360iDev Conference, 2012

Posted on September 17, 2012

I’ve now had a few days to recuperate since returning from the 360iDev conference, recently held in Denver from September 10 to September 12, and I have to say it was a great time. While I was there I met a lot of great people, renewed some online friendships, and learned a lot as well. John Wilker (@360iDev) and his wife put a lot of time and effort into attracting quality speakers and making the whole show run smoothly, and it showed. In this post, I wanted to call out just a few of the presentations that I attended and some of the lessons that I took away from them. Hopefully, those lessons will be useful to others.

On Monday, Bill Magnuson (@billmag), the CTO of AppBoy, led a session on “Turning Your Mobile App Into a Business”. Bill had a lot of great ideas to share, but the main take-away that I got was that there is a lot of value in opening multiple channels of communication with your customers. It’s important to be on Twitter and to post to your blog (See? I’m trying!), but you should also be able to communicate with different slices of your customer base. Mailing lists are a great way to get the word out quickly to large segments of your customers, but more focused messaging (like in-app messaging) can also prove valuable – especially when you need to communicate with just the customers of a particular app. If you’re interested in what Bill had to say, you can check out his slides on Slideshare.

Later on Monday, Joe Cieplinski (@jcieplinski) of Bombing Brain Interactive addressed his audience on “Avoiding the Race to the Bottom”. Basically, his argument was that although it sometimes seems like cheap and free apps get all the attention on the App Store, they probably aren’t the best way to build a long-term business. In fact, he argues, higher priced “premium” apps often make for a better experience for everyone involved. Higher prices create a solid foundation on which to build a business and reduce support costs (since there are fewer customers to support), and the users of these apps enjoy better customer service as well as long-term maintenance and support. It ends up being a win for everyone.

The next day, I listened to Gustavo Ambrozio (@gpambrozio), a Brazilian born speaker of Portugese, wrestle with his self-professed hatred of English prepositions as he shared some of the lessons that he learned while developing an open source replacement for UIAlertView and UIActionSheet. Along the way, he delved into some not very well documented sections of UIKit, the meaning of “makeKeyAndVisible” (it makes the UIWindow accept keyboard input), and the beautiful simplicity of blocks. All in all, Gustavo proved to be a very engaging speaker who entertained as he educated his audience.

Finally, on Wednesday, Jay Freeman (@saurik), developer of the jailbreak app store Cydia, spoke to a small room of iOS developers and blew their mind. His talk was titled “iOS Application Security”, but really it was about the security of the many backend-as-a-service (BAAS) companies that are becoming so popular. His session was basically a running commentary on an hour-long demo that he conducted on the vulnerabilities of some third-party services. Over the course of his session, Jay decrypted supposedly secure passwords, pulled out potentially sensitive data that he shouldn’t have access to, and exposed the poor design decisions that allowed him to do all of this. This session was eyeopening to say the least, and I think every developer left the room with a better appreciation of how important proper data security is in a mobile app. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this session was recorded, so I’ll leave you with the tl;dr version: “Servers should never trust the client. Ever.”

Wednesday was also noteworthy as the day of the iPhone 5 announcement. I have to say, it was a lot of fun to sit in a ballroom and geek out with other iOS developers as we watched the Apple event. Luckily for John Wilker, pre-orders weren’t being taken immediately, so his WiFi network didn’t have to withstand the stress test of 350 developers simultaneously attempting to connect to the Apple Store. The Apple event was also fun for me because John allowed me to sponsor a giant round of Buzzword Bingo. John’s volunteers distributed the 400 bingo cards that I had printed with squares bearing phrases like “Magical”, and “One more thing”, as well as rumored features of the new iPhone such as its larger screen. As these phrases were said on stage by Apple presenters, players could mark them on their cards. For prizes, we had some t-shirts, Moleskine notebooks, and iTunes gift cards. It all went about as smoothly as I could have hoped, and I think everyone had a lot of fun.

I want to thank John Wilker, his presenters, and everyone involved with 360iDev for hosting an excellent conference. It’s always fun to meet with your peers (many of whom I have only “met” on the Internet) to share successes, frustrations, and ideas. It’s even more fun when you can do that at such a professionally organized event. If you develop for iOS and didn’t attend 360iDev this year, you should definitely plan to attend next year. Also, consider purchasing the recorded sessions. They’re full of information and first-hand experiences that you won’t get anywhere else. And to everyone I met at the conference: It was great talking to you. I’ll see you next year!