Why WWDC is totally terrifying for indie developers

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Apple's product events always make Josh Michaels nervous. He's never sure if he'll still be in business at the end.
Apple's product events always make Josh Michaels nervous. He's never sure if he'll still be in business at the end.
Photo: Leander Kahney

SAN FRANCISCO — If you watched the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote earlier this week, you’d think it was a big love fest. But there’s a section of the audience sitting there in a cold, cold sweat.

Attendees are mostly software developers, and some of them are very nervous that Apple will announce something that will ruin their business overnight.

“The WWDC keynote is terrifying for developers,” said Josh Michaels, an independent software developer from Portland, Oregon, who runs Jetson Creative. “The uncertainty is the worst part.”

Take ReplayKit in iOS 9, a new feature that records games and app videos without the need for any external cameras or hardware.

Sounds great, unless you are Everyplay or Kamkord, a pair of young companies that raised millions of dollars to record games and app videos in iOS.

“They’re f**ked!” said a game developer at WWDC who asked not to be named.

AltConf makes WWDC look like a stuffy college lecture

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Jeff Kelley AltConf 2014
There really is a good reason that AltConf 2014 looked like Jurassic Park.
Photo: AltConf

You’ve probably heard — repeatedly, from us — that Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is happening in San Francisco next week. But that’s not the only show in town. The Alternative Developer Conference, aka AltConf, is running at the same time, right around the corner from the Moscone Center at the AMC Metreon.

It’s a more open and accessible convention than Apple’s, and that’s not just because it’s free.

“Alt has great information, but it has a lot more community feel where it’s not getting talked down to from the lectern and Apple, you’re getting talked to by your peers,” Jeff Kelley, iOS developer for Detroit Labs and author of Developing for Apple Watch, told Cult of Mac. “And everybody there is kind of on the same foot. Especially because it’s free. You can pay to get a reserved ticket this year, but you don’t have to pay to get in. Everybody is there because they love this stuff.”

AltConf returns for this year’s WWDC rejects

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App developers meet with tech journalists in the hope of gleaming a few tips on how to get their apps noticed at the AltConf Journalist Pitch Lab in San Francisco, CA, June 3, 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Journalists teach devs how to make their apps get noticed at last year's AltConf. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is the hottest ticket in town when June rolls around. Before a lottery system was introduced for distributing passes last year, the week-long event sold out in a little over a minute.

For those who aren’t lucky enough to get into Apple’s main event, there is AltConf. Created by developers for developers, the indie conference will run alongside WWDC again this year — and it’s expected to be bigger than ever.

Why no one cares about your app and what to do about it

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Arnold Kim, of MacRumors, listens as a developer explains her app at the AltConf Journalist Pitch Lab in San Francisco, CA, June 3, 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Tara Zirker shows the StayAtHand travel app to MacRumors' Arnold Kim during AltConf's Journalist Pitch Lab. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Lifestyles of the rich and famous independent software developer

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Victor Broido, COO at DigiDNA, talks about his work and lifestyle during Alt-WWDC in San Francisco June 3, 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
DigiDNA COO Victor Broido is living the dream -- and talking it up at AltConf 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Victor Broido has an enviable lifestyle. He lives and works 200 yards from a sun-kissed beach. He often kitesurfs before work. Sometimes he surfs during work.

“It was my dream, as a kid, to surf for an hour before going to the office,” Broido said. “That’s my life. It’s happening right now.”

You might want to punch Broido in the face upon hearing this, but he’s the nicest, most self-deprecating guy. You can’t begrudge him anything. Plus, he worked to attain this way of life.

Broido and his colleagues run DigiDNA, an eight-person company based in Geneva, Switzerland, with a satellite office in Geraldton, a small city in remote Western Australia with a reputation for world-class water sports.

DigiDNA is one of thousands of small, independent software developers spawned by the mobile revolution. In 2013, Apple’s App Store revenues topped $10 billion, and a lot of that money flowed to small startups. There are small indies in every category, from games to databases. Lots of them flocked to San Francisco last week for Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. DigiDNA was a gold sponsor of last week’s AltConf, the alternative conference that ran parallel to Apple’s event. (DigiDNA has also sponsored Cult of Mac’s Cultcast in the past.)

Coders grapple with good and evil at WWDC’s indie spinoff

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Bill Atkinson, left and Andrew Stone chat each other up at AltConf in San Francisco June 3, 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Apple legend Bill Atkinson, left, and Andrew Stone talk Steve Jobs, drugs and the Internet at AltConf 2014 in San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — At Apple’s WWDC developer conference, there are talks about interface design, writing code and fixing bugs.

Across the street at indie spinoff AltConf, the talks are concerned with spying on users and making choices between good and evil.

“We have had a hand in creating one of the most dystopian and undesirable societies imaginable,” said Andrew Stone, a veteran programmer who once worked with Steve Jobs, during a talk entitled “What Have We Built Here?”

