Release Notes Conference Thoughts

This post is delayed due to a head cold I had last week, but considering the amount of effort and love that went into producing the Release Notes Conference I figured the least I can do is share my reaction.

In short, I think Joe and Charles have a really cool product here. Despite a somewhat saturated iOS conference space I think they have chiseled out a much needed and action-oriented event. The idea of an entire conference of content focused on building and growing your Apple-related business is great enough, but then consider you’ll end up mingling with similar minded people results in an incredible event.

I don’t want to understate the importance of actionable. There are a lot of tech conferences out there where you’ll see some very interesting talks that showcase some new language features or APIs but you can’t always come home and apply them to your current work right away. I think one of the best aspects of the Release Notes Conference is that no matter how young or old your business or product is, there were tons of actionable tasks to walk away with.

In many ways the conference reminded me fondly of the (pre-iPhone) MacSB (Mac Software Business) mailing list and IRC channel where a small group of us would hang out, post question and share notes. It was small, very welcoming and extremely helpful group.

My understanding is that the talks were recorded and will be published online, so if you are interested I highly recommend signing up for their mailing list for the announcement. Of course, if you aren’t subscribed already I’ll also recommend their weekly podcast which started it all.

Memorable Songs from Pivotal Indy Moments of Your Life

While attending the Release Notes Conference this past week I saw a talk by Mike Hurley of RelayFM fame. A lot of the talk was pulling wisdoms from Mike’s own story, the history of his past projects up to working on RelayFM. One tidbit included an attachment to a song when he quit his job. For him the song was Another One Bites the Dust, Queen.

For me when I quit my full time job with ASMP to focus on my Mac development work the song was Maggie’s Farm, Bob Dylan. I was really into Dylan at the time and the lyrics just fit. I remember blasting it from my office and hearing it play throughout the apartment those first few indy days working at home.

I’d love to hear what songs match up to your own big indy life moments. Shoot me an email or tweet me your story.

CocoaLove 2015 Notes

This weekend was the second annual CocoaLove event here in Philadelphia.

A conference about people, not tech. CocoaLove highlights the iOS/Mac community’s passions, challenges, and triumphs.

From all accounts, people had a great time. My very heartfelt “thank you” to the speakers, attendees and organizers for making it such a blast.

Some of my own takeaways and notes:

  • Just Do It! and more specifically, don’t let your high taste of quality hold you hostage from creating and shipping. Get it out in the world and improve it over time.
  • Don’t let the negativity of the web infect you. Be positive; be constructive.
  • Make time to help people out. Mentor them, teach them, guide them. It’s probably the most import work you’ll ever do.
  • Embrace today; do what you love; don’t settle.
  • Don’t let other people define your life’s scope. Poke life.
  • The world is in desperate need of good managers. Managers need not be robots; the best managers can have a huge impact on their team and the product.
  • Don’t let imposter syndrome or other people hold you back.
  • Humanizing the customer support experience is extremely important. These people are calling out for help, treat them right.
  • The developer ecosystem is forever changing. Even today the wheels are in motion and a few years from now it’ll be different. Be prepared for change.
  • Embrace side projects. Start tons of things. Experiment. Do things outside your comfort zone.

While we wait for this years talks to be edited and published, consider stopping by the 2014 video collection. In particular I recommend Joe Cieplinski – The Back of the Fence.

CocoaConf Boston 2014 Recap

After getting a solid recommendation from Curtis, who attended the Washington DC variant, this weekend I headed north to CocoaConf Boston. It was my first CocoaConf and so I went into the weekend with a lot of blurred expectations.

Spoilers: I say first with intention. TLDR; I had a really great time. The talks and speaker quality were really high and with luck I’ll be able to attend again during a future “tour”.

One of my expectations was size. I thought the attendee count was going to be a bit larger. It felt like ~130 but I’m not sure what the official number was. Not that a small count is bad for me but I’m used to educational events hosting more. I suspect part of this is that CocoaConf is hosting lots more venues now (three arguably “east coast cities” during this fall tour alone). This may make some events smaller but overall a win for the community so as to have more access for those who can’t travel far.

One thing that continues to make me proud is the people of our community. The attendees, the speakers and the event staff of CocoaConf are all incredibly friendly, approachable and inspiring. Meeting new people and catching up with old friends is a big reason why I like attending conferences and CocoaConf does a great job at supplying the “campfire” atmosphere to make that happen.

Daniel Jalkut's "Quit Your Job" keynote

As for my favorite talks I’ll mention a few:

Daniel Jalkut’s “Quit Your Job” keynote and Rob Rhyne’s “Make Them Care” session were both very inspirational. I leave Boston really hungry to jump into some side projects of mine and get back into the product game outside of my client stuff at work.

For technical wisdom I have to give it up for the full day “Swift Kickstart” workshop Daniel Steinberg ran as well as the Swift and Objective-C: Best Friends Forever session by Jonathan Blocksom. CocoaConf Boston is now cemented as the place and time where I really started to appreciate what Apple is trying to accomplish with Swift. This isn’t to say we aren’t in for a bumpy ride but at least now I have a good frame of mind as to the “why” behind it all.

Finally, it was great to meet the people that run CocoaConf. Rather than some large corporation, CocoaConf is actually a family affair. Dave Kline and his family run most of the operation and they seemed very dedicated to making sure everyone had a good time. For all their hard work I say thank you and hope to see you all again soon.

