RWDevCon with Ray Wenderlich and John Wilker – Podcast S03 E04

Find out how our RWDevCon tutorial conference went in a post-event report with Ray Wenderlich and John Wilker! By Ray Wenderlich.

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RWDevCon with Ray Wenderlich and John Wilker – Podcast S03 E04

30 mins

Welcome back to season 3 of the podcast!

In this episode, find out what happened at our RWDevCon Tutorial Conference with myself and John Wilker!

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Mic: We’re here in the capital at the Liaison Capitol Hill, where RWDevCon just finished. We’re going to be joined by Ray and John Wilker, shortly. John Wilker is the organizer of 360iDev and has helped Ray put on RWDevCon. Before we introduce those guys into the conversation, I want to get your opinion. I know, obviously, Ray’s staring at you now and you also work for Ray, so putting Ray out of the picture, turn around if you need to, genuine impressions?

Jake: It was great. This was the first conference I’ve been a speaker at. I’ve been to just a handful of other conferences. I’ve been to a 360 a couple years back. I had a really good experience both as an attendee, just talking to other people and meeting people and talking about the topics of the conference. As a speaker, it was a really good experience. Ray put us all through our paces as speakers. He had a specific structure we should follow to prepare and it really helped me. I certainly would not have put the same amount of time and effort into it without some guidance, and just because I’d never done it before I didn’t know what to expect.

When I finally got up I was nervous but I felt prepared and I got a lot of good feedback on my session. I was pleased with my own performance and I had a great experience, so how about you? What was your impression? You’d spoken before, right?

Mic: I’ve only spoken once but this was a very different experience, because usually, in my experience with other conferences, the organizer will put out a call for talks, people will respond with ideas and that will be, once you’re accepted, that will be the last year hear from the organizer, until the day you turn up.

Whereas anybody that knows Ray and works for Ray, that was never going to be the case for RWDevCon. I think we had 2 to 2-1/2 months of really hardcore preparation to get ready for the conference but then I think that was evident in a lot of the feedback from talking personally to attendees and other team members was that that really increased the quality.

When you’re getting that kind of feedback it makes you feel better and gives you more confidence because my two sessions were the last two on the second day, so I had that huge buildup, then the more people were talking to me and giving me this really good feedback and knowing that all the effort was worth it, then yeah. Actually when I woke up yesterday morning I was excited not nervous, which is really unusual for me. Yeah, I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Jake: During the buildup in the amount of work, when I committed to this I didn’t realize and I thought I don’t know if I’m going to do this again. After I spoke and got the feedback, I thought I should speak more, this was great.

Mic: It’s definitely worth it, I think. I’ve learned a lot, but also in the run up to all this when we were … It’s hard to explain for those that weren’t involved in the speaker process to know just how much work has gone into this. We also got some training on how to be a better speaker, and I think putting the conference to one side, you’re still taking a lot that we all got a lot from that.

Jake: Yes.

Mic: Yeah, really, I’d definitely do it again. Yeah. Definitely got the confidence now to do it again. I think that’s probably a good time to introduce both Ray and John into the conversation. Guys, thanks for joining us.

John: My pleasure.

Ray: Yeah, my pleasure.

Mic: I think my first question to you, Ray, would be why. At what point did you think, “let’s put on a conference”?

Ray: It was about 360 or WWDC time, I was at all-conf with John and we were sitting together and I’d been thinking about running a conference because [00:04:00] Matt Galloway, who’s one of the tutorial team members, sent me an email and he’s like, “You know what, Ray? We should run a conference!” It was always in the back of my mind and I was like you know what? We really should because we have so many great authors and editors on our team we could put together some really great content and we could put our own spin on a conference because we’re so tutorial focused.

I thought what would it be like if we could have a conference focused on the hands-on aspect of it and that’s where we started. I talked with John and I was like hey, what do you think, could you team up with me on this because I’m not interested so much in the logistics, I’m interested in the content. That’s what gets me passionate and John is good at logistics because he’s done it for years. He was like, “Yeah!”

