No WWDC Ticket? You’re In Good Company At AltWWDC [Interview]

Full house: last year's inaugural AltWWDC.

Full house: last year’s inaugural AltWWDC.

How much interest is there in Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference?

Enough to stage an alternative free five-day conference with over 40 speakers and hands-on labs that WWDC attendees may want to check out for all the topics Apple isn’t likely to cover. For the second year running, AltWWDC will be hosting the have-nots (as in have no WWDC tickets) for a gathering cloned from the official conference.

Just a few blocks from Moscone Center at the San Francisco State downtown campus, devs from around the world will be hanging out and helping each other out. There will be a volunteer lab to tackle things like crash debugging as well as talks on game development and “marketing you won’t hate.”

Around 1,500 people have signed up, meaning, yeah, even free/freewheeling AltWWDC is technically “sold out.” No worries: if you don’t have a ticket, as long as there’s room to plant your laptop, you’re in.

Cult of Mac talked to Rob Elkin, a London-based software engineer and one of the four founders of AltWWDC about what constitutes an “alt” keynote breakfast, talks Apple doesn’t want you to hear  and sponsors.

Rob Belkin, AltWWDC co-founder.

Rob Elkin, AltWWDC co-founder.

Cult of Mac: Imagine for a second that Apple doubles or triples the amount of tickets for the next WWDC, what happens to the Alt edition?

Rob Elkin:  Making it bigger won’t make it better, doubling it would make it worse. WWDC is nice because it’s small, you get more hands-on with Apple engineers.

In many ways, we’re mirroring the set-up of WWDC with both speakers and the labs but we’re not Apple, so we can go outside the normal scope and do some different things.

Our speakers aren’t just focused on code, they talk about games, design, lifestyle, business and culture, too. We’ll also have a session on jailbreaking Apple TV, specifically about building apps for Apple TV, which is definitely not on their agenda…

It’s an interesting mishmash of technology and culture that you won’t see at Apple because that’s all about the code and the new stuff that’s coming out…

Also, I wanted to give an excuse to people who couldn’t get in a chance to come to the city to meet amazing people and share ideas.

CoM: Are you going to both? Any idea how many people do?

RE: I’m not going to both…I came to WWDC in 2011 and realized that as my job description changed I didn’t really need to go again – but I wanted to be in San Francisco and hang out, talk to people and make those connections. If I need anything from the WWDC I can always watch the videos, but being in the city is what provides value for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get another ticket to WWDC again, to be honest…

I can’t put a number on how many people will be going to both…AltWWDC significantly bigger this year and we expect to have about four times the amount of people overall.

Last year we had 30-40 people a day and on the last day about 80 because we’d scheduled a lot of talks and WWDC basically ends at lunchtime so people came by after.

CoM: What part of Alt are you looking forward to most?

RE: Probably the keynote breakfast…Both rooms of Alt are going to be Keynote rooms, with live blogs showing on projectors and we’ll have breakfast…

It’s an excuse to come together with people who like it as much as you do instead of sitting at home talking to people on Twitter wondering whether your loved ones think you’re crazy.

I’m looking forward to the end, too, which sounds weird, but I’ll be giving a talk about the conference and the community and there’s a lot to say.

CoM: How did you approach sponsors?

RE: We started with the support of John Wilker at 360iDev about and Chris Ross of hiddenMemory, the two of them got on board before we even announced it…We had a pretty awesome response from people once we announced it.

CoM: So you didn’t have it completely paid for when you launched?

RE: Nope, we were out on a limb…I don’t think there was much of a danger of us having to pay for it completely, we could’ve always cut out the free lunches or something. But we were on the hook for it, yes.

CoM: Has there been any reaction from Apple?

RE: There’s been no contact from Apple…I would imagine we would’ve had a conversation if they were unhappy about it.

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About the author

Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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