My Trip to WWDC 2011

As most of you probably know, last week I was in San Francisco during WWDC. I didn’t actually attend the conference; I was simply in town to meet with all the other nerds who were there.

It took some guts to get on a plane and fly to the city for the week while having no agenda and no reason to go other than to meet people. It was a very fun and very exhausting trip.

Fun because I got to meet all sorts of great people — many of whom I’d only ever known on Twitter or email, and many of whom I previously had not known at all. It was exhausting because I was out there on my own and was constantly having “new” conversations with people I didn’t really know that well.

I was not the only person in town without a conference badge, and not one person I met thought I was odd for flying out simply to meet and hang out with folks. In fact, there were several people I spoke with who said they were considering not purchasing a badge for next year. Though, on the other hand, pretty much every developer I spoke to said a badge to WWDC was the best $1,600 they could spend on their career.

Here is an unordered list of tidbits regarding my trip to San Francisco:

  • AT&T service was just fine. I’ve only ever heard horror stories and wise cracks about what poor reception AT&T gets in San Francisco, but I had several bars everywhere I went. In fact, service was so good for me that I used my iPhone to tether my laptop when working from my hotel room because the 3G was faster than hotel wi-fi.

  • The best place for coffee in downtown San Francisco was Blue Bottle Coffee. I say this not because I tried all the other coffee shops, but because I didn’t try a single other coffee shop. Every visit to Blue Bottle, no matter the time, was greeted with a line out the door.

    They brew every cup of coffee as you order it — there is no drip coffee “on tap” because they even brew that individually by the cup. And everything they brew is brewed their way in one size. I tried to order an Americano with steamed half-and-half but they don’t steam creamer. Also, they only brew Americanos in one size. All these peculiarities add up to a great cup of coffee. I had many great drinks and many great conversations at Blue Bottle.

  • Since I wasn’t actually attending the conference, I had no daily schedule. My routine each day consisted of using Twitter and email to have spur-of-the-moment meet ups. But that was the norm for just about everyone. It was a mix of people reaching out to me on Twitter or email wanting to meet up, and me reaching out to others to meet up.

    And I met a lot of people. Which was the entire point of my trip. I wanted to shake hands and talk face to face with those whom I work with, write about, and connect with online so regularly.

  • Not every meet-up was planned. It was very common to bump into someone whom I knew or recognized. And I would always introduce myself and say hello whenever I could. Sometimes I would meet someone and we’d be able to hang out. Other times I’d meet them we would chat for a few minutes and then both go on with our day.

  • There was the third group of people that I met: the friends of friends. Many times I would be having coffee with someone, when a person that they knew would walk up to say hi. I would introduce myself, or get introduced, and thus meet someone new. This is often when business cards got exchanged. Nearly everyone at WWDC had a business cards, and, no offense to those there, my cards were by far and away the best cards there.

    I recently had Evan Calkins make some letterpressed calling cards with nothing but my email on them. While it’s true that there are times when you need more info on your card than that, my email address (desk@shawnblanc.net) gives all the information that most people needed to know: my name, my website, and how to contact me.

  • Most meet-ups were usually followed up with a tweet about how nice it was to meet that person. I also kept a log in my Field Notes notebook about who I met, where we met, and what they did.

  • I cannot stress enough how fantastic it was to meet with so many developers, designers, and other writers. It was great to make a real life, personal connection with all these people whom I work alongside and write about each day. I know that the conversations and meet ups which took place during WWDC will make me a better writer for this site.

So, in short, if your career is at all tied to the Mac community (as a writer, designer, developer, consultant, etc.) then you should be in San Francisco during WWDC. And if you make software for Apple’s platforms at any level higher than the slightest of hobbies then you probably want a ticket to the conference. See you next year.

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