How the WWDC Inspired Me

This year’s WWDC has come and gone. However, the inspiration and impressions that were taken away from my experience there will be long lasting. I’ll break down the source of this inspiration into three areas:

  • Labs and Sessions
  • The Human Factor
  • iWalk

Labs and Sessions

I have attended, virtually and in-person, many technical talks and presentations over the course of my career, but Apple sits at the top of the podium. Some developers made the (good) argument that iOS6, under the covers is an incremental upgrade for developers. Many of the sessions were summarized as:

Yea, you know all that manual code you had to write in iOSx…we went ahead and took care of that for you. Oh and this cool feature is now only less than 10 lines of code pops collar.

While this statement is pretty accurate I took away far much more. Though I can’t go into specifics because of NDA on the particular talks, what I can say is that the awesome engineers made a lot of effort to not just handle repetitive and vastly differently implementation of code, but also think of numerous edge cases and handle them with grace. The added layer of pazzaz was that if you need to override anything and “truly” customize a framework component then you have that option. I can’t express what an accomplishment that is…to be given a framework/set of tools that does all of this. It is an excellent example to develop my own code. It is no secret that good/great iOS developers aren’t cheap. We shouldn’t be. This is a highly sought after skill that requires a ton of work to pull off correctly. But where do the experts go to get advice or help? We go to the source…Apple! In most cases this is done through Developer Support, but during the WWDC you can take your code, design or ideas and sit with an Apple engineer to go over what you have written. In order to maximize my time during the labs I picked two very specific topics that I wanted to discuss. The first dealt with CoreGraphics, CoreAnimation and MapKit. A lot of people will bring code that is breaking to the table. My particular questions didn’t have to deal with a specific problem. but more of design pattern implementation. It was good to hear that my methodology and usage is how the engineers themselves would have approached it as well. I was really amazed and grateful to their willingness to help and the general attitude from all the Apple engineers. If they thought they weren’t the best person to answer your question they didn’t just say, “Sorry…good luck”, they went and found someone who could. Just another example to follow from Apple for all developers. This type of attitude is generally found with Mac/iOS developers in the community I am happy to say.

The Human Factor

It was my experience that at the WWDC there were no strangers. It was one of the most welcoming communities/gatherings of like minded people I have been to. I talked with complete strangers while standing the MANY lines, exchanged notes and ideas while in sessions and finally got to meet up with people who I had only conversed with online. This was a great experience. I was blown away when reading my twitter feed with the #wwdc2012 hashtag and seeing the number of tweets from people and organizations who would welcome to public to come and join them at a bar, Denny’s, area of a park or shared office space. When was the last time anyone in any career or social space experience that! Though the #wwdc2012 is an event and experience unto itself #altwwdc had just as much camaraderie. I decided to walk down there on Friday and spend sometime with Appsterdam at StackMob’s HQ. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived, but when I left 2 hours later I had talked with half a dozen developers, met Jana Boruta in person (we had talked over email a number of times), ate some of the best burritos ever and befriended the best French Bulldog ever, Boadie. I loved listening to Victor from TUAW speak, but I think the most influential and lasting moment of the visit lasted just 2 minutes (I had to leave to catch my plan). Mike Lee got up to start a round table discussion about…well anything. As I walked away from the StackMob office I kept going back in my mind to certain words that Mike said. Community, sharing, helping, kindness, positivity. It brought a big smile to my face because it shows the attitude and culture that exists in the Apple community and Apple itself. Everyone in your life you meet, no matter how brief, as an impact on you. Lots of people left lots of small impacts on my life last week. Even the TSA agent leaving SFO. He told me a funny joke


