Jul 19, 2019

Things I learnt as a first-timer at WWDC

Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) is the most-watched event of all iOS / Mac app developers around the globe. It is a full-week conference where new technologies and devices are introduced and developers have a chance to meet with Apple Engineers and discuss all aspects of their apps and daily jobs.

This year, some of our iOS developers, me included, had a chance to visit this event after being lucky enough to have their names selected at random by Apple. This article is covering this journey experience and its highlights.

At the venue

Dub Dub

Without a doubt, WWDC 2019, or Dub Dub, was one of the most packed in terms of news and innovations.

There were two main sessions on Monday — the morning Keynote where updates from all Apple platforms were shared mainly from the customer point of view, and the afternoon Platform State of the Union that dug deeper into these updates and discussed them from the developer’s perspective. It also introduced new frameworks, tools and language improvements which were presented in even more detail during dedicated sessions throughout the week.

Putting up a full list of important changes is out of the scope of this article. For those interested, I would recommend this article that covers all that was important in this year’s Keynote.

As for developers, there are several improvements that still resonate on social networks led by SwiftUI, such as a brand new way of building user interfaces across all Apple platforms.

In his blog post, our iOS tech lead Šimon Javora summarises and comments on main development highlights, such as SwiftUI, Combine and iPad multi-window support.

Be prepared to queue

Let us be honest — WWDC is about queuing all the time. If you are travelling from outside the US, airport procedures set up the right expectations.

Then there’s the main queue for the Keynote happening on Monday morning. It starts at 10 am, but it is recommended to arrive at 5 am if you want to score a spot in the centre of the hall near the stage.

We arrived at around 7:30 am. Personally, I was quite happy with our places in the last third of the available seating. Being in the queue for several hours might seem like a horrible experience, but honestly, it was well organised.

The conference staff divided the arriving people into smaller groups and instructed us where to wait. For each segment within the waiting process, there were refreshments available and toilets nearby, so all you had to do was just wait and network with fellow developers.

Basically, there was a queue before the start of every session — to get the merchandise (on Monday there was a three-hour-long queue), for lunch, for toilets, and even to exit the hall.

And if you want to purchase a local sim card at the nearest T-mobile store, be prepared for another queue — a pack of WWDC visitors will be there to do the same.

The queues are simply everywhere but it is understandable for such a huge event, and as I have mentioned, the experience is much less painful thanks to the good organisation.

Waiting for the Keynote

Cheer me up, buddy

The atmosphere at the venue — the modern McEnery Convention Center in San Jose — was amazing. For us first-timers, the excitement was tangible all around.

All the visitors were happy to be there and the staff kept on cheering everyone. I heard several complaints about the cheering at the entrance but I really liked it. The staff was truly enjoying themselves and it was quite contagious. Well, where else can you get the feeling of an outstanding achievement just by entering the door?

Stop by the labs to meet Apple developers

There were three main halls used for sessions. On Monday, the halls were combined into one large space to accommodate 6,000 developers who were there for the main presentations — starting with the Keynote and ending with announcements of the Apple Design Awards.

During the rest of the week, there were three parallel line-ups of sessions dedicated to all the aspects of development within the Apple platforms. The presentations were high quality and well prepared but the main reason to attend WWDC are the so-called labs.

Sessions related to SwiftUI were always full

Labs are the place to be if you want to discuss anything with Apple engineers. And by anything I mean literally anything — from App Store optimisations, review process, or any development framework (like UIKit, CoreData, ARKit, CoreLocation, AVFoundation, etc) to performance optimisations, accessibility or business expansions. In fact, there were more than 100 different labs opportunities.

We had the opportunity to discuss our design system Orbit, ask about some nasty issues with UICollectionView, but mainly to discuss fresh SwiftUI with its authors. At the end of the week, developers usually spent most of the time in the labs, rather than at the sessions.

Radek, Šimon and Steve Breen at UI Lab

Don’t forget about the events happening all around

WWDC week is not just about WWDC. During the five days there are numerous events being held in the area — organised by local companies or dev communities — breakfasts, happy hours, sports and pub gatherings. “Just follow the twitter buzz,” adviced us a developer who attended #wwdcnoqueue breakfast — a meetup for those who do not want to wait in the line for the Keynote.

Also, there were three other tech and design conferences taking place just “around the corner” — LayersAltConf and try! Swift on Friday.

AltConf has a long tradition and as the name suggests, it is the alternative conference for those who are not lucky enough to attend WWDC. It started with a streaming of the WWDC Keynote and for three days it continued with two tracks of talks and one lab room.

Our Kiwi.com delegation held two presentations during the week — Šimon Javora presented his ML-driven approach for Voice Search and I looked back at our experience with AR toolkits and solution for bags measurement.

AltConf turned out to be a great place to be for its talks and atmosphere. And since it was being held in the adjacent building, we could roam between both events and get the most out of them.

The conference is uplifting

WWDC is an overwhelming experience. Sure you can watch the sessions and read tutorials online but being part of such a huge community is uplifting and motivating. We were lucky to attend this year, we learned a lot.

I cannot compare my experience to the previous years, but literally everyone was hyped about the upcoming changes and improvements. During the breaks, at lunch, and even at parties, everyone was discussing what they were planning to implement, how they will do it and what problems they are facing.

We learned a lot during that week. Now it is time to utilise the knowledge and make our apps better.

A small gathering of several Czech developers attending the Bash party on Thursday — sometimes it is beneficial to be wearing the code.kiwi.com t-shirt
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