Developing Perspective

#88: Conferences and Unique Opportunities.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:02   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of note, and iOS development, Apple,

00:00:05   and the like.

00:00:06   I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:07   I'm an independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia, just outside of Washington,

00:00:12   DC.

00:00:13   This is show number 88, and today is Monday, October 15th.

00:00:16   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:19   All right, first, if I sound a little rough or I'm slightly coarse in my voice, it's because

00:00:22   I spent all week at least last weekend at the Singleton Symposium in Montreal, which

00:00:26   is an Apple technology conference, I guess you could say.

00:00:29   And as always, when you go to a conference, you end up spending a lot of time talking

00:00:32   loudly in loud places.

00:00:35   So just apologies for that, but maybe it just gives a nice, coarse, gritty feel.

00:00:40   But anyway, as I was at Singleton, there were a couple of things that I wanted to talk about.

00:00:44   I'll be talking a bit more about the weather app as it goes on this week, if those are

00:00:48   interested.

00:00:49   But today, I have a slightly totally different topic that I was going to talk about.

00:00:51   And it really is two parts.

00:00:53   And the first, I want to talk a little bit about tech conferences, and specifically about

00:00:57   something that I personally struggle with a lot

00:01:02   when I go to tech conferences.

00:01:05   And I figure this is a good audience

00:01:06   to talk about it too, and hopefully have some solidarity

00:01:09   with some of the people who listen to this.

00:01:12   And so tech conferences are a funny thing.

00:01:16   So I went to Singleton, it's a great conference

00:01:19   with a lot of really great people.

00:01:20   And the conference itself was very well run,

00:01:22   was very well organized, put together,

00:01:23   very thoughtful speakers and talks.

00:01:26   They're going to be available, I believe, on video when that happens.

00:01:29   Definitely watch them all. It was a really solid conference

00:01:32   from a conference perspective. But conferences are kind of these two

00:01:35   sides to that conference coin.

00:01:38   There's the conference that's the going to learn

00:01:41   from people sitting on a stage

00:01:44   to go and have that conference process.

00:01:47   Then there's the interpersonal part of it.

00:01:50   And in many ways, that's what a lot of people go to conferences for.

00:01:55   And in many ways, that's what I go for.

00:01:59   I mean, the stuff you get from the stage is helpful,

00:02:00   but usually it's available on video,

00:02:07   which you may or may not watch.

00:02:08   But really, the real crux of going to a conference, though,

00:02:09   is about it's a rare opportunity for a lot of people

00:02:14   to be in the same room as people who do things

00:02:16   similar to what they do.

00:02:17   I mean, I'm an independent iOS developer.

00:02:22   I have some friends locally,

00:02:23   some really good friends and some really good developers locally

00:02:26   who I hang out with and I talk about

00:02:28   and do those kinds of things.

00:02:30   But most of my days, I don't have any direct human contact

00:02:31   with people who care about the things that I care about

00:02:36   in the same way that I care about them.

00:02:38   I have friends and family and people

00:02:42   and they're interested in what I'm doing,

00:02:43   but it's not the same as people who really get it.

00:02:44   Who when I can go off and talk about some strange thing

00:02:45   about UIKit or about the Mac development or app review

00:02:50   or things like that that they'll get,

00:02:51   they'll be interested in and sympathetic,

00:02:53   but it's not the same.

00:02:54   And so it's lovely to go to a conference

00:02:56   and talk to people who are like that.

00:02:58   And I think especially, I find for myself,

00:03:00   not working for a bigger company, it's even more valuable.

00:03:04   It's kind of that water cooler or that experience

00:03:06   that is nice to have.

00:03:09   But that said, it's also a tricky thing

00:03:13   because in a traditional sense,

00:03:15   like if I was a marketing guy with greased hair

00:03:19   and kind of a,

00:03:20   I don't know, it's like,

00:03:23   you know, that classic marketing sales guy,

00:03:25   I'd be talking about how it's like,

00:03:26   oh, it's important when you go to conferences

00:03:27   to make sure you're doing excellent networking.

