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The remainder of this year is all about online events that would previously have been in-person. 😐 The big one is WWDC, and speculation is rife on what exactly an online dub dub might look like. We often look to Apple to show us new ways to think about things, but I'd urge caution on expecting that out of them this year. It's one thing to change plans for a 5,000 person conference in less than two months. It's entirely another to also reimagine what a conference is in that same time.

It's also possible that Apple cancels the event entirely for this year, and while I don't think that will happen, it certainly could. If it goes ahead, what I am expecting is an excellent set of online videos, and that's all. I've not heard anything at all from little birdies, this is just my gut feeling. Well, a gut feeling and many years of training myself not to over expect when going into WWDC. 🙌

But WWDC isn't the only iOS event planned for 2020, and while a great many community conferences have sadly cancelled, others have chosen to run remotely. So far, there's AppBuilders and UIKonf in May, mDevCamp in June, and Hacking with Swift Live in July. There are also various smaller meetups going remote too. Kornel Miszczak is maintaining an online calendar of them if you'd like a list. 👍

I think the biggest issue facing remote conferences is that it's going to be hard for people to sit at home and watch conference talks for an entire day, let alone multiple days. It's the breaks, the networking, and the general interaction with other people that make that work at a conference. Apple don't expect you to watch eight hours of WWDC videos back to back, but they already didn't expect that. Community conferences are a little different, and they need to adapt even more than Apple do. So, I'll bet that if we do see conference formats change this year, that it'll be a community-run event that pioneers that change. It may be one of the Swift conferences or one on an entirely different subject. There's less risk, more agility, and people won't expect everything to be perfect, as we tend to do with Apple.

UPDATE: I had a few emails asking for clarification why I think WWDC might be cancelled. Just to be clear I don’t think WWDC will be cancelled, but if it is, it’ll be because the beta 1 releases aren’t ready. We hear every year that it’s an enormous effort by everyone involved to get those releases shipped for the start of the conference. That’s hard enough without the disruptions of being out of a normal working environment, and much harder in our current situation. Even though engineers are generally able to work from anywhere with a VPN connection, I’d say that the disruption still puts an enormous strain on a company that’s very used to being on-site. So again, just to reiterate, I don’t think WWDC will be cancelled (which I do say above!) I just think it’s a possibility and wanted to clarify why.

Dave Verwer

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