One of the earlier days I was there I had a free afternoon so I walked across the street, bought a huge bottle of water and just took off around the city. My dad lived in San Francisco for a bit when I was young so I walked down memory lane and saw a few tourists sites, but I also purposely got lost at least twice. Why? Because that is the only way to find new ideas and experiences. I would stop at random cafes and bars to get a bite to eat and just chat for a minute or two with a random stranger or shop owner. After about 4.5 hours I made it back to my hotel and was absolutely exhausted, but a walkabout that I’ll never forget. Many people have the misconception that developers are just wrench turners who are are emotionless and work in a field that doesn’t have depth. Oh little do they know that those called to this service, and that are passionate about true software development, are in themselves artists who can create beautiful, while functional, aides to our lives. Especially Mac/iOS developers. Yes I said it and will defend that stance with extreme prejudice Walking around and enjoying the solace of the city all to myself helped me think through major design considerations and upcoming app functionality…this wasn’t inspired or given to me by a forum or tech talk, but just being in the city and separating myself from my usual surroundings. Growing up my dad always taught me to be adventurous. Do things that frighten you. Explore places that seem distance or that don’t have a clear path. Though I haven’t been able to be take the unknown path as often I would have liked in my life I took as many as I could in San Francisco while at the WWDC.

Things End Up How They Start Out

It is a truism that I live by. Things end up how they start out. During Tim Cook’s keynote he talked about about the amazing accomplishments that Apple has had over the past year in regards to sales and engineering, but you could tell that wasn’t Apple’s intrinsic motivation. The focus is, and has always been humanity. Creating beautiful products and services that enrich our lives. For some of us it is implicit and helps our daily lives be a little more productive, but for others showcased in the video it is very EXPLICIT. With the products that Apple has created they get to experience life in a tangible way that medicine, science, government or most other technologies companies haven’t to date. When you think about that in terms of humanity, what Steve Jobs and the rest of Apple have done really did change to world….one small dent in the universe at a time. There are many people that I didn’t get to meet that I really wanted to because of time and schedules. I wanted nothing more than to shake their hands and say thank you. Thank you for all that you give to Mac/iOS developer community through assistance, open-source projects and amazing apps. Maybe next year! It is truly inspirational.

Let's Talk iPhone Event

I always love the last few months and weeks that build up to an iPhone/iPad announcement.  Though some of the rumors have turned into fact, most are just random, fabricated factoids that many MSM and bloggers push out there for the masses.  At the end of the day I can only presume that Apple doesn't pay those any attention except in the case of lost hardware.

However, I am not immune to reading a lot of these misleading articles. Granted I don't treat them as gospel there are a few things that I am very excited about.

First, is the official roll out of iCloud.  Having used the beta version the past few months I have been pleasantly surprised as it's convince and ease of use.  It is a huge win for the average consumer who has, up to this point, been reliant on iTunes and various other backup strategies to manage their content and media.

Second, is iTunes Match.  It has always been somewhat of a let down that users couldn't access all of their music from any of their devices.  The process is extremely easy and now you don't have to carry around a separate iDevice to hold your music catalog.

Third, wireless syncing.  I have a strong feeling that most IT administrators and children/grandchildren who have to provide tech support to their parents/grandparents will jump up and down over this.

Fourth, the API features with the new iOS have once again raised the bar for app developers.  Apple has listen to feedback from developers to make it easier for us to provide better functionality in our apps as well as more detailed customization options.  

*Bye-bye drawRect: category*

Fifth (possibly), Apple Assistant.  Rumor Alert! Could the headline "Let's Talk iPhone" really have a hidden meaning.  
Apple gave the masses the first decent implementation of multi-touch.  The communication mechanism that is inherit to all since birth.  Pointing, dragging, panning, zooming, swiping.  With the acquisition of Siri, there is no doubt that Apple has been putting a lot of effort in creating the near-perfect implementation of voice recognition for the masses.  On device voice processing via natural speech that is a native part of iOS.  If this is the case, then you will see a whole new generation of apps and a paradigm shift in how users, impaired or not, interface with these applications.

Apple...let's talk.

