3 Reasons Why The Indie App Developer Community is Awesome

360 iDev iPhone
Denver, CO 2011

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

bulldog wearing a tie
Poor guy, there was no need to dress up!
-via Maggie Hoffman on Flickr

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

Curious llama
-via BinaryApe on Flickr

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

helping hand
via Jenny C on Flickr

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.

dogs wearing sunglasses
Chillin with new buds was half the fun!
-via Pacdog on Flickr

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!

A cool t-shirt like this one!
-via gabofr on Flickr

17 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why The Indie App Developer Community is Awesome

  1. Kitwana says:

    Great post Vicki. I have not been to 360iDev, but I have been to several WWDCs and I can say the same about that conference as well. I have not been to WWDC in a few years. I miss it so much that I have already planned to go to it next year, and will purchase as soon as I get the email notice from Apple (as I suspect so will everyone else). Maybe next year I can go to 360iDev too.

  2. Joseph Neuman says:

    Is so true. I feel bad cause I’ve been really busy with school and work that I haven’t really had time to program my stuff like I used to, and have lost some of my presence on the cocos2d forum. I hope to get back into it a lot more soon.

  3. Martin Grider says:

    I thought seriously about writing a post along these lines too. 360iDev was way better than WWDC in terms of the people I met and interacted with. Hanging out with people who are into iPhone, (and especially into iPhone game dev) really helped me remember why I got into iPhone development in the first place. It was a reminder I needed.

    It was great to meet you and Ray, keep in touch.

  4. Stephanie Grimes says:

    Vicki, as I am sure you know already, I could not agree with this more! I felt weird coming home and telling people that our week in Denver was a”life-changing” but it was exactly how I felt. It was a great experience and I cannot wait to go back next year! So glad we got to hang out and spend so much time together!

  5. vwenderlich says:

    Thanks for stopping by, everyone! I felt so strongly about the conference, and saw so many similar sentiments on Twitter (“met some awesome people, miss it already”), that I had to write a post.

    @BigB – come to the next one! You won’t regret it.

    @Martin – was great to meet you too!

    @Steph – yeah, it is kinda weird to say “life-changing” but as you know, it’s true! Before the conference, I didn’t feel part of anything, I was just making apps. Now I am part of this community, and it is empowering and fun and really encouraging. In a big world, it’s great to find such a wide network of friends.

  6. Edward Marczak says:

    Excellent write up. The entire Apple development community is different in this way, and has been for a long time. Fortunately, there have also been an explosion of conferences, from our own MacTech Conference, to Voices that Matter, to NSConference, to SecondConf, up to Apple’s own WWDC. Of course, through it all, it’s the people that make all the difference. Those in the Apple development community are genuinely caring about the entire field and tend to not selfishly play everything as a secret to be held close to the vest.

  7. Peter Easdown says:

    Being a part of something certainly adds to the experience.

    Whilst I love working away on my apps, it’s a very solitary endeavour for me (the family thinks I’m obsessed, and don’t understand it).

    Attending monthly meetings opens up the eyes and it’s easy to see what you’re saying Vicki; the people are so happy to share, and to welcome others into the community.

    I have yet to attend a ‘conference’. I’m hoping that one of my apps will end up giving me the resources to do so.

    I’ve wondered about the cost effectiveness of these conferences when quite often it seems to me that a lot of presentations cover things that can be learnt online or in books (like Ray’s).

    Your article highlights the benefit that can’t be gained from a book; one I hadn’t really considered, so thanks; it was a great read.

  8. Tom Taber says:

    Vicki – It was an amazing conference and I think you captured the spirit perfectly in this article. It was really great getting to know you and Ray and count you among my friends. :-)

  9. Margaret says:

    Great read! Thank you very much for posting Vicki. I have already benefited from the great work you and Ray have done for the community. Seems like the conference was what it should be – a community of inspired folks coming together in the spirit of support and happiness.

  10. Elliott says:

    Hi Vicki,

    What a great read. Very inspirational indeed. I have never been to a dev conference of any kind but I feel you have really summed up the spirit of the dev community as a whole.

    Proud to part of it!

  11. Peter Easdown says:


    Just to reiterate the sentiments you’ve expressed here; I’ve found a community at momswithapps.com that embodies all of the good stuff you’re talking about.

    I’ve only been in there for a bit over a week, and the help provided has been amazing.

  12. Rafa says:

    Vicky, I love you (with permiss of Ray:)))

    Your words are so important for an indie dev in Spain!

    Wish, soon than later, I could meet you both couple! You are so inspiring!

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