Developers reveal the good and bad of WWDC 2020 going online

WWDC is more than just a two hour flash keynote, it’s a whole week of developer sessions. We asked developers around the world what they thought of the new online format.

Apple may have been forced to move WWDC 2020 online because of the coronavirus, and it may have produced an exceptional speech, but ultimately this event is for developers. And it’s the developers who can really judge if the new format worked.

Appleiphonestop spoke to developers around the world and in a range from old hands to newer businesses, including those focused on Mac and iOS. We mainly asked them if the crucial development sessions of the week worked in their new online form. But we also asked for opinions on everything from the advertised technology to whether the lack of the usual social aspects of WWDC was a concern.

Some developers didn’t want to talk about the file, but most didn’t, and in fact, everyone had a lot to praise about WWDC 2020. They had concerns, reviews, and compliments, but they also raised questions regarding the unexpected benefits of going online.

Less costs, less stress

“As independent developers, it can be difficult to justify the expenses associated with WWDC,” said Brad West, one of the developers of the publishing application Vellum. “In fact, we only attended WWDC in person when we were working for a large company that paid for the ticket. So overall, it was nice to see a conference designed for remote viewers, rather than those fortunate enough to attend in person. ”

Pavlo Haidamak of Setapp also liked the way the online conference was organized from the start. This year, the registration window for laboratory sessions was longer (about half a day) and therefore the whole process was stress free for me. ”

“I did not have to get up very early and not enter the laboratory as had already happened at WWDC,” said Haidamak. “Everyone who applied was able to participate in the sessions, and that’s great.”

Appleiphonestop previously pointed out that moving the conference online meant that it was simultaneously the worst and busiest in WWDC. In the absence of a theater to seat people, however, many more developers could attend than Apple had to offer with much higher question volumes.

“Despite the fact that there were clearly more people this year than offline, Apple engineers faced the load and there were no problems entering the labs,” said Vladimir Dudchak of MacPaw. “I had two questions about internationalization and accessibility, and I entered the two laboratories for which I applied.”

Developer sessions

While the main speech is the part that everyone knows, the real value of WWDC each year lies in the week-long program of development sessions. Apple engineers present them with new information, and it’s also possible to chat one-on-one while developers work to apply the latest developments to their applications.

“I was very pleased with the WWDC20 sessions,” said Greg Scown of Smile Software, makers of TextExpander and PDFpen. “I didn’t have first-hand experience with online labs, but one of our staff had, and it went very well – at least as good as you would expect from labs in person and without the crowds and queues. ”

“I am satisfied with the amount of detail we have received and the laboratory attention we have received has been great,” he said.

MacPaw’s Serhiy Buchnev said that the sessions were as reworked as the opening speech, and that they also worked. “Although Apple has always recorded and shared developer sessions online, video quality is much higher this year. You can certainly feel the difference in production, and some videos are short and related to the subject rather than the format session, and it’s extremely convenient. ”

“I think the best change has been the addition of smaller, more focused talks,” says Vellum’s West. “I edited a 6-minute conference which was exactly what I needed for a project, and I don’t see how such a conference could happen during a live conference.”

Perhaps an unexpected bonus was that because they were all on video, the sessions were no longer scheduled. “We liked being able to follow the sessions in the order we wanted and when we liked it,” said Kevin Hayes of 1Password.

“With WWDC in person, when it’s great to be there with colleagues and friends, and to see the sessions in person, sometimes the sessions conflicted with each other, so we had to wait for some of them the next day, or later in the evening, “he continued.

Working with Apple engineers

However, not everyone was satisfied with the operation of the new sessions. Dmytro Melnyk, CleanMyMac product manager, says the format worked against the type of personal contact you usually get. “I got answers to my questions, but I didn’t get the attention I wanted. The Apple engineer had turned off his camera and it was demotivating.”

Craig Federighi

“At an offline event, when you meet in person, you are sure they are focusing on you and your project,” says Melnyk, “while the camera is off, you are not sure. of what’s going on there. ”

However, there was another difference that was more universally viewed as an improvement. The new format encouraged developers to submit questions before the sessions, which would have led to better responses.

“I got a clear answer to my question about the AppStore guidelines and a recommendation for further action,” said Pavlo Haidamak of MacPaw. “Last year at WWDC I had a similar question, but I received a referral from another specialist who was ultimately unable to provide a clear answer.”

