Lessons of a First-Time WWDC Attendee

In the interest of contributing to the wealth of tips on WWDC, I’d like to share what I learned this week about the event itself—I can’t talk about the session material since it’s under a non-disclosure agreement.

  1. Don’t lose your badge. I didn’t, thankfully, but the attachment of the badge to the lanyard is very precarious. Everything—everything—revolves around that badge and there’s security everywhere. They will balk if they can’t see the full badge.
  2. There is no Apple-provided dinner except for the Bash. From the original Web site, it seemed like Apple would provide dinner daily, but that was emphatically not the case. The Bash food, incidentally, was excellent. I was stuffed from the sushi, hot dogs, pizza, Chinese, pasta, cookies, and quiescent confections.
  3. You can leave on Friday. I booked my return flight for Saturday morning thinking that sessions would run as normal on Friday and I didn’t want to rush around dealing with luggage and transportation to the airport. Turns out, the last session ended a little past 2 o’clock and they have a luggage holding station at Moscone West. I could have easily left that day. There’s a lot to see in San Francisco, of course, but I was ready to go home.
  4. Don’t miss Stump the Experts. I didn’t learn anything at all from the session but it was hilarious. This was the 20th Stump the Experts event and it made me feel nostalgic even though this was my first time attending.
  5. The labs run concurrently with the sessions. There were many great sessions that conflicted with one another, but most of the good labs also conflicted with those great sessions. The best bet, I found, was to skip a Q&A here and there to make use of the session interstitials. Even still, I missed several opportunities. If the videos came out in a timely manner, I’d say to only go to the sessions for the Q&A (or to ask your Qs at) and focus on the labs. You can watch the video at your leisure but you’re never going to get that kind of face time with an Apple engineer otherwise.
  6. The WiFi access was excellent. I consistently got five bars throughout Moscone West during the entire conference. I also was able to connect via VPN at will. I’m not sure why the online accounts I read had WiFi trouble in the past, but Apple appears to have gotten its act together.
  7. Complaining about the lines is an effective icebreaker. WWDC, for me, was a series of lines: lines for the sessions, lines for the labs, lines for the urinals, lines for the sinks, lines for the food. Witty observations about this led to many interesting conversations with line neighbors. Not that you need an icebreaker: I never had any trouble striking up a conversation with anyone and the bonhomie was palpable throughout.
  8. Use the elevator. There’s an elevator near the stairs that was almost never being used. If you’re on the third floor after a Presidio session and you want to go to a lab, your best bet is to skip the line for the escalators entirely and go straight for the elevators. I generally rode it alone; I have no idea why so few people took it.
  9. Plan on getting in line for the Keynote by 8 o’clock. I waited until 9 AM to mosey down to Moscone and the line had already wrapped around nearly back to the main entrance off Howard. By 9:45, we had barely moved. I ended up getting seated in the overflow room, which had quite a nice view of the Keynote, about 10:20 AM and missed the hardware announcements entirely.
  10. The Interface Design consultation is by appointment and they fill up quickly. I was planning on having an Apple engineer give my iPhone application a once-over, but I didn’t realize you had to reserve a spot so they were gone by the time I got down there. If I were doing it again, I would make this action my top priority.

Was WWDC worth it? Big time. It was hard being away from my family—video conferencing via iChat helped considerably—but I learned so much and got direct answers to my questions that I can recommend it without reservation. Plus, I got a developer’s preview of Snow Leopard that is wonderful. iPhone OS 3.0 and Snow Leopard are going to be great, people. Make sure you upgrade when they become available.

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