Cancel WWDC

April 13, 2014

I believe that WWDC should be canceled. And I'm not just saying that because I lost the lottery. Actually, I didn't even want to go; I registered for the WWDC ticket lottery only to maximize my company's chances at getting a ticket. (We didn't get one. 0 for 7, with 7 strikeouts.) I'm not proposing that it be canceled this year, because a lot of attendees have already bought non-refundable plane tickets, but I am suggesting that this should be the final year of WWDC. I think WWDC should be discontinued, permanently.

Why? The most important reason for canceling WWDC is that it's a waste of Apple's engineering time. In my non-humble opinion, Apple is already grossly understaffed in engineering. Spending time on WWDC only exacerbates the problem. It's not just the time spent during the week of WWDC — traveling back and forth to Moscone, giving presentations, sitting in the labs, etc. It's also the preparation in the weeks prior to WWDC. In particular, preparing to give a live presentation is laborious.

5000 3rd-party developers, 1000 Apple engineers. If you think about it, that's a terrible ratio. It's impossible for us to know exactly how many registered for the WWDC ticket lottery, but I would estimate at least 50,000. Beyond that, there are a multitude of developers who can't or won't attend WWDC but still need access to the information it provides. Of course, in recent years the WWDC session videos have been available online to developers almost immediately. One question is, couldn't Apple simply produce videos in-house, at any point during the year, without forcing developers and engineers to all gather physically in San Francisco for the same week in order to film those videos?

The larger question is, why even have videos? I think that the time spent producing videos would be better spent on simply improving the written (typed) documentation. This would be of benefit to all developers. If you're looking for one crucial tidbit of information, and you have to sit through hours of video just to find it (or not), then Apple is Doin It Rong. A major weaknesses of Apple's documentation is that there are too many sources of documentation. Just look at the sidebar of the developer library under "Resource Types": you have guides, reference, release notes, sample code, technical notes, technical Q&As, videos, etc. That's too many types! Not to mention the informal documentation that often only exists in the mailing list or forum archives. If these different types were redundant, it wouldn't be as bad, but Apple expects you to be able to find a needle in a haystack.

There may be some value in getting facetime with Apple engineers. Yet the WWDC labs are such a haphazard way of doing this. Sometimes the lines are too long. There are session schedule conflicts. Apple engineers have no way to prepare beforehand for your particular issues. And if the issue cannot be resolved in the 5-10 minutes you get, follow-up often becomes a victim to the engineer's post-WWDC shipping schedule. If an issue is truly important enough to you that you would want to travel to San Francisco to resolve it, then there's no reason why it has to be one particular week in the summer. Instead of WWDC labs, Apple could have scheduled appointments with engineers at Apple's headquarters, throughout the year. Apple would charge money for these, just as they do WWDC and DTS incidents. If the demand was still too high, Apple could limit any given engineer's availability to avoid overloading their schedule.

In conclusion, my friends, WWDC is a giant waste of time and should be canceled. The era of big conferences is over.