WWDC 2015 Recap

2015/6/24

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WWDC was an incredible week jam-packed with sessions, labs and after-hours activities. It's going to take me a while to process everything. Here are my notes in more or less chronological order. This post is pretty light on technical stuff. Stay tuned for another post about iOS 9. My WWDC Photos and WWDC Hike Photos and General San Francisco Photos.

Sunday

I arrived in San Francisco on Sunday morning. After checking in to my hotel, the first mission of the day was to pick up my conference badge. I walked down 4th avenue and soon arrived at Moscone West. It was something special to see the giant Apple logo on the building and the banners across the street. I had arrived. I entered through the main entrance and was pleasantly greeted by someone sporting an apple t-shirt. A few minutes later and a quick scan of my Apple Watch, I was in possession of my badge and a very nice WWDC 15 jacket. That's something I didn't expect. A nice easter egg is that the size tag inside the jacket is written in swift code.

Next on the itinerary was to meet up with the WWDC Hike group and walk from Land's End to Fisherman's Wharf. I arrived on what I thought was the trail but wasn't able to find anyone. I decided to go it alone after waiting for a while, figuring that the group would either catch up to me or I'd find them along the way.

My route along the coast wound through beaches and neighbourhoods. At one point I started walking with a nice couple from Ohio and we stayed together until we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a foggy afternoon on the bridge, so I could only appreciate the deck and everything below. I walked out onto Torpedo Wharf and perused the gift shop.

The rest of the hike through Crissy Field passing by Fort Mason and on to the Wharf was pleasant. The Wharf is extremely touristy as one would expect. I went to the post-hike meeting spot In and Out Burger and ordered a classic. While I was waiting in line, the hike group arrived. I ate my hamburger and took a cab back to the hotel for a short break before meeting up with Mike for some great sushi.

Monday and the Keynote

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After sushi I walked back to Moscone. It was only 9pm and the line had already begun to form. I decided it would be more useful to get some sleep. I still wanted a decent seat in Presidio for the Keynote in the morning. After waking up at 2, 4 and again at 5am I decided it would be better to head down and get in line. When I arrived at Moscone the line was only down one side of the building and ended at the corner. I joined the line with the other people I was walking with. Then I noticed something going on farther down the block to my right. After seeing a couple hundred people advancing on our position I realized what happened. Crowd control had been compressing the line from single file down to four abreast and we had all been fortunate to sneak into a big break in the line. Mike arrived shortly after that surprised but pleased to see that we had a great spot. I was happy that he was carrying coffee, since the Nespresso machine in my hotel room made some pretty rough stuff. X(

We waited outside until about eight before they let us in the building. We took the escalators up to the second and third floors. The details are a bit fuzzy here but we basically waited more. Sometimes sitting on the floor and sometimes standing. Everyone was friendly and chatty. This is where we met https://twitter.com/weiran, our new pal from Nottingham, England.

Shortly before 10 we were let into Presidio to take our seats. The room is gigantic but we had a pretty good view of the stage, about half way back and to the left of centre. I won't go into details of the Keynote presentation, you can just watch it below. The intro with Bill Hayder was really amusing. I really like this Apple.

When the keynote was over, it was time for a lunch break and to stretch legs. We headed down to the first floor to pick up a boxed lunch and talk about all we had just seen.

After lunch it was back upstairs for the State of the Platform presentation. The SotP is less about marketing and more about the technical changes coming to Mac OS X El Capitan, iOS9 and watchOS 2. All really exciting things for me!

Just before the SotP presentation began I overheard someone introducing a "Nat" a few seats away from me and sure enough after a few exchanges on twitter I learned that I was sitting near @uipoptart. We had been recently introduced to each other via twitter because of our shared love for Siberian Huskies. It was quite interesting that with 5,000 people on site that we would run into each other repeatedly throughout the week.

The yearly Apple Design Awards were next up. Of course I wanted to stick around to be inspired by these great apps and developer stories. It's really worth watching the presentation especially around 35 minutes in. The Workflow accessibility demo is just incredible. Mushometer doesn't (yet) support Accessibility because I figured that there were other issues that would make Mushing difficult enough with limited vision, but I'm really starting to reconsider my decision. For sure my next project will support all the accessibility features in iOS. I was sitting next to the Triada Studio Games team when they were called up on stage for Shadowmatic. They were pretty excited!