00:03:30   You want to be hitting all the big hitters in the room

00:03:32   and you want to be making sure you know

00:03:33   exactly what's going on.

00:03:35   Like, no, that's not me.

00:03:37   You know, networking is probably

00:03:40   one of the most terrifying concepts of social interaction

00:03:45   that I could think of.

00:03:47   The concept of walking around a room trying to

00:03:52   sort of like schmooze them and ultimately turn conversations

00:03:56   into things that allow you to talk about your products

00:03:58   and those types of things.

00:04:00   Like that's terrifying and awful to me.

00:04:04   I don't want to do that.

00:04:05   And so what I've found over the years though

00:04:09   I used to go to conferences with kind of that expectation that I had to do that.

00:04:14   It's a rare opportunity to be in a room with people who like what I do, people from the

00:04:19   press.

00:04:20   There's a lot of things there, so there's this opportunity.

00:04:24   I used to kind of try that, but I really don't anymore.

00:04:29   And the big reason and part of why I try not to do that so much is often I think you just

00:04:36   come off like a jerk.

00:04:38   And I'd rather be sort of, I mean, it's like, I know, I meet new people, but my goal in

00:04:45   meeting new people is to try and understand them, what they're doing, what they're interested

00:04:51   in, and to learn about them.

00:04:55   I know about me.

00:04:56   I don't know about them.

00:04:58   And typically, having that kind of a mindset and that kind of an approach means you meet

00:05:02   a lot of interesting people and you get to know about them and you get to sort of, you

00:05:06   Typically people respond very well to people who are interested in what they're doing and what they're working on.

00:05:11   And that'll often come back to what you're working on and that's great.

00:05:16   But ultimately I find it very frustrating if I set out with a goal of saying, "Oh man, I want to make sure that these people, X, Y, and Z, are aware of what I'm doing and know that I'm watching an app on Wednesday."

00:05:30   I mean, it was very tangible for me this weekend.

00:05:33   But the reality is, I don't want to be that guy.

00:05:36   I don't want to be the person who, everyone's like, "Dude, have you seen that Dave guy?

00:05:41   He keeps showing up everywhere and then talking to me about his weather app."

00:05:45   No, I would hate to be that person.

00:05:47   And so I don't.

00:05:49   I just kind of hang around, and I'm a fairly low-key person at conferences.

00:05:53   You know, talk to people.

00:05:54   I ran into a lot of listeners.

00:05:55   There are a lot of people who are probably listening to this who are at Singleton.

00:05:59   And I, you know, it's like some of whom I can remember your name, some of whom I only

00:06:03   remember your face, but, you know, I'm glad I met you.

00:06:07   And it was awesome to be sought out and to talk to you about what you're working on and

00:06:12   to kind of have those dialogues.

00:06:15   But it's just one of those things that I've started to give myself a little, cut myself

00:06:19   a little slack, where for a while I always had this feeling like if I went to a conference

00:06:22   and I didn't make a pitch to a heavy hitter, whatever that means.

00:06:30   I wasn't, you know, I was wasting my time there, or I wasn't making as full use of

00:06:34   the time there.

00:06:35   And I mean, the reality is, also to keep in mind, and this is sort of a more broader comment,

00:06:39   is a lot of the time people at conferences have existing relationships with other people

00:06:47   that they've had for years.

00:06:49   And for them, it is a rare treat for them to be in the room

00:06:52   with someone else that they may not always get to see.

00:06:56   And so being respectful of that, I think,

00:06:59   is a very wise thing.

00:07:01   There are a lot of people, any conference,

00:07:03   I mean, we're all human beings,

00:07:04   it's very easy for us to kind of do this,

00:07:06   where there's an old phrase about,

00:07:09   anytime you walk into a room,

00:07:10   you can very quickly determine the average

00:07:13   and see if you're above or below it.

00:07:16   And that average could be anything.

00:07:18   It's like, look, success, money, prestige, fame, notoriety,

00:07:23   like whatever it is, it doesn't really matter.

00:07:25   Pretty much, you walk into a room, like human nature,

00:07:27   you know what the average is,

00:07:29   and you know if you're above it or below it.

