Posted by iPhonein
WWDC 2011 has come and gone. A couple of months later I’m asking myself if it was worth it and if I should try and go again next year. New Zealand is fairly far away from San Francisco and the financial cost is considerable. Plus, June is typically a busy month for most of our customers and being away for a whole week translates into a lot of catching up upon returning.
How much does it cost?
How much did it cost, really? Roughly here’s a breakdown:
- WWDC ticket NZD2,000.
- Flights (economy) NZD1,800.
- Accommodation (reasonably close) 7 nights ~ NZD1,100.
- Food & Drink ~ NZD500
- Coffee ~ NZD40
- AT&T SIM card ~NZD40
- Transportation (taxi, BART, MUNI)~ NZD100
- Other ~ NZD200.
Total is just under NZD6,000. So saving for WWDC would cost roughly NZD100 / week.
Luckily, Apple provides breakfast, lunch and snacks Monday to Friday so the food costs can drop considerably. Also, there are so many parties during the week one can easily do without “dinner”. There is also a beer bash on Thursday so there’s really no need to get dinner nor to buy drinks that day.
How much time do I need?
The conference starts on Monday and ends at around 4pm on Friday. Many companies organise events on Saturday and Sunday before the conference. Some are worth going to while other are just blatant sales / poaching events.
I flew on Saturday but in hindsight I’d fly on Friday. I’d use the extra day to do some more sightseeing and getting over jet lag. There are plenty of attendees who arrive early, especially those who come from Europe so being a day or two early is a great opportunity to make some new friends. Another reason to be as early as possible is that getting some rest before Monday morning makes queueing for the Keynote at 5 or 6am more bearable.
What did I get in return?
This is where it gets hard. How does one quantify the benefits of attending a conference? Here’s my attempt:
Some of the sessions are just amazing. They can be filled with “Duh!” moments, and, honestly, no matter how hard I keep telling myself that I will finish watching all the videos from the previous year’s WWDC, that never really happens. It’s so much easier to delude myself that a quick search on stackoverflow or the official forum holds the answer to my question. Do I think about the debt I had already introduced by that point in my project? I’m not going to answer this question now…
Booking one-on-one sessions with Apple engineers is simply… priceless. The UX and App Review discussions can be incredibly useful. Really!
In 2011 there were 5,200 attendees and 1,100 Apple engineers. What this means is that when I needed to talk to engineers from a certain team I got that opportunity in a matter of minutes. This is what the Labs are for. There are lots of labs too: App Frameworks, Core OS, Developer Tools, Graphics, Media and Games, Internet & Web.
Early access to new technologies and sample code. This can be very useful if the million-dollar-idea arises during one of the talks. I was not lucky enough to get such an idea but I still feel like having the extra time to learn about new stuff is pretty awesome.
I met some amazing Kiwi developers. I had an incredible time with them: we went out together, we helped each other with session tips, and swapped “notes” and comments on various talks.
Luckily I bumped into many developers that have built products I use and appreciate every day. It’s great to be able to say “Thanks!” in person.
Had I been looking for a job I could’ve found ten. Companies invite developers to apply for jobs and give away swag from before the conference starts until the last minute of the last session. I remember queueing for the Keynote and seeing vans from a number of companies offering coffee, snacks, T-shirts, magazines and more. It makes sense too: we were sitting ducks for advertisers. Where else would they find 5,000 iOS & Mac developers sitting in one place?!
I saw Steve Jobs live on stage. Yes, it sounds silly and it gets labeled in many ways but take my word for it: the man can deliver some amazing presentations!
I visited the “mothership”. Cupertino is the default location in my Simulator’s Maps app. It felt funny to be there when, while coding, I kind of hated that place for getting in my way.
I could go on but I just realised the things above are probably enough.
So, was it worth it?
For me it was. I spent a lot of time with UX people, I got plenty of technical questions answered by Apple engineers, I met amazing people and I had fun. Maybe more importantly I returned home knowing that I am in the right business. Motivation was never a problem but it sure feels great to get some confirmation…