WWDC 2020

Like everything else in 2020, this year’s WWDC had to be a little different if it was going to happen at all.

When Apple first announced that the conference would be fully remote, nobody knew what that would look like, exactly. What parts of the dubdub experience would be kept in this new format? What details would be lost in translation? Could they actually pull it off?

As it turns out, going fully remote wasn’t merely good enough — it was, in many ways, superior to the original thing. There’s a lot to like about the new format.

The videos are well-produced, and let each presenter’s personality really shine. Everybody looks and sounds great.

Sessions are tight and well-paced. Rather than stretching or cramming content into a fixed time slot, they’re as long as they need to be. And thanks to this more digestible format, we’re starting to see WWDC clips being shared around, which is new and refreshing.

To be honest, it’s hard to imagine ever going back to a physical conference.

However, as someone who had the privilege of attending WWDC in years past, there are things I’m going to miss (and some that I decidedly won’t).

🥰 😫
Refrigerators stocked with Odwalla smoothies Trying to download the latest Xcode beta over hotel internet
Lunchtime sessions Eating lunch at or around Moscone
WWDC track jackets saving the lives of first-time attendees from the cold of San Francisco summer Being in San Francisco, generally
Eating burritos on the terrace of McEnery Convention Center during WWDC check-in Being in San Jose, generally
Guessing who would be playing at Bash this year Hearing the same handful of songs on repeat before and after every session (this song in particular)
Watching Apple executives dance at Bash
Talking to people as you wait in line for the keynote on Monday morning Waking up late and having to settle for watching from the overflow room
Leaving at the end of the week with a mix of hope, fear, and inspiration * Being sick for the next week with dubdub flu

* I’d like to hold on this last point for a moment.

In the Before Times, many of us traveled far from home to attend WWDC. There was a physical and temporal delineation between life before, during, and after the conference. Flying out of SFO, SJC, or OAK, you escaped Apple’s “reality distortion field” and its surrounding echo chamber. You returned to your normal life.

This year? Not so much.

WWDC 2020 was just another week in this bizarre existence amidst this pandemic. Not only is there no escape from the “reality distortion field”, there isn’t even a “normal life” for us to leave or return to.

So here we are, filled with anxious excitement and fear; our corporeal forms replaced by Memoji floating in a black, digital void lit only by the screens of our soon-to-be-obsolete MacBooks Pro.


I don’t have a real sense of how everything went over this year. There wasn’t any applause (or heckling) at this year’s keynote to gauge the temperature in the room. There were no parties to overhear shop talk and hot takes. There was no line for lunch to make small talk with a fellow attendee.

But if Twitter is anything to go on, my overall impression is that everyone is really excited.

Which is fine. I get it.

But it should come as no surprise that things announced at WWDC are exciting — that’s the whole point of having a developer conference in the first place. Apple has the best marketing in the world, and WWDC is Apple’s way of marketing to us.

Here’s the thing about excitement: It’s kryptonite to developers.

Excitement messes with our ability to focus on one thing, which is already a big struggle for a lot of us (myself included). When you’re excited, it’s almost impossible to get anything done.

There are plenty of voices in the community who are echoing this excitement. I can’t add anything to that discussion. And besides, that’s not really where my head’s at right now.

Trivial Pursuit

I briefly considered reviving the NSHipster Quiz for WWDC 2020, but it didn’t feel right. With everything going on in the world, Apple trivia just isn’t where my head or heart are right now.

To give you a sense of what I mean, here’s what I had for Round 3, whose theme was inspired by Richard Hamming:

Question 1.
What are the important problems of your field?
Question 2.
What important problems are you working on?
Question 3.
If what you are doing is not important, why are working on it?


If you’re serious about solving a problem, you owe it to yourself to temper any excitement that distracts you from making real progress.

In last year’s write-up for WWDC 2019, I concluded with the following, as a counterpoint to the conference’s theme of #mindblown 🤯:

Taking care of yourself — sleeping enough, eating right, exercising regularly — will do more to improve your productivity than any language or framework out there. Your ability to communicate and collaborate with others will always be a better predictor of success than your choice of technology stack. Your relationships with others are the most significant factors of success and happiness in life.

I stand by this advice, boring as it may be.

It’s been an exciting week, so take a moment to collect yourself. Go on a walk. Take a hike. (Be safe about it.) Do whatever you need to break free of the “reality distortion field”. Once you do, you’ll have the necessary distance to determine what new technologies you should pay attention to and what you can ignore for now.

We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Written by Mattt

Mattt (@mattt) is a writer and developer in Portland, Oregon.

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