WWDC 2011 Journal, Day 1

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 at 12:28 PM

by Mike Morton, Google Mac Team

Google engineer Mike Morton is back with his annual report from Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. Today Mike blogs about lines, coffee, a parking garage, and even more lines (or is it the same line?).

My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and I stumbled out of the hotel before realizing I hadn’t checked Google Maps for the short walk to Moscone. I figured I could follow the stream of geeks in WWDC sweatshirts instead, but I didn’t see a lot of people. Some salmonic instinct from past conferences kicked in and I found the conference anyway. (It’s not hard — when you get near it, the line of attendees outside is obvious.)

I walked a couple of blocks to near the end of the line and found my colleague Pat (cutting in line to join friends is always accepted). He told me someone had been by counting and he was about number 700 in line. By this time, it was nearly 5:30 and a lot lighter. Many WWDC’ers were huddled against the wall of Moscone, trying to avoid the chill and looking unnervingly like homeless folks I’d seen a couple of blocks before on Market Street. Someone was playing saxophone on the sidewalk across the street. Most attendees looked pretty tired. A lot had brought folding chairs.

The line stretched around the block

Other Google colleagues and some friends-of-colleagues joined us. Paul, another engineer on the iOS Books team, brought coffee. (I owe him big time.) Lots of catching up, introductions, schmoozing, talk of past WWDCs, and speculation about this one. One great speculation game was the Expo Bingo app, which gives you a couple of dozen phrases to watch for. My board looked like this before I started…and I didn’t do very well.

Apple staff encouraged us to close gaps and stand four abreast, later six abreast, to try to reduce the length of the line. Engineers aren’t especially good at following simple orders, but the Apple folks tried anyway. Lots of people came by promoting various companies -- giving away freebies or coupons, hiring, and so on. We spent hours on the north side of Moscone West, looking at a big parking garage. I’m surprised nobody has paid to hang ads on it.

When registration reopened at 7 a.m., I took a break to go inside for that. Everyone got a nice "WWDC 11" sweatshirt. I’m giving mine to my friend Andy, who’s crazy enough that he flew all the way from New York to San Francisco despite having no ticket for the conference. (Andy was not crazy enough to wake up and join us for hours in line, though.)

Staff let us in a little before 8:00 a.m. A staffer counted as I went by, and I was number 935. Inside it was warmer, with coffee, juice, and pastries. We crowded into long, broad lines in the hallways…and waited some more. Some folks sat; a few lay down. At one point the line surged then stopped as suddenly — a security guy explained that someone had picked up a backpack and others had followed suit and…well, these things happen. We debated whether we should be more properly compared to sheep or to lemmings. Security folks weren’t entirely reliable: another told us that we were too far back to fit in the main room, and would be in an overflow room, which would have sharply reduced the RDF. He turned out to be wrong.

By 9:45 we got to sit down in the main room. One friend, who’ll remain nameless, exclaimed loudly “This is the best thing that’s happened to me today”. We’d been standing for 4 to 5 hours. I suppose I shouldn’t complain — rumor had it that the guy at the front of the line had been waiting since noon yesterday.

About 10:00 a.m., James Brown’s “I Feel Good” blasted, and soon after that Steve Jobs walked on. He looked gaunt, but smiled broadly at the standing ovation he got. An audience member yelled “We love you!”. I’ll let you read more detailed accounts of the announcements in the many blogs and media sites covering it, and just say that I was impressed at the breadth of new features, and was glad he pulled a “one more thing” line to introduce iTunes Match. In the end, there were no hardware announcements, but nobody grumbled except for one colleague who lost a bet over that.

The afternoon was just a couple of sessions, one at a time. Tomorrow there’ll be many sessions running concurrently, and I’ll have to think about which ones to pick.