If you’re developing apps for Mac and iOS, Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, held in San Francisco from June 8-12, is the highlight of the year. I sat down with Max, who’ll be there for the 8th time in 10 years, to talk about his past experiences, how his focus has shifted, and what to expect from Apple at this year’s event.
Can you give a short overview for the uninitiated what WWDC is all about?
WWDC is Apple’s annual developer conference, being held for the 26th time this year. It’s the one event in the whole year where Apple engineers come together with around 5000 developers (just like us) to discuss the latest news and experiences. Apple usually uses this occasion to announce new revisions of its operating systems iOS and OS X. From time to time, there are also new devices being introduced.
Despite sharing news, there are two other major reasons for people to go there. For one, it’s the only opportunity for us to meet Apple engineers personally and therefore to get help with problems we couldn’t solve otherwise. And second, there are 5000 developers of all trades for one week in one place – this results in a gigantic number of parties and get-togethers.
So you have you been to WWDC a couple of times. What was it like?
Yes, I’ve been there seven times already, every year from 2007 to 2013, and each time it has been an impressive experience. Coming from Germany, flying around half the globe, and then entering a crazy city like San Francisco is very intense on its own. Then add to that all the news, talks and learnings, the people you meet, the places you see, the events you attend… There’s hardly anything I could compare it to. I’ve always come back feeling motivated and with a lot of new ideas.
Of course, over the years my focus has shifted quite a bit. When I came there for the first time in 2007, I was 20 years old, about to finish my first year at university and did barely know anybody but the friend I had come with. I didn’t take away much more than a notion of what it means to be a developer and the desire to return – which I did.
Over the years, I got to know lots of people inside and outside Apple, and many of them became friends or business partners. When we decided to take The Soulmen full-time in 2011, things got a more serious touch. This year, I will be taking a long list of todos with me, and the week is filling up quickly with important events and meetings.
Do you remember an anecdote or funny story you can tell us from the conference?
In my first year at WWDC, I was that shy young boy among a gigantic herd of professional developers. I would talk to the people I got introduced to, but rarely contact anyone standing around. I was especially reluctant with the Apple guys, who always seemed to be surrounded by a crowd, or were busy, talking to fellow developers.
Usually, every attendee of the conference gets some swag, like a shirt, a bag or a jacket. In 2007 this included a black T-shirt reading “Power to the Programmers”, which most attendees used to wear throughout the week. Apple’s engineers had T-shirts too, but blue-colored with the slogan “Keeper of the Code”. While I did love my black shirt, I secretly yearned for a blue one.
Then on Wednesday night, after the beer bash (a closing party organized by Apple), I somehow attached to a group of friends who were going out for drinks. There were some Apple evangelists and engineers around, too, but I barely talked to them – until suddenly one of them next to me took off his blue shirt. I said “Noooo, you cannot take that awesome blue shirt off, it’s so cool”. It was John Geleynse, Apple’s head of developer evangelism. He paused for a second, then gave it to me: “Here, you can have it. I have plenty of those.” I was insanely lucky. Afterwards I talked to the Apple guys for a couple of hours.
Do you have any clue what Apple is going to announce this year?
By now it’s certain that there will be new versions of iOS and OS X. Rumor has it these will be called iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, and despite bringing a few new things, mostly focus on stabilization and bug fixes (which we would applaud ;)).
Beyond that, Apple has always announced at least one thing at the keynote that had not been predicted anywhere. So, every forecast has to be taken with a grain of salt. And actually I don’t want to know it all in advance to not ruin the keynote experience. I just love the tension of standing in line, then sitting in the big room and waiting for what will come so much.
What are you expecting to gain from the conference?
Most importantly, we hope to gain clarity on a handful of issues that have been bugging us in the last years. We expect to meet a few members of Apple’s engineering team to discuss what’s best for us to do, especially regarding iCloud sync.
Secondly, since there are so many people from the Apple-sphere around, it is a great networking opportunity. There’s nothing better for establishing (and maintaining) personal contacts with business partners, members of the press or colleagues. I have been in touch with some of these people for years, and we will now finally meet.
Last but not least, I will travel together with our own Friedrich for the first time, and I hope he will get infected by the great spirit that lies over the city during this week. I believe we will gain lots of inspiration and new input to profit from in the coming months. Until the next “dub-dub”, as developers say.
Should you happen to be in the city during WWDC, watch out for the guys with the butterfly shirts – they must be Friedrich and Max. Say hi, they’re up for a chat – and they’re bringing along some Ulysses swag!