Apple Links: My Thoughts on WWDC

I’ve been trying to get my head around WWDC this year. I wasn’t at WWDC, I headed out to Morro Bay for a few days off instead, but part of what I was doing there was tracking the social media chatter and watching the keynote and some of the early videos coming out of the conference.

This year’s conference is different for me, despite my long history working for Apple, I was never an Apple developer, I primarily worked in the Linux/LAMP space, despite my best intentions to dive into the platform. That was part of why, with this sabbatical, I decided to finally, seriously do that.

Despite having followed and occasionally been involved in WWDC over the years I’m finding looking at it as a developer brings a much different view than having tracked it as a user. As a user it was always about what’s features are new and how can I use this (and what will affect me?) but as a newbie developer starting to dive into the frameworks and technologies I realize I’m thinking much more in term of what I can leverage and which tools will help me solve the problems I want to solve.

Having been in both worldviews now, I find it fascinating how Apple has layered the material to satisfy both sets of people without messing up the conference flow or usefulness, and I think this interweaving is something people on both sides of the fence likely don’t notice.

Again, I find myself sitting back and thinking about how Apple is solving problems few people actually notice, even those of us who watch fairly closely.

In my case, I’ve already found some options that will move my project forward and mutate it in various ways — for the better, I think. In my case, it’s the discovery of gameplaykit and spritekit, both of which were initially released a year ago and handle many of the tasks of building the kind of game boards and user movement that the project I want to build can leverage.

One of the things that has been blocking progress in the project the last few weeks (beyond electricians and various other time sinks) has been trying to wrap my head around a design for the board, and I was working on it at a fairly low level — effectively, like a classic Rogue game, building a ncurses(5) form of gameboard matrix. With gameplaykit I can solve these problems in much nicer ways by thinking of the game as a top-view infinite scroller, and I’m now researching exactly how to do that and how well I can use these frameworks to build randomly generated levels in them.

Or perhaps semi-randomly might be better, and if you’ve ever played Alto’s Adventure (a current favorite time sink) it’s an example of the way I’ve revised my thinking on the project.

Seems like it’s almost time to dive back into code and start prototyping…. about time…

What I saw from Apple at WWDC was a company very confident in what it’s doing moving forward thoughtfully. We’ve had a period of time with a massive amount of innovation from the company, including creation of the watchOS and tvOS platforms and a push into turning iPads into real creative and professional tools.

Innovation is cyclic; you have to push the boundaries of the state of the art outward hard and fast, but then you have to slow down and go back and fill in potholes and smoothing off the rough edges: fast innovation creates technical debt, and if you don’t slow down, take a few deep breaths, and put some effort into cleaning up that technical debt, it will ultimately overwhelm your products and teams. This year’s WWDC to me was really Apple taking that breath and dealing with technical debt over pushing out the boundaries further, while still innovating in smaller and more incremental ways.

That, to me, is the sign of a mature and highly functioning organization. We can all look back at something like the Snow Leopard release and think about how necessary it was and how much improvement to macOS there was in it, but this year’s WWDC seemed more to me to be a statement that it’s much better to deal with that technical debt before you hit a point of needing a Snow Leopard to solve it.

And that’s why I found this year’s WWDC very interesting and impressive, except perhaps to jaded pundits in search of clickbait-worthy features or impending Apple failure.

Interesting views on WWDC

Having read through a lot of the WWDC commentary, here are some of the more interesting and thoughtful pieces I’ve found:

Also of Interest