Apple's Stock Should Have Gone Up

It was announced that Steve Jobs has officially resigned as Apple's CEO. Of course apple's stock dropped 7% in after hours trading. If investors really understood the company the stock should have gone up. 

Steve Jobs has embodied the true meaning of a leader. This doesn't mean he isn't without his faults over the years, but he has vision that has taken apple from a garage to having more market value and net worth than many countries. He has revolutionized almost every facet of technology in the past 20 years not too mention the music, movie and gaming industries.

However, these accolades are not why the stock should go up. The real magic, if you will, about Steve Jobs is the fact that he has passed on and instilled his core values into Apple itself. The culture, people, products, expectations and philosophies. So rest assured that his successor, Tim Cook, has the Apple spirit which is Steve Jobs.  They are inseparable. 

One may argue about the (mis)direction that Microsoft took after Bill Gates resigned and handed the keys over to Balmer. He was never a tech guy. He never saw that beauty in computers and how art can be found in computers and most importantly that computers and software are supposed to make people's life's easier. 

God speed whatever direction you go.

Inspiration from Bill Atkinson

It surprises many people that I talk to who aren't developers when I mention other developers from the "early" days that really inspire me.  Much like how musicians, artists, writers, actors, etc. today will speak of their predecessors who inspired them.

The story that completely changed my thought process on programming and technology in general was that of "Rounded Rects Are Everywhere!".  Today people just assume that technology is easy to create and Adobe Photoshop, Pixar Animation, and Facebook have always existed.  Alas, the trail blazers before us were truly revolutionary and in my case what inspires me are those rounded rects.

The story goes that back in 1981 Bill Atkinson created the functionality in QuickDraw that would draw ovals and circles very quickly.  I know it doesn't seem glamours with technologies like augmented reality and facial recognition, but back then it was way ahead of it's time. Remember, that most processors in '81 didn't have the ability to process floating point values. So the question becomes if you can't use square roots (resulting in floating point values) how to do the necessary calculations. Multiplication/division…yea I guess you could, but the 68000 processor was still pretty slow at that.  Bill figured out a way to do it with just addition and subtraction.

"Bill's technique used the fact the sum of a sequence of odd numbers is always the next perfect square (For example, 1 + 3 = 4, 1 + 3 + 5 = 9, 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 16, etc). So he could figure out when to bump the dependent coordinate value by iterating in a loop until a threshold was exceeded. This allowed QuickDraw to draw ovals very quickly."

As excited as Bill was and demoed this to Steve Jobs, he was posed the question about making rounded rects.  Bill tried to dismiss the idea as a waste of time, but Steve showed him how prevalent rounded rects are in everyday life.  Later that afternoon Bill returned with the solution.  As such rounded rects have since become indispensable.

What I take away from this story and why it inspires me so much is Bill didn't throw his hands up when faced with a programming limitations, but thought outside the box and used a very straightforward solution to solve a seemingly complex problem.  The second aspect that I take away is to be inspired by what is around us and that we use everyday and to incorporate that into application design.

'Freedom From Porn': Steve Was Right

Back in May Steve Jobs got into a wee bit of email confrontation with Ryan Tate over the finer points of whether or not Apple was still a revolutionary company based upon their recent actions of going after the Gawker blogger/journalist/thief/revolutionary/martyr/whatever for publishing and printing information on the yet release iPhone 4.  One of the most circulated quotes from sed email exchange was "freedom from porn".  Even as a big Apple supporter that I am I had to laugh a little.  I do think Steve and his band of merry men and women are making the right business decisions I thought that one particular reasoning was somewhat of a copout used by politicians who want to guilt voters into believing in some draconian policy.  That was until I was watching my 3 year old niece play a Snow White puzzle game on my brother-in-law's Android Incredible.  The app was free with ad support.

Disclaimer: I FIRMLY believe that it is a parents responsibility to monitor what their children are doing online.

