Why You Should Watch WWDC Session Streams

From an editorial perspective, one thing that is clear about WWDC is that the main audience for the sessions is not the developers in attendance, but the much more diverse, more diffuse, and more transient on-line audience that will view the videos over the next months and even years.

WWDC Session Videos are great as overviews, poor as references

What I’ve come to realize is that WWDC sessions are great as overviews, but poor for depth. They are very much worth watching when you’re new to a framework, they’re somewhat worth watching if you haven’t programmed in the framework lately (you might see some class you hadn’t appreciated), but they are not the place to discover a way out of some corner-case or programming limitation.

Microsoft explicitly labels the depth of their conference talks as being 100-, 200-, or 300-level, and 300-level content at WWDC was vanishingly rare. (As I write this, I can only speak to the talks I physically attended, but several talks definitely promised more depth than they delivered.)

I wonder if this is an artifact of The Dog That Didn’t Bark aka Apple TV. It must have been pulled very late. Both Xcode and Apple’s Developer Site, which had to be updated to support the new OS betas, are littered with Apple TV references. Perhaps it was the case that some of these weaker talks were late substitutions. (Although you wouldn’t guess it from the universally well-practiced speakers.)

The real keynote was the Platform State of the Union

Monday’s keynote was covered by news vans and live blogs and all that crap. There was, perhaps, 5 minutes of developer content in this 2.5-hour stemwinder. From the audience, anyway, the music stuff was awkward to the point of embarrassment.

Skip it and watch Platform State of the Union instead. This was the true developer’s keynote and contains an excellent overview of El Capitan, iOS 9, and watchOS. (By the way, the witty kids pronounce “watchOS” so that it rhymes with “nachos.”)

The Shocking Secret You Can Use to Determine Which Videos to Stream

Is that a proper 21st century headline?

Anyway, here’s the key: many sessions followed a standard naming practice:

— “Introduction to…” talks are 100-level (if that) “tables of content.” They hardly have any code on screen, but contain references to other videos that provide the 200- or 300-level content. If you’ve ever programmed in the namespace before, you can skip these talks.

— “What’s New In…” talks are 100-level “Release Notes.” There may be some code, but what you’re really looking for here are the new classes and general new capabilities. This is the video with which you should start if you have programmed in the framework before, even if you’re pretty comfortable. Again, all of these talks are good at referencing other, more substantive, talks. This is my main recommended tactic for finding deep content on frameworks with which you are familiar: it’s much more effective than guessing from session titles and descriptions.

— Beware talks that have the words “tips”, “tricks,” or “practices.” These were the talks that disappointed me. Such words traditionally mean 300-level content. If you’re an attendee and you’re budgeting precious in-conference time to “tricks” and “practices,” that’s a strong indicator that you’re familiar with the framework and are encountering its limitations and corner cases. But at WWDC, these sessions appear to be more focused on the newcomer or relatively inexperienced framework user.