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Why Frustrated Apple Developers Need AltWWDC

Couldn’t get into WWDC? You’re not alone. Catching Apple’s exclusionary overflow is the free and open AltWWDC conference in San Francisco, running parallel to the official event this week. We spoke to the organizers to find out what they hope to accomplish by starting their own developer party.

Why Frustrated Apple Developers Need AltWWDC

In 2010, tickets to WWDC sold out in eight days. In 2011, tickets sold out in under 12 hours. 2012? Two hours. And this year when the $1,599 tickets went on sale on April 25th, they sold out in just two minutes.

The five-day event, which begins on June 10, is a boon to developers who want to not only have a front-row seat for the unveiling of the future of iOS and OS X, but who want to connect with Apple engineers and learn the latest in hands-on labs. Unfortunately, the realities of physical space and the number of Apple engineers (and, let’s be honest, the cost) prevents many developers who want to attend from going.

We’re tracking developer news from Apple’s official WWDC here.

That’s where AltWWDC comes in. As the name would suggest, the event is the alternative WWDC that is free and open to all who want to attend. Like the actual WWDC, AltWWDC runs June 10-14 and takes place just blocks from the Moscone Center. It offers talks, labs, and the chance to network with other devs. The event is the collaborative brainchild of Josh Michaels, Judy Chen, Kyle Kinkade, and Rob Elkin.

"We originally started AltWWDC last year," Rob Elkin, one of the event’s organizers explains. "I spent some time in Amsterdam in March of 2011 when another conference was happening, mdevcon. I was there for a week, but never ended up getting a ticket for the conference, and basically worked from the Appsterdam co-working space, where I got to catch up with old friends and meet new ones who had come to the city for the conference. When I went home, it was about a month before the WWDC tickets were to go on sale, and I had to make a decision on if I wanted to go or not. I wanted to be in the city for the conference, but with Apple releasing videos of the talks a week later, I didn't see a compelling reason for me to go to WWDC. With a desire to be in the city, in need of a place to work, and with WWDC tickets set to sell out in record time, I figured the logical thing to do was to put on a co-working space."

Elkin then contacted Judy Chen, COO of the non-profit Appsterdam, which brings together developers of all platforms from all over the world to work together and learn from each other. Then, Elkin says, "It quickly went from being a co-working space to having speakers, lunch, and snacks. And that was just year one. We've got way more planned this year."

"It's no longer possible for Apple to accommodate demand for WWDC tickets, as there are too many developers and not enough engineers on hand within Apple," Victor Agreda, Jr., editor-in-chief of The Unofficial Apple Weblog and one of this year’s AltWWDC’s speakers, tells me. "WWDC has always been taxing — employees must pause projects to participate for a week in San Francisco. AltWWDC provides an overflow solution, even though it is outside Apple's purview. Developers like to get together and share tips, advice, and more. There's an esprit de corps around events like this, and it's only natural that side events would pick up the overflow demand for community around Apple's biggest live event of the year."

And it’s that "esprit de corps" that makes AltWWDC so compelling. It wasn’t created to compete with the real WWDC nor to protest against it. It was created out of what I like to think makes up the pneuma of a good developer: a desire not only to learn, but to share their knowledge with others.

"We've seen a massive outpouring of support from the community for the event, and that is the real reason we love putting this on. It's a chance to give something back to an amazing bunch of people, have a good time, and maybe learn something," Elkin explains. "You could kind of sum it up as leading by example. We are showing people how awesome the community can be when people work together. We couldn't do it without the help we've been getting from sponsors, volunteers, and the people that want to come. Everyone plays a small part in helping us put this thing together, and it is going to be way more than the sum of its parts.

AltWWDC runs June 10-14 at the San Francisco State University Downtown Campus at 835 Market St. on the 6th Floor. Stay tuned as we’ll have more coverage of the event as it happens.