WWDC Survival Tips For Noobs

Whoa! After a week of world-changing events of WWDC 2014, I’m running on pure excitement here that feels like enough fuel to last me over a year with no sleep, lol. Anyway, while I’m still running off the excitement and energy of this incredible and unbelievable experience, I’d like to add additional tips for WWDC Noobs (which I was this year). This is an addition to the tips I learned from WWDC Experts right before I attended.

Sherlocked

As soon as Apple started announcing new features and functionality for OSX Yosemite and iOS, people started tweeting a list of services that just got “sherlocked”:

Although I have never heard of the term “sherlocked”, it quickly became apparent what it means in this context. The Urban Dictionary definition puts it very well:

Sherlocked: to have developed a product and just started shipping it, only to have Apple come along and provide exactly the same functionality in a system update. It happened to Karelia Software twice. Once with Sherlock and again with iWeb.

Since everyone was throwing this word around, I finally got the courage to ask a senior iOS engineer for the story behind the term by Friday. He pointed to this Wikipedia article about “Watson”, a search engine for the Mac that later became completely irrelevant when Apple released their own native tool with the same functionality called “Sherlock”.

Extra credit: Apparently Watson was the name of Sherlock Holmes’ assistant and friend.

Breakfast

After the very first day of WWDC, I came in around 8:30am and headed straight for the line for the first talk of the day. However, on Thursday, I wanted to attend the UX Lab (to get feedback from an Apple designer on my personal apps), so I was first in line for that at 6am. Once I quickly signed up for a UX Lab Session when the doors opened at 8:00am, I headed to get breakfast and wait until the 8:30am stand-in-line time.

I discovered that there were a bunch of people who were getting breakfast and sitting in the cafeteria-style tables. I joined a few people and started chatting. It was definitely a nice and relaxing atmosphere to meet people in as opposed to the usual crazy lines and parties during the week. I came back at the same time (8:00am) on Friday and had a similar experience again. So if possible, try to get there early and hang out with the WWDC attendees for breakfast.

BYO Water / Food

While there are plenty of unhealthy sugary drinks around, it is hard to get a decent amount of water at WWDC unless you bring your own water bottle. There are water-coolers stationed throughout the conference, with very tiny dixie cups to drink from. So you will get pretty dehydrated if you don’t bring your own water bottle!

The other issue is the food. The lunches were ok on taste and health. However, breakfast and snacks include lots of sugary and unhealthy items – cookies, chips, scones, chocolate croissants, bagels, etc. If you’re trying to stay at least somewhat healthy and not starve, bring breakfast and a few healthy snacks with you.

How To Make Friends And Influence People

I kept bringing my laptop with me, but on most days, I ended up using it as a very heavy and expensive charging device for my phone! But seriously, your phone will die fast. If you’re one of the people (like my co-worker @louielouie) who brings and shares one of those external charging devices like this one, you will quickly make friends!

Lunch Sessions

Most days, there are Lunch session, during which a very inspiring person tells you about their life and apps they’re making. These sessions will not be video-taped, so definitely make sure to attend!

Lunch is provided as you go in, so start lining up early to get a good seat. I definitely regret missing the Thursday lunch session with a Lucas Film executive who worked on Star Wars. The other two lunch sessions I attended were unforgettable.

Your Rockstars

Going to WWDC and the events afterwards meant I got to spot the rock stars of our industry – people I’ve been following on Twitter whose opinion and code I respect. Seriously, it was celebrity spotting!

During the night of the Apple Bash – when Bastille was playing – I had the option of instead getting drinks with the rockstars of iOS. I chose to get drinks at the cost of actually missing Bastille, but I honestly have no regrets. Know your celebrities and take advantage of this unique opportunity to meet them and get to know them.

It’s basically this commercial:

Seats

I personally love to sit in the front (I’m a good student, lol), and just want to say that there are pretty much always seats in the front row during the sessions (except for the keynote, of course). So even if you’re in queue 5, just head to the front row, and chances are, there will be a seat that is actually available.

Labs, Labs, Labs!

Not having a question to ask definitely makes me feel intimidated to go to the labs. And I did have one question, so I tried out the labs and was definitely impressed. I knew I had to come up with more questions, which is not that hard if you think about it. First, I chose the labs I wanted to go to – the Swift and Autolayout lab. Then I came up with some simple questions.

For the Swift lab, I played around with creating a TableView in Swift while in line for the UX Lab at 6am one day. I had a question on how to embed a view into my storyboard. What started as a simple question, turned into a conversation where I learned a lot more than I would have thought.

A similar thing happened in the Autolayout lab. I wanted an Apple Engineer walk me through an Autolayout example to learn tricks I could use. I thought back to my most painful time using Autolayout, which involved a simple login screen on a scroll view. It took the engineer over 40 minutes to figure it out, which was entertaining for me to watch to be honest (I’ve spent over a day on the same problem and ended up settling on a solution that worked, but was clearly wrong). The things I learned in that session alone must have been worth $1,500.

I cannot say enough about what I also learned at the UX Lab and the Bluetooth lab (where I got to talk to the guy who wrote the CoreBluetooth framework). It’s tempting to go to all the session, but remember that sessions will be video-taped, so you can watch them later. To really get your ticket’s worth, go to as many labs as possible.

Are You A Developer?

WWDC stands for World Wide Developer Conference. It is safe to assume that everyone is a developer. Sure, there are exceptions – I’ve met a guy who was a product manager and others said they’ve met women who were designers. However, just because someone doesn’t “look” like a developer (a white guy with glasses), doesn’t mean they aren’t.

Asking “are you a developer” to people who look different and then acting surprised by them saying “yes” is plainly rude. Just assume everyone is a developer and go from there.

I want to include this point because of some of the experience I and other women I’ve met had. I only had one guy ask me “are you a developer?” – he then proceeded to take a photo of me so he can show his daughters that there are women developers out there (I honestly believe he didn’t think there were any women developers).

It was definitely weird. Another woman I talked to had an even worse story. She got in line for the WWDC keynote very early in the morning. The guy next to her looked skeptically at her and asked “Are you a developer?”. She said she was, at which point he said something like “you must be one of those designers who just works on Storyboards only”. She proceeded to say again that she’s a full-stack iOS developer, at which point he started asking her technical questions so she would prove it. Don’t be that guy.

It’s hard enough to be one of the very few different people at a conference like WWDC. Don’t be that guy. Don’t make us feel even more like aliens.

No Ticket, No Problem

One of the things that really surprised me was that you can completely participate in WWDC without a ticket. Next door to WWDC, there was AltConf and all non-WWDC developer could attend the same parties as those with a WWDC badge.

I met one guy who flew here all the way from Bolivia to participate in WWDC without a ticket. My co-workers from DC – some with and some without a ticket – also flew in and rented a house for the conference.

I’ve lived in San Francisco for four years, and never thought to participate without a ticket. Next year, I’m participating with or without a ticket!

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  • Harchu

    Awesome tips. ♥

  • Kevin Hirsch

    Very nice article! Especially about the labs! I’ve been at WWDC last year but didn’t really know what kind of question I should ask. I was going to ask you what questions had you asked at last WWDC but now I now 🙂 Thanks!