Designing & Planning Your iOS App Workshop Recap

Workshops are a new effort from the Philly CocoaHeads group. Basic idea is: one workshop every other month, the workshop is a one day 5-6 hour event, that covers a single topic. Our first one was on Intermediate Objective-C and our second one, which was held last Saturday, covered Designing & Planning Your iOS App.

Kotaro Teaching

Overall the workshop went well. Kotaro Fujita was our main presenter and did a great job of alternating lecture and hands on exercise. At the end, attendees presented what they had worked on and how their app ideas were evolving. The crowd was great with lots of great feedback too. Some of my notes:

  • When brainstorming features consider using index cards or mind mapping software. I like MindNode Pro and Trello.

  • Spend LOTS of time wire framing, sketching, etc. Be mindful to separate your design time from your production coding time. It’s easy to fall into trap where you are coding things that will not work and this is very expensive. Way better to validate your designs with prototyping first.

  • Document what problem each screen is suppose to solve. Also document the emotions you expect the user to have. For example, on first launch what is your user asking themselves, how can you help educate them? Are you using verbiage they understand? How fast can you deliver your first WOW moment?

  • Get users involved as soon as possible. Preferably before you start to code. Should have some level of idea validation before starting.

  • Once you release a build, make customer support your highest priority. Answer every email/tweet within the hour. Let them call you. Doing this is a huge part of getting people to trust you and then later recommending you and your product.

Related Resources

In the spirit of the talk I wanted to share some other related resources.

So there are two great online courses going on right now regarding starting a startup people might be interested in:

Some of it is a little heavy on the VC-funding but otherwise lots of great things to think about.

Another video I find really helpful to watch and re-watch whenever thinking about which projects I want to work on: How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek. His explanation of “Why/How/What” is very inspiring for me.

For some design fundamentals consider reading Design for non Designers by Robin Williams and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Finally I’ll mention the the Lean Startup Book which I reviewed back in 2013. It still is a favorite book of mine with some awesome ideas on working fast and based on validations and learning.

Quick CocoaLove Recap

CocoaLove was a huge success. All of the talks were well received and the attendee side conversations vibrant and interesting. I think I saw 2 laptops open all weekend which to me is a huge sign people were engaged with our content. If you missed out, check out the CocoaLove site for some highlights of our tweet/photo live stream.

While they’ll never capture the event in its full glory, we did record the presentations and will be editing them over the next few weeks to make the available on the web. To find out when the videos are up I’d signup to the mailing list or follow the @CocoaLoveConf twitter account.

I want to thank my fellow organizers, the speakers and the attendees for helping provide a weekend I’ll remember forever.

In particular I’ll give special props to Curtis whom sacrificed countless hours attending to hundreds of details that resulting in a level conference quality that is hard to achieve. Great job!

CocoaLove Tickets

It’s September, which means next month is October, which means CocoaLove is coming up fast!

We’ve got a great weekend planned and if you haven’t already secured your ticket I’d do so now since we are starting our last marketing push to sell out.

Additionally, if you or a company you know are interested in sponsoring to help show your support for CocoaLove let me know. CocoaLove is passion project from some great folks out of our local CocoaHeads chapter who have donated countless hours in helping to organize this incredible non-profit event. Sponsor support will help us reach our stretch goals and make an already great experience that much better.

See you all soon!

On disappointment with clients who are prioritizing production over quality

A friend of mine emailed me, amongst a few others, asking for advice. He’s been working as a consultant for a little while now but has been unhappy about his recent clients. He says they haven’t been focused on the quality of things as much the general production speed and it disappoints him. My reply:

Without knowing the details of your current experiences I would encourage you to look within to improve the situation. I say this not to let the client off the hook but if you wait for other people to change to make YOUR life easier you are going to be waiting a long fucking time.

One of the huge problems is that most of the clients you will interact with have no experience producing software. It is your job to explain to them what a professional software development process looks like and if all the parties are in agreement, and contracts are signed, it is your job to execute that process.

When you were in the early talks with this client how did you teach them what your professional process was like? How did they react when you explained your core values?

If they agreed to your process and then changed the rules midway, shame on them, Walk away as soon as professionally possible, preferably under the comfort of a contract clause they are breaking.

If you never talked about this and just assumed they knew what was in your head about what the process was going to be like then shame on you.

Look inward. Figure out your core values, your development process. Make this part of the marketing of the consultant you. Make it clear to those interested in hiring you, this is how you work. This is how they will get the best value from your time, their money and in the long run, the code base they will own.

And to be clear, finding good clients is hard work. I think making your own expectations clear to them is half the battle, the other half is getting out there to market yourself to more and more people so that A) in the early days you have enough options to weed out the bad clients and then B) you get to a point that through word of mouth you get more and more clients looking for you because your process worked so well for their friends. If you aren’t turning away 4 projects for every 1 you work on, you probably aren’t marketing enough.

Have a question for me? Send me an email.

Philly Craftsmanship

Software as Craft Philadelphia

A community of professionals dedicated to well-crafted software

Was very happy to attend the inaugural meeting of this group last week. Was a great mix of discussion and hands-on coding/pairing. Thanks to Promptworks for hosting.

During the discussions, the Software Craftsmanship North America conference (as well as its manifesto) were mentioned. You can find a bunch of the conference videos on the eighthlight vimeo channel. Seems like pretty interesting stuff.

In related news (since I think all hosts were in attendance at said meeting), I want to give a plug to the podcast Turing-Incomplete podcast. Finally starting to catch up on this Philly showcase of talent and really enjoying the discussions. Keep up the good work!