This weekend, I attended CocoaLove, a new Mac/iOS-development-related conference held in Philadelphia. Though my Cocoa resume consists of doing various tutorials every few years for the last decade or so, the location, concept, and speaker lineup were impossible to resist.
The upshot: this was a great conference. As the tagline – "A conference about people, not tech." – indicates, the sessions weren't technical or even generally about programming as such. Instead, it was a bit more in the ATLUG Day of Champions vein. They covered a range of useful "surrounding" topics, from self-image, to lessons from other industries, to diversity (in a far more interesting sense than that semi-buzzword makes it sound). The secondary push of the conference was social-in-the-sense-of-socializing - the keynote encouraged everyone to introduce themselves and the tables were stocked with levels-of-introversion pins, something that could be a silly conceit but worked well.
In fact, the socializing push worked remarkably well, thanks in large part to the nature of the talks. Since it was a single-track conference and the topics weren't technical reference material, laptops were almost entirely sheathed the whole time and even phone-checking was shockingly limited. Since the event was in a single room, there was no walking around needed between sessions - the breaks were spent talking about the just-presented topic or getting to know the people sitting with you.
This was also personally a very interesting experience for me. When it comes to Cocoa development, I am but an egg. It was weird being back in the position of not being known by anyone and only knowing a few people by their works and reputation – it was like my first MWLUG a couple years ago. I had a bit of "I got to meet Marco Arment and Brent Simmons!" fanboy-ism, but mostly it was great meeting a whole slew of people in a community I've only ever observed from the outside. It also made me realize that I need to get over the hump of the train ride and watch for more events in the city.
For reference, as you'd probably expect, nobody had any idea what "IBM Domino" is other than one long-former IBMer. The reactions I got when I explained that I do Java development all day ranged from "ah, I've used that for some Android development" to the sort of sympathetic reaction you'd get if you told someone you were just evicted from your house.
On a final note, the conference badges were amazing. They were all hand-drawn renditions of attendees' Twitter-or-otherwise avatars and it was an unexpected cool touch. The Fracture (one of the sponsors) prints they threw in were a nice bonus.