entails.

Despite my own personal take on the subject, Brice’s talk was presented very well.

Choose Your Character, by Brianna Wu


The Gamergate controversy affected nearly everyone who develops games, either directly or indirectly. Brianna started her talk by explaining how it began and expanded on how deeply it affected dozens of women in the gaming industry.

Although I had read some bits about the subject, I was totally oblivious to how deeply these women were attacked — and still are on a daily basis.

Sadly, Brianna only had 30 minutes for her talk, so she had to rush it, though I don’t think anyone in the audience would have minded listening her full testimony.

A Tale of Two Swifts, by Ben

You might know Ben by his online alter ego: AirSpeed Velocity.

This talk was changed at the last minute due to the release of Swift 2.0. Ben talked about how much you can achieve with abstraction and simpler components, and engineer powerful but less complex systems by using some of the latest features in Swift.

As you might expect from Ben, he presented some great material. By the way, if you have an opportunity to see one of his talks live, you should definitely go for it. Besides being a great speaker, Ben is a really nice person to talk with!

Beyond The Grid — Creating Unique, High Performance Interfaces with UICollectionView, by Nathan Eror

This talk could have been titled: “How little you know about UICollectionViews.”

If I had seen the talk in reverse, I would have never said that it was built using a UICollectionView. Nathan demonstrated the creation of a graph with different nodes and how to achieve it with a custom UICollectionViewFlow.

To me, the only downside of this talk was the amount of code and the focus required to follow along. But, to be fair, I don’t have a good alternative for this sort of problem. How do you give a technical presentation on an advanced programming concepts without using a lot of code?


The good part about seeing it from the comfort of your couch versus seeing it live is that you can simply pause and rewind if you feel your eyes glaze over. :]

Power Up Your Animations! by Marin Todorov


Marin Todorov, the author of iOS Animations by Tutorials, is a rare kind of speaker who is eloquent, always has well-written slides or demos, and keeps a good balance between diving into live coding and showing its outcome. This talk was no exception.

Not only did he show how easy it is to create animations with his new library EasyAnimation, but he took it a step further to show how you can leverage those animations and create a delightful user experience.

Kudos, Marin!

Correct Behavior Through Type Safety, by Justin Spahr-Summers

Justin is a personal favourite, but of course, I am biased because he is a ReactiveCocoa core team member!

The talk explains how a powerful type system enforces correctness in a system. It means the compiler serves as a safety net instead of your users. Something really interesting came out: unit tests, although highly recommended, can’t replace a strong type system when it comes to catching bugs.

Justin finalized the talk by briefly explaining how Reactive Cocoa 3.0 takes of advantage of it. He also gave his opinion on the Swift 2.0 error handling model, and how it differs from the one used in Reactive Cocoa.

A Eulogy for Objective-C, by Aaron Hillegass

I had mixed feelings early on. Aaron joked that he didn’t see Swift as an improvement to Objective-C. But in my opinion, he redeemed himself by showing his vast knowledge of how Objective-C became what is today.

I also loved the bits of trivia he shared with the audience. This talk is a must watch!


Planetary Engineering, by Mike Lee

Mike Lee took us on an amazing journey. He started from where we are today and continue onto where the human race is heading. And also to what degree we, as engineers, are responsible for what lays ahead. He painted the picture that because we possess creative minds, we should use them for the greater good.

Though it was by no means a technical talk, it was one of the most interesting and well-presented talks at AltConf. If you enjoy TED talks, then this also a must watch.

Functional Reactive Awesomeness With Swift, by Ash Furrow

Ash is one of the most famous speakers in the iOS community, so my expectations were high. He nailed it by showing functional concepts in a easy-to-follow manner, and he also nailed the part about why we should care.

He showed how he uses a functional reactive approach to create simpler flows inside an app, which makes maintenance and extension easier in the long term. As he spoke, I also got to learn about RxSwift. Since I am used to ReactiveCocoa, I typically don’t bother looking for similar libs, but I have to say that RxSwift is appealing.


Overall Thoughts

Overall, the conference was great and a nice mix of technical, design, business, and inspiration talks.

There were some minor nuisances that caused some complaints — the biggest one being lack of Wi-Fi. Yes, there was no Wi-Fi at a developers’ conference! I can sort of understand that, because it’s tricky to find a suitable venue close to Moscone, but still, access to Internet is a no brainer.

The second shortfall was the lack of proper coffee. I think I am just spoiled, because UIKonf had a very good coffee on the conference premises, and we were in the Bay Area after all.

Connectivity and coffee issues aside, it’s very difficult — if not impossible — to find a cast of so many good speakers in one conference.

All this begs the question: is it worth the time and money to go San Francisco if you don’t get a WWDC ticket, just to attend AltConf and socialize? In my opinion and the collective opinion of the raywenderlich.com team, yes, it is!

The raywenderlich.com WWDC 2015 Team Dinner

The raywenderlich.com WWDC 2015 Team Dinner

Did you attend? What did you think about the talks? Which was your favorite and who do you hope to see there next year? Chime in below!

Image credits: Greg Heo and Thomas von Hassel.


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