WWDC has been part of my life for over a decade now. It started as something I’d watch from afar, when my only career goal was to get there. When I finally made it in 2005, I met my mentor and put my career on the fast track. A couple of years later, my team won an Apple Design Award, and a couple of years after that, I actually got to help put on the show.
For the past couple of years, I’ve helped the Appsterdam Foundation build the conference around the conference, serving the growing number of ticketless showcializers, and leading this community exercise in providing solutions, instead of merely complaining. Inevitably, I’ve developed some top tips for new and returning attendees to our annual homecoming.
Be prepared. You can certainly just show up and see what happens, but like most things in life, you’ll do a lot better if you take it seriously and start getting ready before you go. Pick some parties you want to attend and get on the RSVP lists. Think about what you want to accomplish, what you have to share with the community, and what you hope to bring home.
Carry cheap cigarettes. That has been my number one tip for years. A lot of the conference is actually spent standing on the sidewalk holding conversations with people you won’t get to meet any other time. In a city like San Francisco, you’re competing for their attention with a parade of panhandlers, and the fastest, cheapest way to keep them moving and get back to your conversations is to offer them a cigarette.
Bring your A game. This is your biggest and best chance to meet colleagues, future teammates, and media gatekeepers. Here, more than ever, you need to be hustling. Don’t come empty handed. Be prepared to exchange business cards. If you hurry, you can still order some from MOO and get 10% off. Also, if you have an app, you should bring 2″x2″ icon stickers to trade. Don’t have any? There’s still time to order those too. Go to StickerMule and get $10 off.
Go with the flow. Get it together now, because once you get there, it’s up to fate. WWDC should always be a life-changing experience, but if you show up with a checklist, or try to recreate the same experience year after year, you’re going to end up disappointed, and the conference will start to feel like it has passed you by. It’s nice to see old friends, but come just as prepared to make new ones. Don’t try to shape the experience; let the experience shape you.
After my post about our press release and all the help we got from awesome people, folks wanted to know more about the press page, so here are some diagrams I made in the spirit of Chris Phin.
There are two important ideas that went into our press page. The first is that journalists want basic, no-nonsense information, stripped of marketing fluff. They want to know as much about our product as possible in as little time as they have, so we give them the good stuff, right up front.
They want promo codes. We try to make getting them as painless as possible. Then the basic links: where we are on the various networks, and our press kit, which has all the important stuff on the page zipped up and waiting, so you can download that and be off the site in 30 seconds. We try to provide the site and its content in every language we are localized in, and make that immediately obvious.
Since our press release is concise enough to demo, we include the whole thing, right above the fold, right next to the basic information that should accompany any press release: what the product is, and how people can get in touch with us. Oh yeah, and high-resolution logos and screenshots. Making high quality assets available makes it easy to cover us, which brings me to the other second important idea.
Journalists are just as lazy as I am. The easier we make it for them to do their jobs, the more they are going to love us. We tell them lots of clever things to notice about the game in our heavily illustrated reviewer’s guide. We want them to know everything they need to know after 20 minutes with our product.
Hell, we even prerecord that 20 minutes with extended format Let’s Play videos. You can play them full-screen on your iPad and it’s like playing the game without using your hands.
I figure, I was a journalist, and I like to jump to the bottom of the page, so we made it a bit of a mini-site, with minimal gimmicks, and minimal chrome. The way I see it, by the time you get down to the press page, all we can do is let the product speak for itself.
I had a wonderful New Year’s Eve, and an exciting adventure on New Year’s Day, both of which I will tell you about later. Meanwhile, I’ve been dying to share some ideas that have been bouncing around in my head—the closest thing I have to resolutions this year.
Monads and Objective-C
Last year saw me transition back to technical production, so it’s no surprise my thoughts in 2013 center around reconciling those years of theory with practical engineering. One topic that got a lot of laughs last year was monads—specifically their inscrutability. I had the chance to sit down with computer scientistErik Meijer last month and get a lesson in monadic patterns. I felt like I understood, but was dying for some examples in my native language, Objective-C. When a Bing search proved fruitless, I knew I had my speaker topic for 2013.
Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
I spent years making people laugh on stage until I got really good at it. Then I made the choice I so often make—to leave that comfortable expertise and become a novice again. First I went back and gave my “death deathy death death” talk another go, with improved—if still mixed—results. Going back to speaking on technical topics will challenge me further. Talking about something I started by knowing nothing about is a dose of my own advice. This will challenge the theories I’ve espoused to a generation of Appsterdam-trained App Makers beginning their careers with an emphasis on public speaking.
Do you have a better idea?
I’ve spent the past six years trying to get better at taking feedback. This year I’m going to try getting better feedback, with this simple question. It’s too easy to give something a minute’s thought. Too easy, in fact, to be useful. It’s too easy to fall into a situation where one person becomes the well of ideas and sink for complaints, who everyone expects to solve every problem, and accept every blame. It’s an unhealthy dynamic for families, teams, and individuals. Worse, it’s not productive. Complaints need to come with suggestions.
Luck is not a formula.
The world is full of people who had one success and are content to spend the rest of their lives talking about their formula. You can’t trust people like that, because one success doesn’t imply any formula other than luck, and luck is not a formula. Few are the people who have consistently performed again and again. Few who can show clear patterns of learning from failure to produce success. Repetitive success and learning from failure are the only ways to build a formula. Everything else is horseshoes and rubber chickens.
Success is exceptional.
