I just got back from my first-ever WWDC. Not just my first WWDC – my first conference ever as an attendee. I’ve spoken at dozens of Microsoft events (most recently at //Build in 2011), but it’s different being in the audience instead of on stage. For instance, when you’re a speaker, you don’t stand in lines. When you attend WWDC, you stand in lines. LOTS and LOTS of lines. Opening keynote? People were in line at 4:00 AM for a 10:00 AM talk. When I went to get my attendee badge at 7:30 AM, the line already stretched all around the Moscone center.
Popular session? Stand in line.
Time at a lab? Stand in line.
Need to use the bathroom? Stand in line. Unless you’re a woman, of course; no lines for you.
Now that I’ve survived WWDC, here are the things I wish I knew before I went:
Unless you’re there for the party atmosphere, don’t try to get there early for the keynote. In fact, consider skipping the keynote altogether and instead watch a live stream. The keynote lines are insane. And there’s great visibility, even from the back… if I go to WWDC again, I might try showing up 10 minutes after the keynote starts and get a spot in the back. All the fun, no lines.
Don’t try to download the beta software using your hotel internet connection. It will take all night, if it finishes at all. Instead, plug into the internet connection at the Moscone center. Software downloads in minutes instead of hours.
All the sessions are good. Some are outstanding. If there’s a session you want to make sure you attend, show up early. I was turned away from a session on the second day because all the seats were taken.
Even though the sessions are good, remember that you can also watch the recordings later. If a session conflicts with something else (an interesting lab, a time in the user experience lab, a meeting), do the other thing. Catch up on the sessions later.
Labs are a great opportunity to work 1-on-1 with Apple designers and engineers. I spent time in both a user experience design lab and in a performance lab and picked up some great insights from both. Unlike the sessions, you can’t stream the labs over the internet later. Make time for them. And beware that the labs can be extremely popular, especially the user experience design lab… so yes, once again, be prepared to wait in line.
My big regret? I didn’t really use the time to make new connections to the iOS developer community. I’m not terribly outgoing, and it was much easier to spend my extra time digging into scrolling performance on the new Urbanspoon iPhone app, applying the new things I learned during the conference. Yet I feel like I wasted a great opportunity to meet people whom I could learn from.
Well, there’s always next year.