WWDC 2020: form vs function

I have seen a handful of these takes about WWDC and while I appreciate what they’re saying, something rubs me the wrong way about it.

We all miss getting together with friends and meeting people, but this overall “I get that the content is better, but networking!” sentiment some developers have shows that they value their own nostalgia and enjoyment of networking over better WWDC sessions and accessibility for the wider community.

WWDC’s primary purpose isn’t for you to make new friends. Its purpose is to help inform developers of new Apple technologies.

This year tens of thousands of developers got to have a much better WWDC with better, tighter content because of this new remote format. WWDC videos often contain the best information about new technologies and serve as a valuable reference for years. Often times the best way to learn about a particular technology is to go back and watch the WWDC session where it was first introduced, and for everything that was introduced this year, we have fantastic materials.

And although networking and seeing friends at WWDC in person is fun, attending in person is a privilege. Only a small percentage of developers have the substantial funds (and depending on what country you’re from, the ability to safely travel into the US without hassle from customs), and are lucky enough to win the lottery for a ticket.

WWDC in person is great for the people who get to go. But every year as the developer community grows that becomes a smaller percentage of the community. If being in person with others at WWDC brings new friendships and opportunities to the attendees, then it just means that attending WWDC amplifies your privilege, and we need to acknowledge the inequality that leads to.

Ideally, I hope next year’s WWDC format doesn’t completely abandon the perks and better video production values we got in 2020. We would have a live keynote and SOTU for Monday, and prerecorded sessions would be released throughout the week. Instead of presenting live sessions, Apple engineers could instead give more labs and in-person assistance during WWDC week, Apple engineers could be offering sessions with individual developers remotely throughout the rest of the year. That would make for a better WWDC for everyone.

Or maybe Apple will want to stick with a WWDC where everything is pre-recorded and remote (that’s probably a lot less stressful for them!) and instead of there being a single Apple developer conference that’s massive and expensive, smaller, local conferences can sprout up around the world for people to enjoy each other’s company and talk shop. It wouldn’t be quite the same as what WWDC was before, but then again, Apple’s developer community is a lot bigger, diverse, and spread out than it was before, and it’s time for WWDC to adapt to that new world.

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