Why expanding WWDC is a bad idea – it’s the “community”, stupid!

Wed, Mar 30, 2011


There’s been a lot of talk regarding the alacrity with which this year’s WWDC sold out, with some going so far as to say that Apple needs to retool its annual developer conference to better accommodate the unprecedented number of developers interested in iOS and OS X.

In response to that, Jeff Lamarche has written a well-crafted and logical essay explaining why Apple should decidedly not expand WWDC into a mega conference for 40,000 developers. Lamarche’s overarching theme is that the reason why WWDC is so fruitful and beneficial to developers is its limited size which lets attendees spend quality time talking to actual Apple engineers and other developers. Increasing the number of folks who can attend merely dilutes the experience for everybody.

Making WWDC more like these giant, soulless, “enterprise” conferences is not the answer. Scaling WWDC to 10k, 20k or 40k is fixing the problem by shooting the golden goose. Trying to scale up WWDC like that would utterly destroy everything that is wonderful about it.

WWDC is community. WWDC is actually being able to talk with the engineers who wrote the software you’re having problems using. WWDC is a chance to get on a first name basis with people in our community, including (if you’re lucky) some of the awesome people who make the APIs we use to make our living. It’s a time for learning, absolutely, but it’s also for making friendships, making business connections, and looking for future employees/employers/subcontractors. The current size of WWDC is part of what makes it great and is part of why so many people want to attend. In fact, the past few years, it’s bordered on being too big, with lab slots becoming harder to get and many sessions having long lines and being standing room only.

Apple can increase the number of tickets it prints, but it can’t magically increase the amount of resources it can throw at the event. Once WWDC hits a certain threshold, the utility for attending members begins to drop. If Apple feels 5,000 visitors is what it can reasonably handle while simultaneously making the trek up to San Francisco worthwhile, then folks would be foolish to reflexively argue for a larger conference.

Meanwhile, other folks are suggesting separate development conferences for iOS and OS X. This of course seems like a rational solution, but with Apple increasingly blurring the lines between iOS and OSX, that’s probably not a road Apple wants to go down.

Lastly, and this was via Twitter, but some are theorizing that Apple is making this year’s WWDC event a software only affair as to return the focus to developers and not a mainstream media event focused on a Steve Jobs keynote and new Apple hardware. Indeed, reports are suggesting that the iPhone 5 will be nowhere to be seen, anywhere, during this year’s WWDC event.

Lamarche’s entire article is worth a thorough look through.



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