00:07:30   And there's this, and there's that natural indication,

00:07:35   who I want to see, and I want to shake hands

00:07:37   with the people who do all these cool things.

00:07:39   And that's cool, and that's great,

00:07:40   and it's something to do.

00:07:42   But I try very hard these days to just,

00:07:46   some point to just kind of get over that and be like, you know, we're all people here,

00:07:50   we're all hanging out.

00:07:52   And I'll introduce myself to people who I think are interested and do cool stuff.

00:07:57   Maybe I'll give them, you know, do the classic like, "Hey, I love what you do."

00:08:01   But I'm typically not going to seek out too much beyond that, unless I'm kind of, there's

00:08:07   a strong reciprocation there.

00:08:09   Because the reality is, there are, it's like, we're all just people here going to a conference.

00:08:14   And for a lot of those people, it's a rare treat for them to meet people who they look

00:08:18   up to or friends they've had for five, 10 years.

00:08:24   The worst thing, pretty much in general, for all social interactions, is to be the third

00:08:28   wheel.

00:08:29   You don't want to be that guy.

00:08:30   It's better to be sought out and talked to than it is to be ditched or to be someone

00:08:36   who is just a hanger on.

00:08:40   That doesn't feel great.

00:08:42   And I've tried very hard over the years

00:08:45   to just kind of accept and move on

00:08:49   from any kind of desires I used to have to do that.

00:08:51   'Cause I've definitely done that kind of thing.

00:08:53   And you start getting, I mean, you can get crazy with it.

00:08:55   Where you're hanging around like,

00:08:56   "Okay, I think, you know, not that person,

00:08:58   "I'd love to talk to that person over there.

00:08:59   "Okay, maybe if I stand here between them and the bathroom,

00:09:04   "maybe they're going to walk past me

00:09:06   "and we can start our conversation."

00:09:08   Like, no joke, I've, in years gone past,

00:09:11   stuff that I've done because that's the kind of feeling of like, "Oh, I need to make sure

00:09:15   I do it.

00:09:16   And it would be so much better if I did it subconsciously or like it just happened organically.

00:09:22   We met up and we had this great conversation."

00:09:25   But the reality is, I mean, I am and I'm sure many of you are, we're kind of socially awkward

00:09:30   people in some ways.

00:09:32   And whenever we try and be smooth, we're probably not going to succeed.

00:09:37   And so that's just something that I wanted to say.

00:09:38   it was fresh, I'd fresh my mind out of a conference,

00:09:40   but go to a conference and seek to just have organic

00:09:45   interactions with people, seek to understand what people

00:09:49   are working on more than try and talk about what you

00:09:52   are working on or try and understand what they would

00:09:56   want to pitch to you rather than try and pitch to them.

00:09:59   And ultimately I feel like you end up with a happier result

00:10:03   for yourself, a less frustrating result,

00:10:05   and you meet a lot of interesting people,

00:10:07   And that's awesome.

00:10:09   All right, that's the first topic.

00:10:11   And I have a very brief second topic I want to talk about.

00:10:13   And that's talking about finding opportunities in the App Store.

00:10:17   And what I mean by that is a thought I've had for a while.

00:10:21   I was doing a show of topic about--

00:10:23   and it was strongly reinforced last weekend

00:10:26   when the magazine launched, which is Mark Rormant's

00:10:28   new self-publication.

00:10:32   We're trying to collect articles from individuals

00:10:35   who are geeky but not really necessarily writing about technology.

00:10:39   And awesome, definitely check it out.

00:10:43   I'm not going to go into great detail of it.

00:10:44   It was talked about on Hypercritical this last week, and I'm sure it will be talked

00:10:48   about in the Build and Analyze episode being recorded in about an hour.

00:10:52   But the reality is, what I want to talk about, and I think the genius of a lot of what it

00:10:57   does, is that there's so many of these little things in the App Store where there are strange

00:11:01   policies or strange technology choices that Apple makes

00:11:06   that create unique, often time-limited and specific

00:11:10   opportunities for app developers.

