WWDC Tips From Chris Ladd. Yes, The Chris Ladd.
I’m just back from WWDC, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference for you non-nerd readers out there. In fact, non-nerds, you might just want to move along. This is not the post you’re looking for.
They gone? Good. If you’re reading this, you either a) just got back from WWDC or b) really, really want to go next year. Either way, I really enjoyed reading other people’s wwdc tips as I prepared for this one, and so I thought I’d share some tips I picked up along the way, most of which I don’t remember reading elsewhere. Most importantly:
Don’t Be Shy
WWDC is like the first week of college: everybody is excited to be there, most people don’t have established friend groups, and there is free beer just about everyplace you’ll go. You do not need an excuse to join a group of people standing around talking. My general MO is to walk up to any random group of fun looking strangers and say ‘You guys look fun. Do you mind if I join your group?’. If they say “YES WE MIND” they’re probably not as cool as you thought they were or they think they are. I’ve never encountered this. Everybody likes meeting people. You can be that people.
Say I Love You
Not literally. But if you find yourself hanging out with a group of people you like, be sure to establish some tether — business cards, twitter, phone. It’s a big conference, and a bigger city. It’s very possible to see someone once and never see them again. Also, remember that most of you are all strangers in this town, so if you find a cool bar / party / happening, tell your new BFFs about it. Share the fun.
Use the Twitter
I wasn’t a big Twitter user before WWDC — I didn’t even have a Twitter client installed — but WWDC has made me a believer. Get handles from people you like, tweet your location, plans, etc… it totally pays off. While we’re at it, make sure you put your Twitter handle on your business cards. I didn’t do this, but should have.
Operate in ‘YES’ Mode
Especially when meeting new people, positive attracts. Say YES to almost everything. It’s more fun. Be interested in other people’s work, especially if it’s interesting. Make friends with seat-mates. Line-mates. Bar-mates. Don’t spend too much time shitting on popular web/iPhone software / Apple APIs. The guy behind you in line may have written it. In general, if you have a positive impulse, go with it. If you have a negative one, suppress it. The West Coast seems to bring this out in people naturally.
Don’t Sweat The Keynote
I was torn before I came of whether to camp out early for the keynote — I saw some guys starting to form the line at 4pm the afternoon before. Ultimately, I decided to sleep in, show up around 9am, and commit myself to watching it in the overflow room. The room where they do the keynote holds something like 4,000 people, a significant portion of which are VIPs and journalists. My thinking was that I have a big week in front of me, and I don’t want to start that week exhausted, miss things in the sessions, and possibly get myself sick. I stand by that reasoning. Some people can operate on zero sleep. I am not those people. Regardless of your choice, you will not get to have breakfast with Steve Jobs.
Fill in The Seats
Even in the super-full sessions, if you’re by yourself you can usually grab a killer seat by just walking to the front and finding singles. In several super-crowded sessions, I was able to get a great spot right up front just by asking for it. The downside to this is that if the session isn’t as awesome as you were hoping, you’re pretty much stuck, vs. sitting in the back near the door. Usually a risk worth taking — very few sessions fell short of my expectations.
Especially early on in the week, don’t just look at the session you’re about to go to. Look to see what the rest of the morning/afternoon looks like. If you’re torn between sessions, pick the one that’s in a room where you’re hoping to catch another session right afterwards. The big sessions have lines around the building, but if you’re in already for the previous session, you almost always get to stay, and you can get an even better seat by stealing it from the people who are just leaving, or who foolishly decided to use the bathroom. Which brings us to…
Expect to wait in line to pee. WWDC is the only place I’ve ever been with nonexistent women’s lines, and men’s lines out the door. So, girls win. If you’re a boy and if you only kind of have to go, and if you’re interested in getting a good seat/getting into the next session, you should hold it. You might not get back in otherwise. Speaking of which, you will often be holding something (coffee, lunch, laptop) in your spare hand, so make sure you have one-hand-able flies and underpants. I’ll leave it at that.
Hold Your Place
I didn’t realize this right away, but if you’re in a session that just ended and you want to stay for the next one in that same room, you can leave your stuff on your seat and go out a side door. Make eye contact with the Apple guard and they’ll let you back in without waiting in line. I’m not sure if this applies to the super big sessions, but I had good luck with this method in popular sessions in the small rooms.
