This post first appeared on www.vickiwenderlich.com.
I went to 360 iDev this week, my first iPhone developer conference. It was, to be perfectly honest and a tiny bit melodramatic, life-changing.
It wasn’t the technical and design knowledge I gained from the many excellent talks, though they were for the most part well-organized, entertaining, and informative (thanks so much to John and Nicole Wilker for organizing it!). In the end, I can go online or read books for knowledge.
The real treasure of conferences like this isn’t what you learn. It is the people.
I was blown away by the awesome array of personalities I met last week, and I started thinking about why the indie developer community is so special. iPhone devs have several important traits in common:
- They don’t care what you look like
- They are sincerely interested in each other
- They want each other to succeed
We Don’t Care What You Look Like
You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, it’s a mantra that the business world loves to chant to each other: Dress for success. Go to interviews, (or meetings, conferences, even day-to-day work) in a suit, or a skirt, with hair (and makeup) perfectly done, nails trimmed, shiny shoes, lalala.
When I was packing for the conference, I actually found myself debating frantically which dress pants and boots I should pack. Then I realized that everyone was going to be wearing jeans and T-shirts.
A huge weight lifted, and I packed all my favorite tees and some good walking shoes. I could wear what I liked! Not that there’s anything wrong with dressing business-casual, but I only wear it when I’m concerned about someone’s opinion.
And sure enough, everyone was in jeans, shorts, whatever. We were to learn and connect, not to impress people. We understand that our greatest assets are hidden inside our brains, so we don’t assume competency based on looks or outfits. In fact, a neat T-shirt design gave a really easy way to start a conversation!
Speakers who showed up in suits (which wasn’t common) were a conundrum. If they gave a good talk (and there were exceptions), wonderful – but if they rambled or were off-topic or disorganized, their fancy dress didn’t make them look any less unprepared. Most speakers wore what the rest of us wore, and that was pretty cool. You couldn’t tell who was a speaker based on their dress. They were just like the rest of us, and easily approachable.
We Are Sincerely Interested In Each Other
You know how you go to a party and socialize to gain contacts, and can barely keep your eyes from glazing over as you ask about someone’s new car or the last vacation they went on? That doesn’t happen here.
In part, it’s because most of us work either alone or in very small groups, isolated from the rest of the community for much of the year. It’s always nice to talk to someone who understands your projects and your problems.
So when we get into a big group, it’s awesome. We are like-minded people: smart, creative, willing to work hard and share knowledge, struggling to succeed in a completely new industry.
We’re also very different, in terms of life experiences. Everyone’s road to becoming indie was different. Some of us have dreamed of becoming indie for years; some of us fell into it by accident. Some of us said “I quit!” to our corporate bosses, and some of us got fired and dove into the scary waters of self-employment. Everyone’s story is interesting.
We all come from different backgrounds. We all have different former lives and current hobbies. Filmmakers, writers, managers, musicians, hikers—you never know what surprises the next person will have.
Because of this, everyone’s skill set is different. We always have something to learn from each other, whether it’s how to make an app icon or how to make your own beer.
And what’s crazy is: we share that knowledge freely. Which brings me to my final point:
We Want Each Other To Succeed
There’s no sense of competition in this community. Need help with a tricky bit of code? Here, let’s sit down – I’ll help you code it right now. (well, I won’t, but a programmer will!) Want to know how to create gradients in Photoshop? Or market your app? Any knowledge I have, I will share with you. It’s hard enough in this new mobile world, and we realize that unless we help each other, a lot of us are going to fail. And that would be a shame.
There’s enough room for everyone. We’re all working on something different and interesting. Real estate apps. Task manager apps. Back-end tools because they couldn’t find what they needed already out there. Games, every type of game with every theme you could imagine. Your success doesn’t take away from me—in fact, it encourages me.
We aren’t concerned about copycats or idea-theft. We talk about our own projects, and any other projects that aren’t under NDA. We all understand that ideas aren’t important. As one talk said, good ideas are less than a dime a dozen. It’s the execution that’s important. And good execution is HARD. There’s no way I’m going to have the time or inclination to finish all of my own projects, much less steal yours (which I would never do). Even if I have the same basic idea, I would execute it very differently than you would.
But the core of it is, I want you to succeed because I like you. I met you, you’re cool, and I’d like to someday look around at the successful developers and see you in the crowd. I’d like to know that in ten years you will still be able to do what you love. So I’m going to do whatever I can to make that happen. And there’s a trust, and a feeling of support, that happens when a community can say that.
I Think There’s A Word For This
Actually, those three traits apply to another group of people: my friends.
That’s what is so cool in the iPhone dev community: we are all friends. Friends don’t care if you show up in your PJs. Friends want to hear about your latest hobby. And friends will cheer your success and help you any way they can.
Even if we don’t know each other yet, we are friends. I guarantee that if you are open-minded, excited about apps and development, and pursuing your passion, we will be friends five minutes after “hello.” I will want to know how you came to be walking this road next to me, and why you choose to make apps.
If I find out you have a cool animal as a pet (like a goat—you know who you are), or a neat hobby, I’m gonna ask you a million questions. Heaven forbid you live in an interesting country, cuz you’ll never get rid of me.
And now I have a new reason to succeed: to make enough money to afford plane tickets to see all my friends again!
If you are an iPhone dev and weren’t nodding along with me as you read this, I would wager you haven’t been to a conference like 360 iDev yet. Show up to the next one, and if you don’t agree with me after a couple of days, I’ll buy you a beer. Especially if you wear a cool T-shirt!