iOSDevUK 2012 - The West Coast Experience
by John Gilbey of Software Alliance Wales
It is July, the air is warm, the sun is shining and the first wave of the hundred and fifty iOS developers are milling around the conference reception, greeting old friends and making new ones. Badges, helpful advice and goody bags are being distributed by cheerful volunteers and a sea of Apple logos glint on laptops, tablets and phones. A mix of European and American accents, deep in technical discussion, rumble along above a counterpoint of seagull calls.
Silicon Valley? Cupertino? San Francisco? No, Aberystwyth on the west coast of Wales.
2012 marks the second outing for the iOS Development UK conference. Based around the Computer Science department of Aberystwyth University this SAW supported conference is the brainchild of Professor Chris Price, himself an active – and successful - iOS App developer.
A quick look at the conference photograph – possibly the most conventional aspect of the event – shows the culture of the meeting: The delegates represent a wide range of ages and backgrounds, but are united in being enthused by App development in general and iOS in particular. Specialisms range from software that helps you solve public transport travel issues to the development of digital storytelling – with a huge range of expertise in between. Folk at different stages of their career are encouraged to mix freely and networking forms an essential part of the overall user experience.
The multi-stream approach to the event means that there is often a choice of theme available, enabling delegates to build a bespoke developer experience. Perhaps inevitably, this leads to some difficult decisions – but the intentionally extended meal breaks give good opportunities to meet up with speakers and join the almost random groups that spring up to discuss the sessions.
Presentations vary in format across the conference – from full plenary sessions looking at the big picture of where the industry is headed, through deeply geeky technical sessions giving timely practical information, to the popular “lightning” sessions. These short sessions, limited to twenty slides timed at twenty seconds each, give the opportunity to pitch a favourite theme or technique in a punchy format.
Networking between developers – and between different areas of expertise - forms a major theme in the conference, not least at the conference dinner at a seafront hotel in Aberystwyth. It is perhaps significant that the big tables fill up much more quickly than the small ones: no one wants to miss the best of the discussion!
OK, so why is this report written in the present tense, when the event has passed? Well, the July 2012 event may have finished, but the collaborations and friendships established at the conference continue to develop – and the conference WILL be back next year. We have no choice, the delegates have told us it has to...
Picking highlights from such an event is almost impossible – and in any case that is a highly personal thing. But any event includes a session from a successful Silicon Valley start-up founder – Evan Doll of Flipboard fame – AND an Oscar winner - Jan Pinkava, co-director of animated epic “Ratatouille” - yet also has time for the arcane detail of raw code, plus good beer and a denim n' T-shirt dress code, must count as both truly developer oriented and epically good fun.
Come along next year and find out more about Aberystwyth's “Silicon Strand”.