“Therefore, in our case, the lack of live contact did not prevent us from getting an answer, and we had enough time to properly prepare for the laboratory, which was a challenge at WWDC before”, Haidamak continued.

Social side of WWDC

Each developer we spoke with – each of them – has talked about how surprisingly different an online WWDC should be because it has no social side. As with any conference, it’s more about working with your peers than uploading new information, and it’s the only thing the developers have consistently lamented.

“The biggest loss, however, has been the experience shared between the developers,” says Vellum’s West. “As nice as it was to gain flexibility in date and time, we felt less sensitive to the community of other developers who were using the same content (at the same time).”

Get information from Apple, stay to meet other developers

Get information from Apple, stay to meet other developers

“When you get home, it becomes one of the routine tasks of the day unlike what you do at the event and you can really get into it,” said Melnyk of CleanMyMac. “I planned the sessions every day, but I was sometimes distracted by professional tasks or family problems.”

West says that within Vellum, they tried to organize joint visits “so that we can at least share our own reactions in real time”.

Likewise, Hayes of 1Password says their team has come together. “We edited the Keynote and the state of the union while conversing,” he said, “and we were able to have meetings to discuss the potential of the new features and APIs with everyone the same day.”

“We missed WWDC in person [though]”, he continued.” One of the best parts is meeting old friends and colleagues, meeting Apple engineers and speaking to them in person, well, there is a social “energy” in being together. ”

“Having said that, one of the best things about this year is that WWDC was on an equal footing with everyone,” he said. “Not everyone has the chance to participate, even as part of the team here at 1Password, so it was good that everyone could experience it at the same time.”

Smile’s Scown says that now that WWDC 2020 is over, “we are making an effort to schedule online meetings with people we would normally have had lunch or a drink with.”

Serhiy Buchnev of MacPaw summed up the importance of the social side. “WWDC is not just about developer sessions, but also personal interaction and networking, as well as other events happening around us,” he said.

“You can catch up with your fellow developers outside or at a local bar, or even meet someone like Guy Kawasaki in the bathroom,” he said. “This year, we certainly benefited from the quality of the video production, but we lost communication with the community.”

Announcements this year

It’s one thing for Apple to make big announcements, and it’s another when developers go into detail. From all the different opinions on new tech-specific updates, however, the developers we spoke with were generally very pleased with what was revealed during the week.

“The care and attention that Apple has given to ensuring that Apple Silicon takes care of the critical things that make macOS different from iOS was everywhere,” said Dave Verwer, iOS developer and author of iOSDevWeekly.

“The introduction of Apple Silicon would have been the perfect opportunity to start reducing the capabilities of the Mac if that was their long-term plan,” he said. “However, the fact that they support hypervisors and the fact that technologies like Docker were mentioned in the opening speech show that it is a platform that is important to them to stay separate from iOS. ”

“I am positively surprised at how quickly SwiftUI has become a mature platform that is also used by Apple,” said Gernot Poetsch, founder of nxtbgthng. “It took a lot longer for the Swift programming language. And I expect this will allow many more developers to bypass the Apple iPhone and start adapting their apps to other Apple platforms.

WWDC next year

Of all the developers we spoke to, most didn’t know what was going to happen next year – or quite what they wanted. There were enough that worked well in WWDC 2020 that they wanted the next time around, but enough that they didn’t want to return to the Steve Jobs Theater in 2021.

Next year at Apple Park?

Next year at Apple Park?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple and its engineering team decide they prefer this format for next year,” said Smile’s Scown. “This allows for a wider range of speakers because engineers do not need to take step-by-step training, and there can be more than one take to produce the final result. Well done to the speakers and the team. production for a job well done. ”

West of Vellum is more divided. “When it is safe to attend a conference again in person, I hope Apple will bring back at least part of the conference to a live audience,” he said.

“For big announcements, it’s fun to hear the reaction of a crowd, even when you’re at a distance,” continued West. “But I also hope that they will keep some of these new options for individual sessions, perhaps making more specialized discussions online only.”

We may never know how much Apple had to spend to move WWDC 2020 online, but for attendees, it was a much cheaper way to attend.

“Overall, I miss WWDC offline,” says Melnyk. “I went twice, and each time it was a great motivational event for me. It’s cool that we saved a lot of money as a company, because it’s always a big burden for the budget and get your teammates out of the program work for a while, but I would really like to return to San Jose for WWDC. ”

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