Never Mind the WWDC, Here’s the CocoaConfs

So now CocoaConf Alt isn’t happening. A story at Loop Insight lays the blame more clearly at Apple’s feet for pressuring the Intercontinental hotel, which apparently has some contractural relationship with Apple during WWDC (it’s not said what… possibly housing Apple employees or off-site partner meetings?), and that this contract forbids the hotel from hosting a “competing” event.

I’ve spoken at nearly all the CocoaConf conferences, and I have no reason to doubt Dave’s version of these events. Indeed, while some commenters would like to portray this as a spat solely between the Intercontinental and CocoaConf – and leave Apple out of it – that position doesn’t square with the facts. If the Intercontinental knew they were contracturally prohibited from hosting CocoaConf Alt, they wouldn’t have signed a contract with CocoaConf in the first place, right? Daniel Jalkut makes the best case for letting Apple off the hook, suggesting that someone at either the Intercontiental or Apple got a trigger finger and killed the event when they didn’t necessarily need to. That the Intercontinental realized it was in a conflict-of-interest scenario after the fact is possible, but it’s no more plausible than the idea that Apple doesn’t like anyone riding on their coattails and sent the hotel management a nastygram.

For what it’s worth, that latter scenario is the one that rings true to me. (Or, to haul out a tag I haven’t used in a while, nefarious skullduggery!).

But what’s done is done, and if Apple stomping on CocoaConf Alt adds to this year of WWDC discontent, so be it. It’s a little surprising to continue to see complaints and hand-wringing over the technical problems of the WWDC sales (see TUAW and Core Intuition), when the underlying problem is a massive mismatch of supply and demand for tickets to the event. If nobody had gotten server errors and the conference had sold out in 20 seconds instead of 60, would that have really been any better?

Maybe this is the year that WWDC jumps the shark for a lot of us? Maybe it already has?

I had my say about WWDC two years ago, hoping for some sort of radical change, and Daniel Jalkut does me one better by calling for an end to it altogether. When so many of the things that used to define WWDC – meeting up with colleagues who are there every year (but who didn’t get tickets this time), Q&A at the end of the sessions (dropped years ago in favor of one-way proclamations from Apple) – it starts to be hard to see how spending $3-5,000 makes more sense than just watching the videos, especially for that majority of attendees who never visit the labs.

So, I’m down on WWDC right now, in part of a general disquiet with the Apple platforms in general. They’ve released literally nothing this year, except an iPad with 128 GB of storage (the model I’m typing this on, by the way), ignoring badly out-of-date offerings like the Mac Pro, and all the creative professional apps like Logic and Aperture that you’d want to run on such a machine. Aside: If I were a full-time video professional, I would find it difficult to justify staying on the Mac platform, as there is no sense that Apple (the only supplier of Mac hardware) will offer professional-appropriate hardware in the future. An iMac with a daisy-chain of expensive Thunderbolt peripherals – assuming such things come to market at all – is deeply unappealing, and traps the owner with a non-upgradable video card and (in the lower models) no RAM expansion. A Hackintosh is more sensible, and once you go down that road, it’s worth asking if it’s worth giving up the fight and just switching to Windows. After all, the aforementioned Logic and Aperture have long languished without updates, something the “We Want A New Mac Pro” Facebook page asked Apple about… and got stonewalled.

So what are we expecting at WWDC? The inevitable MacBook refresh, and an end to Rich Corinthian Leather. Yawn.

I never planned to go to WWDC this year, or CocoaConf Alt, and am happy to keep my Summer free. I’m actually thinking pretty seriously about applying my conference budget for the year to Streaming Media West in November to dig more deeply into livestreaming. (And yes, I’m aware that Streaming Media East is just two weeks away, but conflicts with an already-planned personal trip to Anime Central next week.)

In the Fall, CocoaConf will be doing conferences in Portland, Columbus, Boston, and Atlanta. The late Summer / early Fall iOS talks are always tricky to do, because there’s usually a new verison of iOS that’s been announced at WWDC and is in beta, but which is still under NDA. So you can’t talk about the new stuff, and what you can talk about is old news.

One way to deal with that problem is to not limit talks exclusively to touring iOS frameworks. Following up my CocoaConf San Jose talk on Core Audio that touched on Audiobus, I’m thinking I may pitch an entire talk on that remarkable inter-application audio system (now supported by 180+ apps, last I saw!). I’ll need that much time to get into the developer program and get some good demos whipped up.

I had another thought for an NDA-proof topic: audio and video encoding for the iOS platforms. I could haul out Handbrake and Compressor (and AVAssetExportSession and AVAssetWriter in code) and mess with encoding formats and bitrates and get into the nitty-gritty of the various formats, what hardware they work on, their advantages and trade-offs. This kind of stuff scratches my A/V producer itch nicely, though I find it’s often a challenge to sell developers on the art and science of digital media. There’s a “just show us the code” mentality out there, one that sometimes hits the wall of “understand what the code does” in practice when you don’t truly understand the problem domain. ExtAudioFileCreateWithURL() is all well and good until you try to put big-endian PCM in a WAV file, or little-endian into an AIFF, or you don’t understand why caption tracks aren’t preserved by the AVAssetExportSession, or why your dissolves and primary/seconary movement are artifacting all over the place.

I like to come into each conference with something new, and having two new talks for the Fall tour fits the bill nicely. That leads to the question about teaching classes for the tutorial day of CocoaConf. Last year, I did my all-day Core Audio class three times, and this Spring I did an iPad Productivity class (mostly on UIDocument, along with topics like inter-application communication and printing) in Chicago and DC. I continue to get requests for Core Audio (and reprised it in San Jose a few weeks back), even though I think iPad Productivity has a wider pull. So maybe both of those will show up on the Fall tour, just in different cities (I already did Core Audio in Columbus and Portland, so those cities probably get iPad Productivity).

So, yes to CocoaConfx4 and Streaming Media West, no thanks to WWDC.

Comment (1)

  1. I have had an Apple computer since 1984. It was an Apple II with a green screen, no hard drive, and large floppy disks.

    I took audio and video editing/engineering classes starting in 2006 and I was tremendously impressed by Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Logic Studios. I think that those programs, among other things, are part of the reason it is no longer profitable to be a video editor or an audio engineer. You could buy a professional piece of software for five hundred dollars and anyone could do that. It was very exciting to know that you could do anything you wanted to in your basement on a computer.

    The fact that Apple has abandoned this segment of the population is extremely disappointing. That coupled with Adobe’s recent announcement of it’s subscription-only future with it’s Creative Suite, things have been very disappointing for the hobbyist Audio-Video tinkerer.

    I guess this means I will either have to create my own Adobe-like company or contribute to open source audio video solutions…

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