Take Two Lunches
But not for the reason you think. The lunch speakers are super popular, and for good reason. All the talks were great. But if you’re in a session right before, you basically have a choice of whether to skip lunch entirely and get a good seat, or go grab a lunch and stand in the back / not get in. If you do happen to have a chance to grab a sandwich, grab as many as you can carry and bring them up to the line to hand out to your fellow nerds. You will be loved. Speaking of food, I’m not a big coffee snob, but Marco was right: eat the lunch, don’t drink the coffee. It’s terrible.
Get Coffee Near Your Hotel
This is a little thing, but the coffee at Moscone is undrinkable, and the Starbucks right next door, understandably, fills up in the morning, and right before big sessions. If you have a choice, grab your coffee near your hotel, and walk with it into Moscone. I ate my breakfast most days in my seat waiting for sessions to begin.
Brightness Down, People
Turn your monitor brightness down, and use a black background text editor. It’s really distracting to have your neighbor’s flashlight in your face while you try to absorb code way over your head. Speaking of which, if your neighbor has a bright monitor, don’t sit there and silently fume. Just ask if they would turn it down. They will, and they won’t be mad.
Take Two Showers
It’s a long day. If you’re like me, and you tried to catch almost every single session, you’re up at 8, then bouncing around from nerdfest to nerdfest until evening, and then partying like a nerdstar until the early morning. I got in the habit of going back to the room after the last session of the day, taking a quick nap (20 minutes or so) and then taking another shower before getting dressed to go. I really think this helped me to keep energy up night after night, possibly by tricking my body into thinking ‘Hey, it’s morning!’. Have a cup of coffee on the way to wherever your evening plan is, also.
Get the Party List app
I’ve heard people complaining about this thread blocking thing, or that design choice, but come on: this guy made an app that is basically public service for all of us WWDC peeps. He’ll never see a dime on it, and he probably did it while he should have been doing something else, which is to say that any shortcomings are likely the product of building it quick because he’s a nice guy.
I never met him, but everyone should give him a dollar and a new pair of disco pants. Especially early on in the week, it’s great to always have somewhere to go, even if you have no friends. So, thanks. At the very least, you should go leave a sweet review for the guy on iTunes.
Bring Your Gym Clothes
Speaking of partying, you’re going to be asking a lot of your body over the course of a week. You should try to do something nice for it and slip in a quick workout at some point. So bring a pair of sneakers and some shorts. I didn’t think to do this, so I bought a pair of shorts and sneakers at NikeTown. Really glad I did. Speaking of clothes:
San Francisco is Not LA
It’s cold here, especially at night. Dress accordingly. The weather in June feels a lot like a New England October. If you find yourself underdressed at the beer bash on Thursday, and you were smart enough to get a close hotel, go back for a sweater. You’ll be happier, and it’s not getting any warmer.
Get a Close Hotel
Everyone says this, but they say it for a reason. I stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which is, I think, roughly the limit of far-ness. You want to be able to walk home from Moscone in 5 minutes. Pay significantly more for this if you have to. It’s worth. it. Also, the Hyatt has a killer gym. Just saying.
Maintain Two Sets of Business Cards
I have one stash with phone numbers written on the back, one without. You’ll meet two main categories of people out on the town: people who are down to hang out and chat about, you know, like whatever. And people trying to sell you something, or, in the case of recruiters, sell you.
Annotate Business Cards Immediately.
You will forget who these people are. Write a quick note on the back of any business cards you get that are connected to people you’d genuinely like to get to know / correspond with. Something like ‘Has beard, glasses, met at X bar, talked about South American handball.’ It seems like a scummy, business school kind of trick, but you’re going to be meeting dozens of people, maybe even hundreds, every day. Give yourself at least a decent chance of remembering the ones you clicked with.
Schedule Late Flights
This is an easy way to prevent yourself from tiring unnecessarily: schedule late flights, on both ends, even if they cost more. It’s worth it to not have to call it an early night on your last day. Allocate a full day on each end for travel / winding down. Definitely nothing earlier than mid-morning. Shoot for mid-day.
Wear Your WWDC Jacket On The Plane
I’m not going to weigh in on the merits of joining or not joining the black-jacket-brigade for the week in San Francisco, but you should definitely wear the jacket on your flight home as a nerd beacon. In fact, I’m planning on wearing it around for the next week, so if you see me around Boston, come say hi. I’m the guy in the black jacket with the 11 on the back.
My last tip is simple: Go. This week has been up there with the best in my life, and certainly the best in my NSNerdLife. If you’re at all serious about nerding it up on iOS, I’ll see you in 360-ish days at Moscone.