We're less than a week out from WWDC. The conference really snuck up on me this year. I never even got around to updating my WWDC First Timer's Guide. Re-reading the guide from last year, I don't think I would've changed much anyway. If you're coming to WWDC for the first time this year, last year's post is probably worth a read, as are several other similar posts. For a somewhat less serious take, Mark Dalrymple's 2013 first timer's guide is a fun read.
For the first time in a long time, I really don't have a firm idea what to expect this year. The past several years, I've had a pretty solid notion about what was coming. I usually didn't know the fine details of what was coming, but I usually had a solid idea about the broad strokes. This year, I have some guesses and some wishes, but nothing I'm super confident about. I don't have any real idea about what we'll see in iOS 8 or in Mac OS X Eureka¹
While I don't know what is coming, I do know how many of the Apple engineers feel about what's coming out next week, and they seem to be pretty excited about it all this year. That's enough to make me excited and confident that it's going to be a good year for developers.
It's been a strange WWDC lead up this year for me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this will be the first year since before the iPhone came out that I don't have a ticket. I'm not upset about that - I actually didn't even put my name into the lottery - but it does change the nature of my anticipation somewhat. I will, of course, be in San Francisco for the week. Even without a ticket, it's still my favorite week of the year.
I am a little saddened that the new, larger MartianCraft will have such little representation inside the walls of Moscone West, though. We have 48 people between our employees and full-time contractors and the vast majority of our work is iOS and Mac software development of one form or another. Around twenty of our people attempted to get tickets, and only one person got one. From what I've seen from friends and acquaintances in the community, that ratio is not out of line with what others experienced. The breaking of my seven-year streak pales in comparison with some other people who didn't get tickets this year. In fact, most people I personally know in the community are going without tickets.
I've noodled a bit in the past about how Apple might "fix" WWDC. My general opposition to WWDC becoming a mega-conference like JavaOne remains unchanged. But… I can't help feeling that the need for Apple to do something becomes more imperative every year. As a matter of fact, I think we're past the point where that something should already have been done. Apple needs to accept that a single 5200 person conference and a few scattered tech talks every year or three just isn't meeting the needs of the community. A lottery makes it as fair as such a thing can be, but it's addressing a symptom, not the actual problem.
While the WWDC sessions and labs are awesome, the WWDC moments that have stuck with me have been the chance meetings. It's been the opportunity to meet people who created something I use or to talk with people who have done things I admire. It's been the chance to sit down in a seat next to somebody I didn't even know I wanted to know.
It's the moments that have made me feel like I belong that stick with me and make me want to keep being part of all this. That's what WWDC has always been to me: the chance to connect and reconnect with the people in our community. Some of that has always happened outside Moscone West in the surrounding restaurants, bars, hotels, and even on the streets of San Francisco. Most it, however, used to happen inside the conference center. Even a lot of what happened in the surrounding areas happened because of connections originally made inside.
But that's no longer the case. It no longer can be the case as long as the conference stays the same size and the community grows.
The number of people who can attend WWDC has remained constant for over a decade, but the number of people coming into town for WWDC has risen steadily since 2008. We've now reached a point where the importance of the actual conference has been eclipsed by what's happening in the surrounding areas. WWDC sets the time for when we all come into town, but it has already stopped being the center of the universe for us that week.
That's not a good thing for Apple or for us. Apple should be at the center of the universe for its third party developers. Session videos and documentation become available online. Keynotes are streamed. You don't need to be in San Francisco to take advantage of any of those things.
But having so many of us in one city at the same time for a week is still important. Personal connections matter. Sharing food and drink and war stories helps create and maintain a sense of community and makes us feel like we belong to something. It allows our increasingly larger industry to keep some of the character that made it so special when it was small.
Hopefully, the fine folks at Apple realize that WWDC is not really sessions, labs, and boxed lunches.
WWDC is people. And because of that, I can't wait for next week.
P.S. We're doing MartianCraft shirts again this year, with pickup at the conference available as long as inventory hold out.
1 - I honestly have no idea what city they're going to pick for the next version of Mac OS X. I don't like the sound of "Mac OS X 10.10", so I randomly picked a city name from a Wikipedia list. If it actually turns out to be "Eureka"… well… in that case, let's just say I should've bought a lottery ticket instead of writing this post.