RWDevCon 2018 Post-Mortem

Ray Wenderlich

We recently finished our fourth annual hands-on tutorial conference: RWDevCon 2018.

During our three days together, we had three open bars, four workshops, five inspiration talks, 18 hands-on tutorials and 275 attendees from 18 countries across the world!

The conference was a massive success, with an average 4.59 overall rating, and everyone seemed to love the combination of hands-on tutorials, as well as this year’s theme of “connection,” resulting in a fun and friendly atmosphere.

Now that Vicki and I are back home, we thought you might like 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

Before the conference began, we hosted four optional pre-conference workshops, covering ARKit, Machine Learning, Practical Instruments, and Swift Collection Protocols.

The next day, Vicki and I kicked things off with the four main ideas of the conference:

  • hands-on experience
  • team coordination
  • inspiration
  • friendship
  • (+ a secret 5th item only veterans know!)

Then Tammy Coron gave an inspirational keynote that argued that, as humans, we have a deep need for social interaction (introvert or not) – so making the effort to connect on a deep level with others is truly worth it.

After that, we started the main event of the conference: The 18 hands-on tutorials, covering topics such as TDD, Advanced Unidirectional Architecture, the Art of the Chart, Xcode Tips & Tricks, Server Side Swift with Kitura, and more. The key difference this year was that, instead of just watching the instructor talk, you coded along with him or her!

Since this conference is so coding-heavy, it can get intense. So in the afternoons, we took a break for something we call inspiration talks, short 18-minute non-technical talks, designed to give attendees some battle-won advice or new ideas. We had some excellent talks this year, including Daniel Steinberg’s “Game of Life,” which featured magic tricks and a slide deck in human form! :]

The theme of this year’s conference was connection, so we ran a series of events this year called RWConnect, designed to help attendees connect with each other and foster a friendly and inclusive atmosphere. For example, we ran RWConnect Open Spaces, a series of small group discussions with fellow attendees on topics like “Mental Fitness,” “Internet of Things” and “How much architecture is too much?”

RWConnect events also included a a Design Lab, a Women’s Lunch, a Hackathon, a Board Game Zone and much more.

And let’s not forget the epic RWConnect Trivia Night, where James Dempsey broke everyone into small groups and asked us geeky iOS & Apple Trivia questions, in categories such as “Will It Compile?” or “Emoji-idioms”, or “Who Said It: Jobs, Cook, or Ive?”

At the end of the conference, we revealed our special surprise: a pre-release copy of our upcoming books Swift Data Structures & Algorithms and Design Patterns by Tutorials!

Note: In case you’re wondering, the two new books will be available (and on sale!) on our store next week, along with one last surprise we have up our sleeves. :]

I was so happy to see everyone learning a lot and having such a great time. Thank you to the amazing RWDevCon community for helping create such a wonderful weekend!

What Went Well

From the evaluation forms and people I spoke to, people seemed to really love the conference – I think we’ve created something truly special. Here are a few comments from attendees:

“RWDevCon is such a great conference and the things you learn here are priceless. I will be back every year for sure.”

“This year reconfirmed to me that RWDevCon is by far the most useful conference to strengthen my knowledge in iOS and Swift.”

“Overall, really great fun conference. The emphasis on practical hands on material is invaluable. You also did an amazing job helping people to connect. Trivia night was awesome. Major Props overall!”

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.

“I loved the variety of topics and the hands-on step through of the demos.”

“Packed knowledge, quick and fast. No scratching at the surface!”

“The tutorial sessions were all fantastic.”

“I liked the hands-on focus, and the quality and consistency of the talks.”

If you learn best by doing, this is the conference for you.

2) Friendly and Inclusive 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 are the amazing people you meet. It was wonderful seeing speakers and attendees making new friends!

“I’ve heard other conferences be referred to as friendly and welcoming, but RWDevCon is the first one I’ve been to that’s 100% lived up to it. Everyone I’ve met has been open and sincere. Thanks so much!”

“I love how real everyone is. I felt very welcome and accepted.”

“The friendliest conference I’ve ever been to.”

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! And don’t forget to keep practicing Ray’s Excellent Hi-Q method :]

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 two rounds of practice for every tutorial.

We even created a 500+ page conference materials book!

“Very organized and clear. Materials were awesome.”

“I loved all the provided materials!”

“I really appreciated the attention to detail, and the effort put into all of the talks.”

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 – and it takes all of us working together to do it!

What Could Be Improved

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

1) Slow down and/or more time

Let me tell you – giving live tutorials is tough! Finding the right balance between going into enough depth, while not going too fast for folks, is something we keep working on each year.

This year, we added more time for each tutorial and replaced the challenge with another demo, and that seemed to be well received. However, many people still reported some tutorials went a bit too fast to follow along with, and recommended slowing down and adding some more time.

We have some ideas on how to improve that next year, including having a room host watching students and stopping the speaker if things go too fast, and possibly adding more time for tutorials.

2) No auto-complete

Another very common piece of feedback is that we should disable autocomplete when giving our demos, as sometimes autocomplete covers what the instructor is typing and is a little distracting.

We’ll look into disabling that next year. As a side benefit, it should make the demos go at a bit slower of a pace! :]

3) One more day?

There seems to be quite a bit of interest in an additional day of the conference. I must admit this is tempting, as this would make it easier to have room to add more time for tutorials, and avoid overlapping events (like Open Spaces occurring at the same time as the Hackathon).

Logistics-wise, we’re still trying to figure out if or how to make this happen. Additional days bring additional costs, and we’re also trying to figure out how we can bring more Android content into the mix, since our site is now about Android development too!

Where to Go From Here?

Want to know when the next RWDevCon will be?

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.

If you didn’t get to attend this year, don’t worry – we’ll be releasing the RWDevCon 2018 Vault soon! This is a massive vault of tutorial videos from the conference: 24+ hours of video tutorials, plus the 500+ page conference book.

Thanks again for everyone who helped make the fourth annual RWDevCon a success – speakers, attendees, sponsors and more!

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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