I was completely shocked when I saw an ad for "Sexy Single Chat Line" on a kids game.  People complain how Apple has "jump the shark" or "sold out" by having tight control on the advertising model of iAds or the submission process of apps, but having a completely "open" system is not necessarily a good thing. Apple has struck the right balance between along enough flexibility for developers to be create wonderfully creative and useful apps, but in the meantime maintaining a high standard of quality. 

Needless to say the app got deleted immediately and she played a similar game on my iPhone.

I Will Not Ride the Dell Lightning

Being that my passion for development and design are usually centered around mobile apps I am always interested in any new platforms and handsets that poised to make any impact on the current market.  As such I was really interested in the article posted over at Engadget yesterday: Dell Lightning: the ultimate Windows Phone 7 device leaks out. However, my enthusiasm faded after the first sentence and twindled down to zero by the end of the first paragraph.

"Hot damn, people. The mother of all Dell leaks just dropped into our laps, and the absolute highlight has to be the Lightning, a Windows Phone 7 portrait slider."

I can overlook the fact that the device is running Windows and some of the on screen usability issues because I haven't used one, but what bothers me the most is that handset manufactures can't seem to understand handset design.  This phone is presented as having a "revolutionary" device design, but once again you have the same tired, inefficient slide-the-handset to show the qwerty keyboard.  Really?! That is the best you have. That is NO different from all the other handset designs that are offered by ever manufacturer in the world for the past 5 - 10 years.  Dell and Microsoft combined have more money than most European countries.  Why they don't or can't find/recruit/steal the BEST designers and developers to come out with a real competitor to the iPhone is beyond me?  However, what this does mean that within 6 months of this device launching you will see it sitting next to the Dell MP3 player that was supposed to be so great.

Looking over some of the other features that the device offers, once again there is nothing that I can't get, and probably better, with an iPhone or Nexus One.


When I was attempting to find a link to the dell jukebox from their website it didn't come up.

The Drive to Build More

Based upon the myriad of tweets over the past three months or so, most who follow me know that I have been working on my first iPhone app.  Well, first to submitted to the app store.  I have finished an app for work and have started on another for  Though the app hasn't hit the stores YET, I already have the inspiration to build more.  EraseUrX has by far been the most rewarding project I have worked on in the past three years.  Even if I don't make a lot of money, it truly has been self satisfying to just complete this project.  I can't wait to get started on the next one not only for the challenges that await, but also I know that I be able to put it in the App Store faster.

There has been a lot of criticism of Apple's approval process in the App Store, but over the past three months they have made great strides to improve this process and it has benefited developers greatly.  In addition, there are rumors floating around of a possible upcoming announcement of the 4.0SDK and a new phone device, which if the 3.0 release is any indication of the amount new features added to the phone, then the 4.0 release will give developers even more tools to increase the usability and features in our apps.

Hopefully, the saying is true...

If you build it they will come.

Microsoft and Enhanced Experience

I read a very interesting article yesterday that ranked the usability between Apple's website and Microsoft's website.  Granted, I am a little biased toward Apple, but I do feel that the author did a great job in their comparison. *spoiler: Apple won.  To add to the critique the Microsoft website does something that is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.

If a company claims to be in the "web" business then they need to create websites that look the same in all browsers.  Microsoft has a HORRIBLE reputation on releasing browsers that are not standards compliant, but are constantly giving non-IE users who visit their websites a second rate experience.  Case in point...their own website.  If you go their website with anything other than Internet Explorer, the visitor is presented with this ANNOYING alert in the upper left hand corner that is asks if you want to "Upgrade your Internet experience".  After few seconds it does minimize, but if you don't click the "Don't show me this EVER again link" the next page you navigate to will show it.

The fact is that I do want to upgrade my internet experience, but not by installing Silverlight, or IE7 or IE8 for that matter.  All of the before mentioned pieces of software are horrible, lack innovation, and do nothing but dumb down the web.  I want to upgrade my internet experience by not being harassed by Microsoft.