It’s not the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear at a developer’s conference, but in an age of widespread government spying and cynicism about corporate slogans like “Don’t be evil,” AltConf highlights that programmers are often presented with moral choices. There’s a growing awareness in the coding community that although the activity of programming is benign, what’s created can be used for evil. Take Maciej Cegłowski’s talk last month in Germany, which has been widely discussed on the Web. Cegłowski argues — convincingly — that the utopian ideals of the early internet have been thoroughly corrupted, and the entire industry is “rotten.”

9 things every Apple fan should do at WWDC 2014

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FULLSCREEN

WWDC 2014 is nearly here.

The finishing touches are being put on Moscone West before the invasion of Apple developers hit. Here's what to do when you're not busy coding.

Image: KeilO

Tour SF on an iPhone-controlled scooter

Segway tours are so last year now that Scoot has come out with iPhone-locked scooters. Not only is a scooter the best way to see San Francisco's landmarks, the tiny two-wheelers are more environmentally friendly than those huge double-decker tour buses. Just remember to book your reservation in advance because spots fill up quickly.

Location: 756 Natoma St., San Francisco

Image: Scoot Networks

Visit the Mothership

Ditch the San Francisco fog for a few hours and head down the Peninsula to Apple’s headquarters in sunny Cupertino, California. Sneaking past security at the main entrance can be tricky if you’re dying to get a bite at Caffè Macs, but the Company Store is open to the public and it’s the only place in the world that sells Apple T-shirts, hats and other odd accessories.

Location: 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino

Image: Ryan B

Stump the Experts

Think you know absolutely everything there is to know about Apple hardware and software? Test your knowledge against Apple’s panel of experts at Stump the Experts, the weird WWDC quiz show where Apple employees (both current and former) take on your questions and award you with T-shirts and other swag if you manage to sneak a clever question past them.

Location: Tuesday, June 3, 6:30 p.m. in the Presidio Room

Image: Sebastian Müller

Grab some VC-funded coffee

All that coding and partying means your java intake will hit all new highs during WWDC week, so why not duck into the trendiest coffee chain in San Francisco for a breather? Blue Bottle has some of the tastiest brew around and is VC-funded by the same dudes you'd love to have buy your app. Plus, there's an outpost within walking distance of Moscone Center. Be prepared to wait, though, as lines at this tiny shop can take 15 minutes or longer.

Location: 66 Mint Plaza, San Francisco

Image: Niall Kennedy

Hobnob with Apple employees

After keynotes at Moscone Center, you can often bump into off-duty Apple employees mingling at the W Hotel bar just across the street. Devs tell us The Chieftain bar is another popular watering hole during WWDC festivities. Keep a look out for unattended iPhone prototypes.

Location: W Hotel, 181 Third St., San Francisco

Image: The W San Francisco

Envision the future

Apple isn't expected to complete construction of its new spaceship campus until 2016. But if you want a peek at what the future holds, you can see the spot 13,000 Apple employees will call home with a quick drive-by tour of the former Hewlett-Packard grounds.

Location: 19091 Pruneridge Ave., Cupertino, California

Image: Ron Cervi

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Meet a Jedi

WWDC sessions will turn even the most feeble coders into app-making powerhouses, but this year Apple is relying on the power of the Force by bringing in David Filoni -- director of Star Wars: Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels -- to talk about his journey from fan to becoming one of the key creatives at Lucasfilm.

Location: Moscone West's Presidio Room, Friday, 12:45 p.m.

Image:Toonami

Party at the Bash

WWDC's culminating event is not to be missed, as Apple locks down Yerba Buena Gardens with its own concert full of food, drinks and thousands of devs looking to make connections. Ok Go, Neon Trees, and Vampire Weekend have been among the list of previous performers.

Location:750 Howard St, San Francisco

Image: Stefan Haubold

See where it all started

Back when Apple was just Steve and Woz, the first 50 Apple 1s were assembled in the spare bedroom of this unassuming ranch house owned by Steve's parents. The operation expanded to the garage in 1975 before finding its first real office space. The iconic house is just a 10-minute drive from Apple HQ.

Location: 2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos, California

Image:Eric Johnson

Coding marathons, packed parties and more fanboys than should be legally permissible in one building await developers when Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off in San Francisco next week, and while the conference is serious business for most devs, who says you can’t have a little bit of fun too?

WWDC rips into high gear with a keynote on June 2nd followed by days of coding sessions, high-profile speakers, hands-on labs and tons of get togethers for developers of all sizes and backgrounds.

Sneaking in time to tour San Francisco is nearly impossible thanks to the stuffed scheduled at WWDC and nearby AltConf, but whether you’re coming to WWDC as a first timer or a seasoned vet, here are nine things every Apple fan must do at least once while visiting the Bay Area.

No WWDC Ticket? Check Out AltConf Instead

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The indie dev lab at Altwwdc 2012.
The indie dev lab at Altwwdc 2012.

If you didn’t win the lottery for Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, you’re in good company. For the third year in a row, AltConf is hosting a get-together for the rest of us.

Formerly called AltWWDC, the conference will boost Fog City’s already-high nerd quotient by hundreds of developers who didn’t get the golden tickets. AltConf will be held in parallel to WWDC at the Children’s Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Center near Moscone West — which means that haves and have-nots will be waiting at the same stoplights and heading to the same bars after hours.