Tuesday

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The first day of real WWDC Sessions and Labs. We arrived at Moscone very early again. Each day of WWDC people line up to score one of the 160 daily UI Design Lab appointments. It is your one change to meet with an Apple designer and get feedback about the design or functionality of your app. This is one reason to come to WWDC. You can't get this type of access to Apple people anywhere else. We were able to score an early appointment. It was great to do that on the first day since every day after that there was a long line of people waiting to get in and head straight over to the queue for an appointment. Even on Friday, the last day of WWDC there was still a pretty long line in the morning.

The rest of Tuesday consisted of more lines. Lines to meet with Apple engineers in the Labs or lines to get good seats in sessions. In some ways going to sessions is a waste of time since they are all posted online shortly after (or during) WWDC. However, having the opportunity to soak in so many sessions without having to try and fit it into work and dog schedules was invaluable to me. Also watching so many presenters in the sessions was a really great learning experience in itself. I think I took away some great lessons for when I need to give a talk. I went to the WatchKit lab and while none of the engineers I talked to could solve my problem, I did end up sulking off into a corner and figuring out what wasn't working on my own. Go me!

One of the first things I did when I knew I had secured a ticket in the WWDC lottery was to buy a ticket to The Talk Show Live. I've been reading John Gruber's Daring Fireball blog for almost ten years now. If you want smart analysis of what Apple and it's competitors are doing, you can't find a better source. The Talk Show, John's weekly podcast, is equally entertaining and informative. I'm sure I'm better at what I do every day because of the work that John does.

Weezer was playing on the sound system when I entered the bar, so I knew it would be a good night. The guest was not announced before hand. We were all blown away when John announced his guest with: "I shit you not, Phil Schiller". Sure enough, after a long dramatic pause, Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, came out on stage for an unprecedented one-on-one interview. Things like this just don't happen with Apple executives. If you want to understand what a big deal this was Marco Arment's post really nails it.

One of the highest-ranking executives of the world’s highest-profile company being subjected to questions, unprepared and unedited, in front of a live audience full of recording devices, is rarely worth the PR risk...

It was a truly incredible evening. I also had the opportunity to thank John. I also saw the entire Accidental Tech Podcast crew and @hotdogsladies, but was too shy to really say anything. I hope next time I'll have something intelligent to say. Also, a shout out to @djflore whom I met at the event.

Wednesday

I spent Wednesday in sessions since I didn't have many code questions for the labs.

The lunch time session was about Audacious Thinking and was given by Goldie Blocks creator Debra Sterling. It was a pretty interesting talk about the the origins of Goldieblox and all that was involved in getting the product in stores. I remember the original youtube video and Beastie Boys Brouhaha that followed. Oops! But as they say, no publicity is bad publicity.

I also attended a gathering for Apps in China. It was interesting to get some perspective from native speakers. Most developers are targeting the US and European markets but a huge App Store downloads come from China and Japan, and it's only going to continue to rise as iPhone sales in China continue to grow.

After that I jogged over to the App Camp for Girls Fundraiser Party where I again ran into Nat and meet a bunch of cool people. App Camp for Girls mission is to help educational programs for girls interested in software development. We need more groups like this. There's an indiegogo campaign on right now for App Camp for Girls 3.0 and there's still time to show your support. Here in Montreal we have Pixelles.

Thursday's lunch time session was given by Disney animator Floyd Norman. He spoke about how technology has been helping Disney push the limits of what is possible with animation, from the first multi-plane camera to today's computer generated imagery. It was really cool to see him do some live drawing and also to learn about some of the magic behind the films. It is really incredible to think about how much work went into those early Disney films like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.

Thursday

Thursday evening was The Bash at the Yerba Buena Gardens, with musical performance by Walk the Moon. I'd never heard of them though I did recognize the single. They played and we mostly ignored them while we all talked about technical stuff. The food, doled out in small stations around the gardens, was pretty great and of course who would say no to an open bar for 5,000 people? It was a fun evening where I met a bunch more cool people and ran into Nat again! The festivities promptly ended at 9pm. I headed back to the hotel to hack around a bit more with Xcode 7 and WatchKit.

Friday

Friday was a half day for me since I was flying down to San Diego in the afternoon. I considered waiting in line for a design appointment for Mushometer. In the end I decided that breakfast was more interesting. I attended a few more sessions, had a quick boxed lunch and headed back to check out of my hotel.

My week at WWDC was pretty amazing and I wouldn't hesitate to go back given the chance. It was a great opportunity to have a look behind the curtain just a little bit. If you thought I was an insufferable Apple fanatic before, I'll probably be worse from here on out.




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