WWDC 201716 Jun 2017
This year I got to attend WWDC for the second time!
Here I’m going to try and explain what WWDC is like, what you can expect if you go, and a little bit of what I learned and experienced this year.
There are a ton of new things coming out – new hardware, the refined macOS High Sierra, and new frameworks for augmented and virtual reality, machine learning.
On a selfish level, though what I’m most excited about is the new Xcode 9, with all the new features that will make my day-to-day a lot better! We can finally refactor Swift code!
Apple has a free WWDC App for iOS where you can view the schedule of sessions, labs, and events.
All of the sessions will be available online after the conference, but labs are only available during the week. Because of this, I think the most effective way to get the most value out of WWDC would be to:
- Prepare questions to ask at labs
- Watch they Keynote + Platforms State of the Union
- Plan when to ask your prepared questions at labs
- Watch sessions for the new features (e.g. this year would be Drag and Drop, AR, VR, CoreML, and NLP)
- Play around with new features and ask about them in the labs
- Watch the other recorded sessions on the plane ride home or at some later date
The goal being to maximize the amount of information you can get out of Apple engineers by optimizing your time spent in the labs.
The sessions are where they go into detail about the new things announced during the Keynote and Platforms State of the Union. They are an excellent resource to learn how to use the new features. The best part is that they are all available online afterwards!
I haven’t been able to watch all of the sessions, but some of the big takeaways I got from the sessions I did go to:
- Drag and Drop is going to be big!
- Lots of improvements to privacy! Don’t forget to add purpose strings to Info.plist
- Swift 4 is pretty great
- Tons of Xcode improvements - brand new build system, rewritten editor, refactoring, Github integration, etc.
- AppStore redesign
- Apple is really trying to get us to support Accessibility more (e.g. adaptable font sizes)
- You can prototype apps using Keynote apparently
- They really like Drag and Drop
There are a lot of different labs at WWDC, where you can ask specific questions and get answers directly from WWDC engineers. They are divided by category, so there is a UIKit Lab, Swift Open Hours, Build Tools Lab, CoreML Lab, etc.
Generally you will want to go in with a specific question or problem that you’d like the engineers to help you out with. If your problem is something that seems to be a bug, don’t be surprised if they just end up asking you to file a radar.
With some other labs, especially those concerning the new features, you can go in with a more general question. These conversations can be pretty enlightening about what certain technologies can and can’t do or how you might include new features into your app.
Some questions that I’ve asked in the past:
- How can I hide the keyboard toolbar for a text field in a UIWebView? (You can’t - file a radar)
- How can I cleanly handle UI language switches without resorting to hacks? (You can’t - file a radar)
- Why is the new Xcode only copying the Arabic localization? (Whoa, that’s a bug - file a radar)
- Would we be able to make X feature with the new CoreML/NLP? (Yeah probably, and this is how I would start…)
There are events going on pretty much every night at WWDC, both sanctioned by Apple and other companies. Apple events can usually be found in the WWDC App, and there usually is no problem getting into those events.
For third-party events, I recommend using the Parties for WWDC app. It keeps an updated list of events that are happening, and has links to the registration pages. The registration for these events sell out really quickly, so act fast! If you missed some, put your name on the waitlist for a few of them, and you might get into one.
This year I attended these events:
San Pedro Square - Apple featured get together at San Pedro Market Square. Lots of developers gathered together for food, drinks, and live music.
The Talk Show with John Gruber - We got to watch Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi talk a little more candidly about the new features that were announced during the Keynote. Video/Audio/Text available online.
Education and Kids Get-Together - Apple featured get together. Duolingo was a featured education company, and we got to meet a lot of people who were interested in technology in education. People would come up to us and ask questions about Duolingo, ask us for feedback about their app, or just to tell us how much they like us 😃
The Bash - Apple’s main social event. Fall Out Boy played music onstage while developers ate, drank, played games, and socialized. Around midweek, everyone seems to be getting a little exhausted, and so having The Bash on Thursday was a good way to bring some excitement back!
Of course, one of the biggest benefits of a conference is meeting other developers. There were 5,300 developers at WWDC alone, not counting the people who where next door at AltConf and CocoaConf. It’s a very common occurrence to be walking down the street and see any number of people wearing the same WWDC jacket as you, even far away from the convention center.
Even high-profile members of the iOS community are very approachable at WWDC.
WWDC only comes once a year. Take advantage of the time to meet new friends and spend time with old friends you haven’t seen since last WWDC!
If you are a developer in the Apple ecosystem, then WWDC is the conference that you should attend. Even though certain sessions are live-streamed and all the sessions are available online, it’s a really great opportunity to learn about all the new features, get in touch with other developers, and talk to actual Apple engineers.