Everyone Is Welcome at WWDC

Monday, March 28th, 2011

WWDC registration opened today. Steve Streza had this to say:

And don’t spend $1600 just to go see the keynote. If you’re not a developer, this isn’t the event for you. #wwdc

I cannot condemn this attitude strongly enough. Everyone is welcome at WWDC — doesn’t matter what your reasons for coming are. We, as a community, cannot afford to be anything less than completely welcoming just because our platform is currently popular.1

Excluding people simply because they aren’t currently part of your club is an ugly attitude. It’s even worse to do it just as they’re starting to show a little interest.

(Incidentally, I’ve purchased a ticket for WWDC this year. I’ll see you all in June.)

Update: Mike Woodworth nails it: “It’s not a meritocracy, it’s a free market.”

Update 2: Streza has clarified his position. Now, it sounds more like he was offering non-developer folks the advice that a WWDC ticket isn’t worth your money. That’s reasonable advice. I’m glad Streza clarified. He’s a prominent and valued member of the Apple developer community, which is exactly why I mentioned his tweet specifically: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Streza’s clarification aside, wanting to exclude the “unworthy” from WWDC is an unfortunately common sentiment. I see a lot of folks complaining that not enough developers2 get to go because of this supposed influx of “keynote-only people”.

That doesn’t sit right for me for two reasons:

  1. It’s not exactly a surprise that WWDC happens again in the summer. If you feel you truly need to go, do what I did: plan ahead to have the cash on hand sometime in the spring; you should able to attend. Nobody who does that has been excluded from purchasing a ticket.
  2. The past few years, WWDC has been incredibly crowded. The most popular sessions have had huge lines and they have even had to use overflow rooms or turn folks away outright. I’m not talking about the keynote, I’m talking about the sessions that happen Tuesday through Friday. That doesn’t jibe with there being a significant number of keynote-only attendees.

So this isn’t an actual problem. Instead, the specter of “keynote-only attendees mucking up the conference” represents a disgusting reaction to the massive numbers of newbies in Apple developer community that have surfaced over the past 4 years. Previous to the whole iPhone game rolling in to town, “crowded” was not a word you would use to describe WWDC; last year it sold out in 8 days.

That’s an incredible amount of new blood for a community to absorb in just a few short years, and actually I think that for the most part folks have done an incredible job at making newcomers feel welcome. There have been thousands of tutorial blog posts written, StackOverflow questions answered, mailing list threads replied to, and IRC debugging time has gladly and freely given by all members of the community — it honestly warms my heart.

However, it takes hard work and constant self-evaluation to remain so welcoming and open; the alternative is being part of a community of assholes who tell n00bs to RTFM while laugh in the face of anyone who spent the 2000s doing anything but writing Objective-C. That’s the absolute last thing I want to see, which is why I wrote such a strongly worded post. This stuff is important.

Update 3: Sweet Christmas, WWDC sold out in less than 10 hours.

  1. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be the first

  2. Read: their friends. 


  1. AnonyMouse replied on March 28th, 2011:

    WWDC definitely needs more women, devs or not!

  2. Bryson replied on March 28th, 2011:

    I saw that and took it more as “There are better things to spend your money on, the keynote alone isn’t worth $1600.” I didn’t take it at all as him saying that anybody wasn’t welcome, only that for this large sum of money, the value isn’t there unless you’re in it for everything else the conference offers.

  3. Colin Barrett replied on March 28th, 2011:

    Bryson: Yeah, we discussed it a bit on Twitter, and I can see that — it’s true that there isn’t a lot of content, aside from the Keynote, for non-developers. However it’s up to each person if the price tag is worth it to them. The limited slots are open to all comers.

  4. Cory replied on March 28th, 2011:

    I read it the same way as Bryson. Who besides developers and aspiring developers would WANT to come to WWDC? The only exception to that is the Keynote, which would be cool for any Apple fan… but is definitely not worth $1,600.

  5. Myron Slaw replied on March 28th, 2011:

    It’s simple. Someone buys a ticket, only to see the keynote. The conference sells out. Someone who would have actually bought a ticket for the learning experience doesn’t get to go.

  6. Myron Slaw replied on March 28th, 2011:


    Here’s an idea, keynote only tickets?

  7. Colin Barrett replied on March 28th, 2011:

    Myron: So? It’s not like that person is any less worthy of going to the conference. Maybe they actually do check out a few sessions, and end up writing an app, or getting a job in tech — something they never would have dreamed of prior to attending. People come for all reasons, we shouldn’t be dismissive of someone because they’re not already a developer or even a prospective developer.

    As for people “not being able to go”, I addressed that in my post. Anyone who really feels like they need to be there is going to plan ahead and get their ticket right away.

  8. Colin Barrett replied on March 28th, 2011:

    Myron: As far as keynote only tickets, they give those out. They’re called “VIP tickets” and “press passes”. Tongue out of cheek, I really don’t think this is a huge problem — WWDC is packed. It’s not like the place is a ghost town Tuesday through Friday.

  9. Gary Watson replied on March 28th, 2011:

    I’m pretty sure you do have to be signed up as an Apple developer and sign the NDA agreement to register for WWDC. At least that’s what their website said today when I bought a ticket. Not that it’s much of a hurdle, of course.

  10. Gary Watson replied on March 28th, 2011:

    Also, I think that a lot of people have been fooled by the fake tweets that say that WWDC is sold out. It isn’t as of this writing.

  11. Gary Watson replied on March 28th, 2011:

    I stand corrected. It sold out in the last hour or so.