One of the most challenging ideas to me was the Agile assertion that I should build a failure-based business strategy. I hadn’t even considered my strategies success-based, but I have seen how destructive failure is as an exception. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my reverence for excellence could mesh with a failure-based strategy where products are produced on the cheap and expected to fail, where success is the exception. For example, a lab where we could remix games to explore ideas with our fans, sending the best for expensive native development.
This is a business.
I have always been bad at business. I don’t care about money, I trust people implicitly, and I entertain the most ludicrous notions about honor. I’ll fire people for laziness or incompetence, but I’ll hire my friends just because they need to pay the rent. I’ve come to be convinced that signing contracts with friends prevents making enemies, but I’ve been so turned off by the recent cult of contracts I haven’t been good at it. While I’m not willing to compromise my principles when it comes to my customers, when it comes to my company, I always have to remember this first rule of business.
Engineering is hard.
Then there’s the first rule of engineering. For the past few years my trade has been in words, but returning to war has reminded me that my advantage has always been in suffering. What perhaps makes my story interesting is that I’ve come so far, and been through so much, but learned so much from it. While I often sum up my secret as “be kind, work hard,” the implementation detail has been a tolerance for pain. The biggest shock to people trying to bring their ideas to fruition is just how much work is involved, how much blood must be shed, how much sacrifice is required.
Honesty is adversity.
It’s easy to make promises. It’s easy to make excuses. What’s hard is honesty, and it’s honesty that makes engineering hard. We all hold honesty up as a golden ideal, but we all hate honesty when it’s applied to us. It is the honesty of a life laid bare that makes death such a terrifying experience, embodied in the idea of judgment. We hate those who judge us most when they make us judge ourselves. If you want to practice honesty, and you don’t want to be an asshole, you have to learn to be selective with your heart. Honesty is not free, so you should probably be paid for it.
Art through adversity
For 2013 I have embraced process and I have embraced pain. There are many who think process negates the need for pain. When you can convince me Thomas Kinkade was the greatest painter who ever lived, I’ll believe process can produce art, but as long as I believe that Vincent van Gogh was the greatest painter who ever lived, I will believe that art requires adversity. Process can never free us from that, but it can, like a high-level framework, relieve of us the suffering we don’t need to do, to free us to suffer for the things that matter, for the state of our art, for the experience of our user.
There’s nutritious food, and there’s delicious food, and thinking those are different types of food makes people fat, unhealthy, and sad. As long as the people who sell food that makes people fat, unhealthy, and sad are better at cooking, distributing, and marketing their products, people will continue to be fat, unhealthy, and sad. You can make all the excuses you want, but they don’t actually do anything. The facts are what they are.
Once you accept the facts, you can decide whether you care about making the world a better place, and whether you have what it takes to actually solve this problem. This is what nature calls a niche, and there’s an industry to be built selling food products that are not only better for you, but better in every way than food that is bad for you.
Solve that problem, and you will be the Apple of food. That’s how Apple took over the mobile market. They said it doesn’t matter why cell phones are lousy, it only matters that we make something that is not merely adequate, but a surprise and delight to use. It doesn’t matter what you think of Apple. That’s their big strategy.
It’s really quite simple. Figure out what the default option is, give people a reason to try your option, and make it easy for them to do so. Throw in something to talk about, and you’ve got the perfect product. The people selling things like politics, religion, and speculative investments are great at this. The people selling science, reason, and being good to your fellow man are using Comic Sans.
If you have what it takes, any market is yours, and make no mistake, that goes for every market, and that includes the marketplace of ideas. The reason things are falling apart and it feels like you’re surrounded by idiots is the same reason you’re surrounded by people who are fat, unhealthy and sad—the bad guys pick better fonts.
It’s not about the choice of typeface. It’s about what the choice of typeface represents. I didn’t even notice the typeface, because there was so much information crammed onto each slide, I thought I was at the world’s most boring business meeting. Which is a real shame, because the product is amazing.
Science deserves to be treated better than this. Science isn’t a bunch of nerds with no aesthetic taste. Science is the source of all our power. Science connects us to our place in the Cosmos. Science brings us closer to God. It’s no wonder the forces of violence, materialism, and greed are so keen to keep us and our children away from it.
In case you haven’t heard, Burning Man completely mucked up their ticket sales this year. They have more demand than any server can handle, and there are so many people who want to come, that if you distribute the tickets randomly, there’s no way for the project camps to secure enough tickets to actually build the city everyone else is trying to come see.
Let’s solve this, shall we?
There are three problems that need to be solved:
Ensuring project camps have enough tickets to actually build the city
Ensuring equal and fair access to tickets to the extent possible
Avoiding a first-come-first-served queue and resulting traffic jam
To pull this off, you have to split the tickets into two allotments, the corpus allotment for project camps, and the spirit allotment for general attendees.
Project camps will send in applications as usual, but in addition to their plans, they will include the number of tickets they will purchase at the group rate.
Once the city is planned, contact those camps and sell them their requested number of tickets.
The spirit allotment is then distributed using the standard lottery system.
Important: do not mess us this split. Overestimate the corpus allotment or delay the spirit allotment to after city planning if necessary.
For the current situation, the only thing that really matters is solving problem 1, because without that, Burning Man as we know it is over.
What has to be done, then, is to try to move things back inline with this general plan.
Get the project camps to let you know how many tickets they absolutely require and plan the city.
Use the tickets allotted for the secondary open sale (sorry holdouts!), and any tickets you can manage to buy back (if necessary), and sell them to the project camps.
There is no step 3.
I hope they get it sorted, or ol’ “Pirate” Mike won’t be flipping breakfast your way at Pancake Playhouse this year, and that would suck for everyone.
Like this idea? Want some advice of your own? Hire me!