I decided late last year that I was going to attend WWDC for the first time in 2011. I regularly set aside money, planned where I was going to stay, and read all the first-timer blog posts I could find. When I woke up one morning to discover that WWDC had both been announced and sold out while I was sleeping, you can understand I was somewhat disappointed. The folly of living in the Southern Hemisphere, I guess.
I’d previously heard a few things about 360iDev, which this year was being held in Denver, Colorado. To be honest, I’d never really given it much thought. If I was going to fly halfway round the world for a conference, I always figured it would be WWDC. All of a sudden that option was gone, and 360iDev became a lot more attractive.
After about 5 minutes of reading all the positive comments on Google and 30 seconds of thought, the decision was made. Flights were booked, my ticket was purchased, and my hotel room was reserved. Fast forward to the middle of September, and I’ve just attended the best conference I’ve ever been to. If you’re an iOS developer, you should seriously give some thought to attending. If I can sit in a plane for 18 hours, spend the week being jet lagged, and still get so much out of it – anyone else can too. But enough of the feel-good positivity – why should you go?
Ever since the WWDC videos were released, I’ve been making my way through them. So far, I’ve managed to watch about half of the ones I’m interested in – in fact, probably about the same number of talks that I saw at 360iDev. Reading a book or watching videos is great, but if you’re anything like me, it’s pretty hard to set aside an entire day (or two) to do this. A conference is a fantastic opportunity to concentrate on improving your craft for a few days.
One of the reasons often mentioned for attending a conference is networking, and for good reason. I’m not much of a social person, and I work independently from home, so it’s no surprise that I don’t regularly come in contact with other iOS developers. It was a joy to tell people about what I do, listen to what they’re working on, and just have a chat about iOS life in general. There’s a number of people I met that I plan to keep in touch with, whether it’s for a joint project, or just to say hello.
This one comes in two parts. Many well known members of our community attend conferences just like 360iDev. Chart-topping game developers, ex Apple employees, book authors – they’re all there. Hearing these people talk is a huge inspiration in itself. The more important part though comes in realising that these people are just like you and me. I lost count of the number of times I sat next to someone only to find out they developed some very well-known app, or authored a book I’d read, or wrote a fantastic blog I follow. And here they were sitting right next to me. This does wonders for motivation and self-belief.
This might not appeal to some of you out there, but hear me out. Developers are generally introverts, and don’t do well in social situations. So if you’re in a room full of developers, it’s pretty easy to find someone to talk to who’s feeling just like you. Say hello, and all of a sudden you’re playing arcade games and drinking beer at The 1 Up Bar with your new friend. Or enjoying an all-you-can-eat meat fest. 360iDev had seriously awesome parties, but not the type you might be used to – these were parties for developers.
This one is a bit of a hidden benefit for me. I read a lot of developer books, watch a lot of videos, and write a lot of code. I feel like I’m a pretty good iOS developer, with experience across a large chunk of the SDK. Even to the point where I’ve read a couple of iOS books recently, and learned almost nothing new. This was not the case at 360iDev. The large range of sessions meant that I picked up something useful from almost every talk. Awesome keyboard shortcuts, handy tools, or a great open source framework – the sorts of things that make your job easier, faster, and better.
If you haven’t guessed the punch line yet, here it is – 360iDev has made me a better developer, gave me the chance to meet some amazing people, and quite simply was a tonne of fun. I feel incredibly inspired, and you can be sure that I’ll be there again next year. And so should you.