Renaissance IO 2013 Wrap Up
The paradox of choice
There is a well organized and highly regarded developer conference each January in Ohio, CodeMash, that is in very high demand. They sold out over a thousand tickets in minutes, but I managed to get in quickly enough last fall to score a ticket. So by the time I started seeing tweets from Tim Burk and Bill Dudney about Renaissance IO, I was already committed to a late-January conference that looked very good.
I’ve also been to several 360iDev and CocoaConf events over the last few years (you will find great value in either of them) and I plan on attending or speaking at each of them again this year. Each has it’s own style and I have benefitted from them both and look forward to being at each again. But, I was curious to see how Renaissance IO would fit into the iOS conference eco-system.
Having heard Bill speak at conferences, I knew that if he was involved, the conference had great potential. And from what I knew about Tim, I thought they stood a great chance of pulling off something pretty cool. So, I decided to sell my CodeMash registration, sign up for Renaissance IO, and see.
The tl;dr is that it was a great decision.
Apples, oranges, and other fruity things
This post is not an in-depth comparison of conferences, there is a great post over on Ray Wenderlich’s site that does that for several iOS conferences. But since Renaissance IO is new and couldn’t have been on the list, I thought I would share my thoughts while they are fresh.
360iDev mixes a great community with a good multi-track mix of sessions, providing great opportunities for starting new friendships and building on familiar ones. John & Nicole do a great job putting the 4 days together, and really foster an egalitarian feel between speakers and attendees. It has a family reunion (in a good sense!) feel to it.
CocoaConf has a more concentrated multi-track schedule with the goal of delivering solid technical content at several different locations throughout the year. Dave and his family do a great job of recruiting speakers and sessions to cover a wide range of technical topics at different levels. Although it is shorter (2 days + optional all-day pre-conference session) than 360iDev, the camaraderie among speakers and attendees is still very good. (Full disclosure: I’ve spoken at the Columbus location before and will be speaking at the DC and Dallas events this year as well.)
Renaissance IO had the same sense of community, but with a different flavor. There was good interaction between attendees and speakers, with a we are all in this together feel – but it also had a we are serious about moving forward vibe on the business of creating great apps. Tim and Bill selected and orchestrated the single-track of sessions with a clear purpose in mind, giving a very hand-curated focus to the conference.
Renaissance IO overview
Unlike other conferences I have attended, Renaissance was single-track. The format worked well and helped keep the conference and attendees very focused. Another small logistical choice was seating attendees at round tables. Like most people, I picked a table for the day and was able to get to know a small group of people better that way.
The combination of format, seating arrangement, and schedule gave a unique flavor to the interaction. By switching where I sat each day, I was able to get to interact with several different individuals and small groups, but each day felt a little like a well organized dinner party. The combination worked great.
The only negative aspect was minor, and mostly due to being a version 1.0 conference. A few times, the sessions seemed a little over-stuffed, which squeezed out the available time between sessions as Tim and Bill worked to keep the schedule on track.
The sessions were well done, and the speakers well prepared. I greatly enjoyed most of them, and benefitted in some way from all of them. I was occasionally surprised by how much I needed to hear something during a presentation that I initially thought was outside my interests or needs. That is a clear benefit of a single-track conference done well. In fact, this was the first conference where I did not skip any sessions (the seating arrangement was a strong influence on that choice.) Even though this was a 1.0 version of a conference, it did not feel like it at all.
I learned new things and was reminded of others that I can immediately apply to my business and app development, and there were many more to think about for the long term. In particular, here are a couple of changes I plan to implement as soon as possible.
A small detail, easily changed, but with a good payback
Des Traynor brought my attention to the importance of making deliberate choices in the selection of the text and micro-copy to use in my apps. He reminded us how blah, vanilla text can easily slip through the development process and into the shipping product without anybody thinking about it.
I am about to deliver the first prototype to a client, but before I do that, I will be reviewing every piece of text with that in mind. I already use obvious placeholders for graphics that are not yet ready, and I need to do that for the text as well. Where possible, I will change the text to clearly convey the message that needs to be delivered. And rather than use safe, generic default text just because I haven’t thought it through yet (things like ‘Done’ or ‘Save’ button labels,) I will change to an obvious placeholder so the vanilla, generic phrases don’t make it into the shipping product.
A simple, but longer term change in the way I plan
As an independent developer, I already track my time pretty well. Even the non-billable time. What I don’t do very well is to plan how I want to use my time based on my business and personal goals and priorities, and what I don’t do at all is evaluate how I’ve used my time in relationship to what I claim to be my priorities.
In the closing keynote, Tim Berry reminded us that although business plans are never right, they are always useful. I will be taking a more deliberate approach to planning the use of my time this year. I already have some clear priorities and goals for the year, and adding a very simple tracking system to compare my actual use of time against those goals on a regular basis will be a great benefit.
Congratulations to Tim, Bill, and all those who helped them organize and implement Renaissance IO 2013.
If you are serious about making apps, you need the training, motivation, and cross-pollination that is available in a setting like Renaissance or some other well organized and focused event.
If you have to choose just one, any one of these three conferences could be a good choice. Talk to folks who have been to one or more of these, evaluate what you learn, honestly assess where you are right now in technical skills and business goals, then make the best choice you can.
But don’t let the problem of too many good choices keep you from choosing.
Here is a little more information about me, Doug Sjoquist, and how I came to my current place in life.. Hope you have a great day!