It’s taken me way too long to write this post and it’s gone from a technical text (which at this point would be close to pointless to write, or at least it would not be original) to a second by second on how I felt those days (which was way too personal to be shared and few would find it interesting). So in the end, I decided to share my experience as a first timer at the WWDC and give a few tips that may help someone else in the same situation, in order to take as much from the event as possible.
Day 1 – Line Survival Tips
It’s Monday at 2.30am… a friend of mine advised me to get to the Graham Auditorium around 2am so, if he wasn’t playing with me, it’s already late! It’s my first time going to this event and I want to try my best to enjoy as much of it as humanly possible. At 3.15am I’m at the hotel front desk, where the clerk informs me that another person left 45 minutes before me for the same event… jeez, now I’m feeling like it’s already too late and that I’m going to be seeing Tim Cook from a mile away.
After walking a few blocks, and I must say that being close to the event (at least this time) is obviously worth it, I get to the Graham Auditorium. Just seeing all the apple flags flapping in the wind is music for my eyes. San Francisco’s climate is much colder than I’d imagined… somehow in my brain, there was a straight correlation between it being southern from Chicago and the warmness of the city.
As it happens, I’m only wearing a T-shirt and Apple’s amazing jacket which is super nice, but not warm enough to stay here, quiet, for over 6 hours. So, for these first few hours trying to get a good spot in the keynote, warm clothes, music and something to sit on would be great ideas (like a pillow… but I even saw chairs that seemed to have been bought just for the wait and were discarded afterwards, which seems over the top to me… but you can try that).
Even though it’s colder now than when I got here I’m not sure how but daylight seems to be appearing. The line has grown a lot since I arrived. Let’s just say that in front of me I may have a hundred people, but behind me, I’m counting them in the thousands… and more people are still coming.
My phone battery is about to die… probably watching a movie and playing 2048 twenty times didn’t help me in that regard. So, if possible be smarter than me (which is actually super easy) and bring a portable power bank.
I’m not the greatest at speaking with strangers (probably because my mom always told me not to do so), but somehow now I’m speaking with two guys (who somehow look a lot like Leonard and Sheldon) and luckily Leo has a huge battery pack for charging like twenty phones (pretty sure you could light an entire house with this thing) and allowed me to charge my phone for a few minutes.
Wait… there is restrooms and breakfast in the park! Good thing that I have friends now to save my spot in the line, while I get some sustenance. And how good it was… two of the greatest doughnuts I’ve ever had and really good orange juice. So, yeah… in case you are alone, it’s super advisable to try bonding with the people around you because obviously that can be a good networking experience which at the very least will help you keep your place in the line (I even trusted my backpack to them). One comment I want to make here and it’s something that applies for the whole week… breakfast during the event is amazing! So, please, wake up early enough to be able to enjoy it (in the end, you kind of paid for it).
Ok… I’m ready… I want to go in… I try to start a soccer chant but it seems that I’m the only crazy fan here, so I’m the only one chanting. It’s amazing the amount of people waiting to get in. It’s even more amazing to think of how they are going to manage to get all these people inside before the kickoff of the keynote… but wait… we are already going in… oh my god… this is really happening. People are running to get to their places… I try to keep my composure, but hell… let’s run a bit too.
My friends and I got great seats, probably 20 rows in front of us. And so the keynote starts with all the amazing news that you probably have already read about. I have to say that being there for the first time, instead of streaming it, is a feeling really difficult to describe.
After the keynote, we all left the auditorium and headed to the park across the street where lunch was ready to be taken. And here is another tip that applies for the whole week; the only good thing about lunch is that you don’t have to pay extra, honestly nothing else. Not sure what’s the fixation they have with iced tea (not the Long Island version, which I would be fine with) and lemonade, but if you like soda, I recommend you to go early every day to lunch because if not you’ll get stuck with the other (unpopular) options.
Don’t Miss Out on the Beta Downloads
An important tip for the first day is to have lunch pretty quickly so you can go into the downloading area to get all the betas that have just been released for the event (of course it will be your choice to install those on your computer, phone, watch, etc… though there is one that is a must install, xcode beta). One question I had on Monday (maybe foolish on my behalf to have it) was if the downloading area was going to be there for the rest of the week, and in fact, it is. Anyway, I’d rather download everything on Monday so you can get hands on it as soon as possible.
