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Coming Home from WWDC – My Thoughts

WWDC 2013

WWDC 2013

So, WWDC is now over, but it’s content and everything it set in motion is only just getting started.  So, what are my final thoughts?  Would I go again?

Over the last couple of days since the conference I’ve realised that attending the conference is only the start of the list of WWDC and it lives on for a fair few months after.  I’ve been working on a few projects literally to experiment with parts of Objective-C that are new to me, and I’ve started a pair of projects which I have no idea how I will complete (inspiration for them: Moonshot Thinking Video by Google) – one focussed around converting a video stream to a graphical form (lots of core algebra is involved here – I’m really learning it’s easier to keep doing some active Maths now and then instead of just forgetting it since it took a little while to get back up to speed).

A big part of WWDC is the technical stuff that happens both outside and after the event.  For example, in the Keynote, there was brief talk of a new feature in iOS 7 for Enterprise – Per-App VPN – meaning you can connect to a VPN if and only if the user is using your app.  Apart from this and one other brief mention in another presentation, there was no information on it.  Since this is an area that could be really useful to my apps, I have been chasing information on the feature, and the developer community has been incredibly helpful through WWDC channels.  From the Apple Developer Forums through to comments on the videos of the sessions (they record all of the sessions for us to watch after WWDC) the (very) few of us that are interested in this have naturally grouped together to pool resources through the Apple communities, which would never have happened otherwise.  In other words, WWDC is somewhere where you chose to network with interesting and like-minded people who you are likely to stay in contact with.

So, would I go again?  Definitely.  From having access to the latest information regarding iOS and OS X to been able to get questions answered immediately by the people who actually wrote the software – it’s an invaluable experience.  And as I say it opens a lot of doors in terms of information after the event and new acquaintances.

WWDC – Technical Sessions

Xcode

Xcode

The reason most people go to WWDC is for the technical sessions – as a developer it is invaluable been able to learn from the people that made both the developer tools and the API’s that millions of people use daily.

Again, because of NDA, I can’t go into details about the sessions, but I can talk about what I got out of them.

Excluding the session on Tuesday night that I talked about before, and the WWDC Bash on Thursday night, there are four solid days of sessions and labs, taking part Tuesday to Thursday.

The sessions are largely continuations from previous years – they will either continue on from their previous series (sometimes dating back 5+ years) on an API (of course, the past videos are all online) or start from scratch (if the API is new, or occasionally just because they think more people should use it).  They run in any of the numerous massive rooms in the Moscone center, and sessions are usually run by the head developer of a module.  Often they teach you by showing bad code practise and how it affects the user experience (or backend) and then show you coding techniques or just design techniques to improve the UI or program efficiency.  Because of the nature of the presenters, they tend to spray information like a fire hose sprays water, but they are good presenters with a good sense of humour, and what with collaborative note taking it’s not too hard to follow (and remember) what they say.

When I started learning Objective-C, I didn’t know programming theory (i.e. I knew very few data structures, and I didn’t know complexity theory and how to program efficiently).  This meant that, like many self-taught programmers, I didn’t learn the best habits.  I used WWDC this year as an opportunity to learn how to apply what I learnt in TPOP to Objective-C, as well as to get up-to-date on the latest design principles, code styles and Xcode versions (which is constantly evolving to include new time/code saving features).

With iOS 7, 1,500 new API’s were introduced.  No-one is expected to have used even a fraction of the preexisting ones, but this update you an idea of the vastness of Objective-C for iOS.  I took it upon myself to get to grips with customisation of UITableView, as well as two other API’s new in iOS 7, both of which are going to have a significant effect on modern iOS apps.

Thank you to the Computer Science Department at the University of York for helping me attend the conference – I learnt a colossal amount from it.

Travelling to WWDC (San Francisco) – My Thoughts

wwdc13-icon

First, let me introduce myself.  I’m Sam, and I’m going to be blogging from WWDC over the coming week.  I’m a first year Computer Science student at the University of York.  In my spare time I write iOS apps, usually where I feel I can make a positive impact on the world wide community.  My main suite of apps, the Branon Anonymous Browsers, have just passed been used 10,000,000 times, and have been downloaded over 250,000 times.  I built this suite to free the internet to millions of people worldwide who are live in countries where internet access has been restricted.  Along with other things, I’ve also made a couple of simple but successful games.

For the last 23 years, Apple have organised and run the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). For one week, Apple development basically closes down and the entire engineering team moves to San Francisco.  On the Monday, Apple host a keynote, where new products are announced, and then follow it up with further information on these products and software during the afternoon.  For the rest of the week, engineers are made available to help you make better software / hardware.

As an Apple Developer, this is something I’ve always wanted to go to – partly when Steve Jobs was still here, so I could see one of his presentations, but now more so because of the opportunity to further my knowledge in Objective-C, new frameworks and new mobile technologies from a week of lectures, seminars and one-on-one session with Apple engineers.

So, as you could imagine, when in late April I received an email from Apple inviting me to purchase a ticket for WWDC the next day, and I realised I had no commitments during that time, I was pretty happy to say the least.  I immediately went to see my supervisor (Simon O’Keefe) to ask him about the possibility of attending after exams, and the possibility of my department supporting such a trip.  After a couple of hours, I got the OK, and it turned into a waiting game for 6PM the next day.  Bearing in mind that the previous year, when Apple gave no pre-warning to tickets going on sale, tickets sold out in 2 hours, I knew they’d go quickly.

Unfortunately, I was in a lecture from 5:15 until 6:15.  Not to be deterred (it was been recorded anyway, so I could catch up later in the evening), I started pressing refresh on the WWDC page from about 5:55.  At 6PM on the dot, tickets became available and I started going through the checkout process.  I got right up to ‘Confirm’ button, before I was told tickets were unavailable – after less than two minutes!  I felt awful – my opportunity to fulfill a dream had been stomped on.  Luckily, things changed.

Branon Pro for Mac Desktop sells very well.  Which has led me to be fairly high up the App Store rankings.  The next morning, I got a phone call from Apple Developer Connection, who had been contacting what they called important developers, for whom it was important were able to attend.  The long and the short of it is that I was offered a ticket though a separate part of the Apple Website.

Now I am flying to San Francisco to get there a couple of days before the start.  The excitement is incredible – first, because of the opportunity, but also to literally be in the first group of people to see what Apple have got in store for us to develop with/on in the future.  I’ve now got to decide whether I am going to queue the night before to get near in the front in the presentation hall, or if I’m going to get sleep (to prepare for the week’s lectures after Monday).