00:11:15   In this case, there's Newstand,

00:11:19   and there's recurring subscriptions.

00:11:21   So these are two interesting things where Newstand

00:11:24   is a whole framework and a whole different,

00:11:27   almost class of app that lets you do background updating,

00:11:27   that has a special place in the store, a special non-removable folder

00:11:32   that people are always going to have on their phone talking about it.

00:11:37   It's a very specific thing.

00:11:40   And then recurring in-app purchases, which are awesome,

00:11:42   it's a great concept to have as a developer,

00:11:46   are only allowed for news publications, essentially,

00:11:50   or in magazines, whatever it is called.

00:11:52   In that case, Marco saw an opportunity to use those two things to make an app rather

00:11:58   than doing it in a traditional sense.

00:12:02   This is kind of like Instagram in that it's a publication whose primary interface is an

00:12:07   app through the store.

00:12:08   It means that he can do all the credit card processing and all that stuff, and the subscription

00:12:13   management is all done for him.

00:12:15   He's just paying Apple 30% of revenue to do that.

00:12:19   But it just reminded me though of,

00:12:22   there's a lot of times that I've seen these go,

00:12:24   some of them you see you go by,

00:12:26   some of them I've acted on and have been successful with,

00:12:29   but it's being very, a student of the store

00:12:32   in so much as understanding when those opportunities exist

00:12:37   and where those unique things that not everyone

00:12:40   will be able to or could take care of are.

00:12:44   And so like, I'm just remembering,

00:12:46   I actually, when Newsstand first came out

00:12:48   looked at it, I was like, "Oh my goodness, this is awesome. There are so many cool things

00:12:52   you could do with this." And at first, I didn't really know all of what Apple was doing in

00:12:55   terms of their policies around it that limited what I was doing. But I actually built an

00:13:02   Instapaper client that I was structuring as, and it's built, I just sort of built and never

00:13:09   polished it or released it. But basically, I built an Instapaper client that would present

00:13:14   your last day's links as a magazine for you in Newsstand.

00:13:19   That was sort of the concept of the app.

00:13:24   So it's like you would,

00:13:26   because to try and get around some of the publisher rules

00:13:28   and it has to be in publication, in a magazine,

00:13:30   and things like that, it's like, okay,

00:13:32   so I wanted an Instapaper client

00:13:33   that would update in the background.

00:13:35   That was my goal.

00:13:36   'Cause at the time, this was before the location-based

00:13:40   updating and things that make a lot of these things

00:13:42   go away, but I was like,

00:13:44   I wanted the background loading, and you could do that with a new stand app.

00:13:49   So I was like, "Okay, I'll do that, and I'll build it."

00:13:53   And it's sort of a magazine because the content changes, and it's issue-based.

00:13:55   Every day it has a new set of content.

00:14:01   Ultimately, I didn't ship that because it seemed very strongly that Apple was not real.

00:14:03   That was not a new stand app as far as Apple was concerned.

00:14:09   I never didn't test that with the app review process, but ultimately it was just,

00:14:13   I don't think that's going to fly.

00:14:18   I'll turn my efforts elsewhere.

00:14:20   But I just wanted to mention it as there are often these little things,

00:14:21   these strange technologies or APIs, these things on the edges that you can take advantage of,

00:14:25   that can really enhance your apps or create new app opportunities.

00:14:30   Even look at what I just talked about, location-based updating is part of it.

00:14:33   Using geofencing to do background updates is a really clever thing.

00:14:38   And I think it was the news.me people who did it first.

00:14:39   Like, that's a genius thing.

00:14:41   And always be looking for those opportunities.

00:14:43   Always be looking for the thinking outside the box

00:14:46   options for doing that.

00:14:47   All right.

00:14:47   That's it for today's show.

00:14:48   As always, questions, comments, concerns, complaints.

00:14:50   I'm on Twitter @_DavidSmith.

00:14:52   I'm on AppNet @DavidSmith.

00:14:54   And otherwise, have a great week.

00:14:55   Happy coding.

00:14:56   I'll see you later.