Luckily you’ll be able to download everything and be ready for the afternoon session (State of the Union) before the lines are too long. Either way, I felt that it was not too difficult to get a good seat for this session.
WWDC Schedule Tips – Sessions and Labs
Now, by the time the sessions have finished on Monday, and especially if you woke up super early to get to the event, you’ll probably be only wishing for a nice dinner and a warm bed. But my recommendation here is to gather all the energy and willpower you have left, and at least check the sessions and labs that are on Tuesday so you’ll have a clear plan for the second day. One thing that can change your event a lot (for the good) is to have as many projects to check and questions to ask the Apple specialist as possible.
Be aware that some of the labs require you to sign up in advance, so Monday evening is a great moment to check which of the labs, that you want to attend, have this requirement. If some of them are on Tuesday and need you to sign up, take into account that there’s a specific time to sign up early in the morning, and at least this year the window of opportunity to get a spot was something like 90 seconds (I’m not exaggerating here). Overall tip, double check that the labs you want to attend don’t overlap with sessions that you want to be in.
As a personal comment, I went to some labs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and some of the answers I got were amazing and on point. I specially went to talk to apple designers in their lab, I showed them one of our apps and for half an hour I received lots of advice that we can apply to improve it. So, again, super advisable to take as many apps and questions to the Apple specialists as possible.
There’s not much I can say in particular about days 2 to 5 of the event (Tuesday to Friday). But make sure you are early every morning because most of the sessions have long lines (and so you can enjoy the breakfast I mentioned before). It is always a good idea to go with a plan, and not improvise it… You will run short on time between sessions if you have to decide where you are going and what you are going to be seeing (and I guess it could be stressful to be questioning all week what to do while doing it).
This may be foolish to say it, but try to rest as much as possible because by Friday, your brain will most likely be quite tired from all the knowledge you are trying to absorb and adding to it physical weariness is not a great idea.
There’s another side to the WWDC which is the bash and the different parties. About the parties, my recommendation will be to check them well in advance to the week of the event and sign up for them as soon as they are scheduled. Most of them (the most interesting ones I would say) are RSVP and if you wait until Monday to check them, you’ll probably end up like me, not getting to know what a party looks like. To feel better I try to think that I left that for the next time… but trust me, you don’t want to be trying to find good reasons to explain why you didn’t go to any parties.
On the other hand, I did go to the bash. And two things I did which I would definitely repeat. First, go early (and jump some lines, even though I think I shouldn’t have… but shhh, don’t say anything) in order to take as much from it as possible. Secondly, try to go with the friends you hopefully met during the first four days of the event. I really enjoyed having people to drink with and talk about everything that happened during most of the sessions. One thing you may notice on Friday (especially during the morning) is that lines are almost non-existent and that the audience seems slower than the rest of the days. I must say, with some fear of losing my job, that if you feel super fresh on Friday, you clearly didn’t party enough in the bash which I really think was your mandate.
As a final note to this weird post, and I would be super impressed if anyone gets to this paragraph (which is a pity because this paragraph is not worth your time), I’d say that my biggest recommendation is that you make sure to squeeze as much juice from the WWDC as possible. Try to prepare for the labs, not only during the event but also well in advance. Some of the labs may end up being more important for you than any session, but that depends entirely upon you. Also, remember to party (not too much because you have to be well rested to last the whole week). And finally, do your best to be open to meeting new and fantastic people (there are some weird people, not a lot… so maybe don’t be extremely open). In any case, enjoy it because being in SF surrounded by such an enormous amount of smart (smarter in my case) people is a unique experience… one you’ll want to repeat.
PS: There were two things I loved finding in the event, which was not really event related. The first one was that people from Lyft were giving away free rides, but only for new riders… which was super interesting to see because the odds of finding people leaving the apple event that have never ridden Lyft, to me, was close to impossible (but, then again, I know nothing about statistics). The second one was a guy that had a normal watch, an Android phone and a notebook that wasn’t Apple… so clearly he didn’t know where he was.