The Colombo iPhone dev camp was not at all what I was expecting. What I had in mind was an open convention with grungy bedroom coders in love with iOS’s Siri. Either that, or a high-class and supremely boring affair, one of those events that one attends just for the refreshments. And the crowd here at the Cinnamon Grand was far from the Wozniak-esue gang of nerds I’d hoped to meet – most of them are professional software devs from top companies like hSenid, Axienta, Virtusa and Brandix – overall, developers from around 30 software firms. No otakus in sight.
To my surprise, it turned ot to be a good mix of both worlds, with 99x’s enthusiastic developers dishing out a series of enthusiastic how-to’s sprinkled with practical demos (always important) and humor (even more important). Like, for example, using cheating wives to illustrate how bad code will sneak up on you.
Carefully digging out the the Windows tab I’d brought along (Macbooks….Macbooks everywhere), I sat down to pay attention. Memory debugging and an introduction to the Berkeley DB passed me by. There was a segment on organizing your solution and the dev-process. An enterprise approach: a lot of solitary / small-team coders (such as yours truly) don’t go for organization at this level – we just wing it and iterate, iterate, iterate, poking in features and ironing out bugs at the same time. That, on reflection, is probably the reason these fellows are employed at big software companies and we’re not.
Malshani from 99x did an introduction to UI design and the development process of developing an application that was actually pretty useful not just for iPhones, but for any program in general. She also sparked off a rapid design contest among the audience based on iPath, a mapping application 99x is apparently cooking up. I have no idea what the others came up with, but they probably did good – there’s an iPad to be won here: nobody wants to pass up the chance. Steve Jobs, hallowed be thy name, let it be the new iPad. The designs are apparently going up on 99x’s Facebook page.
One session I enjoyed in particular: Dileepa Jayatillake’s extensive session, which started off as a rant on the plight of software developers using the King’s Speech as a an example. “You have to be dumb enough to be a king,” he said, deftly turning it into a session on code design. Much to my chagrin I actually learned something about responsibility and dependencies – not in life, but in Objective C. Plenty of practical demoing and Dileep’s wit turned what could have been a supremely boring and obscure hours of code-slinging into and enjoyable lesson on making your code work for you. And we also learned that unit tests, like a good divorce lawyer, really hammer in how bad your code is and how you can fix it.
A good lunch slowed down the discussion a bit and also let the participants get out for some socializing, where I met an old friend of mine – an extremely talented game coder and rabid Apple fan who, drawn to anything with an “i” in front of its name, was here with his Macbook out going over how he could integrate some new stuff into his methods and classes. Once the break ended we headed into a discussion on publishing, both corporate and independent appstore tips to help get the product out of the door.
It’s hard to talk code with lunch (not to mention tons of chocolate mousse) inside you, but to 99x’s credit, the iPhone Dev Camp walked a great balance between corporate, geek, heavy and light. One very true piece of wisdom I walked away with: there are two type of iPhone applications. One of them is like the lottery: you make it, you put it on the App Store and pray. The other is corporate, planned out, with a bit of financial investment and marketing behind it. Two thumbs up.