Mic: Did you already know John prior to this then?

Ray: Oh yeah, of course. John … He asked me many years back I think they had a last minute cancellation for an iOS 101 workshop at one of the 360iDev’s and it was 2 days before the conference and he emails me and he’s like, “Hey, do you think you could come down and give a day long workshop on iOS?” I guess he read the blog or something.

I was like, sounds like fun and I’ve been to 360iDev ever since, it’s one of my favorite conferences and yeah, we’ve always hit it off.

Jake: John, from your perspective, you’ve been doing this for years. You’ve got tons of experience. How is Ray … First of all, how did it go? How well did it come off?

John: It came off really well. There’s a lot that nobody ever sees on the inside, and that’s usually my watermark of how it went. It went great. There was no catastrophes that nobody saw so that was a plus.

Jake: How was it different from the other experiences you’ve had with conferences?

John: It was cool. As Ray said, I do some tutorials at 360iDev but it’s the first day only and that’s it and then we start standard talks. It was neat to see a conference that was all tutorial based. It was an interesting logistic planning issue as well, making sure that a conference could support tutorials all day every day for the 2 days.

Jake: I’m a little bit curious just [00:06:00] … You’ve been doing this a long time and you’re obviously passionate about it. What got you into doing conferences and what do you get out of putting these on?

John: I’ve realized that more than even writing code, organizing things was what I loved to do and so my old business partner and I decided let’s do an iOS conference because there wasn’t one and we both loved and had our iPhones. It made sense. I want more cool things on my iPhone, so help facilitate that.

Mic: Ray, can you give us a little bit of insight why RWDevCon is different from other iOS developer conferences?

Ray: Sure. Like we’ve been talking about, there’s this hands-on focus, so the way our tutorials work is you come in, the instructor gives a quick 5-minute overview of the subject and then they go straight into a demo where you actually code along with the instructor, which is different from a lot of conferences where you’re passively watching things.

After the demo you move onto a lab and a challenge portion where you’re working through the projects on your own, so it’s very hands-on because for me, I can only learn by doing it myself and I think that really helps with that.

There’s another thing we do that’s a little different. I’ve taught a lot of day-long workshops in the past and after a certain point in the day I always see people get tired and they’re not really working very hard on the hands-on stuff anymore. In the afternoon we switch over to inspiration talks, which are more non-technical talks but focused on trying to give you a new idea or kick you in a new direction in life because personally when I go to a conference, I get a lot out of that kind of thing. I always want to come home with something new and with a new idea because sometimes in life you need a little jolt to try something different.

Mic: How do you think the tutorial format went down with the attendees?

Ray: I think people really loved it, I got a lot of feedback on that. They say it definitely worked and that was one of their favorite parts of the conference.

Mic: Same question for the inspirations.

Ray: People liked that as well because like I said, people were tired and they were like [00:08:00], yeah, it was nice to switch over and I’ve heard a lot of people say they actually got a lot out of it and we had some parties in the evening and I saw people talking about some of the ideas there and that’s exactly what I hoped to see.

Jake: John, what’s the role of the conference in our community? How important are conferences to keeping the community together and teaching us to grow together?

John: I think they’re really important. Any more you can learn pretty much anything you want online. You can watch videos, you can read books, you can do all that. The conference is, on aside of the educational aspect which is still a bit part of them, gives everybody a chance to come together in one place and put real people to Twitter avatars and things like that. I think there’s a huge value, not just in the education aspect but just in keeping the community so everybody knows everybody and recognizes each other.

Jake: I’m assuming you’ve met a lot of really interesting people over the years doing all these conferences. Is there a highlight for you? Somebody you met that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get in contact with?

John: One of the highlights is probably Mike Lee. He came to the first one, I didn’t know him at all other than just his role in the community at the time, and he attended and the first one he announced that he was going to Apple and then 2 years later he announced, he was by the way now I’m leaving Apple and joining the community, doing Indie stuff again. It’s been cool that he’s been involved. I think he’s only ever missed one since we’ve started doing 360iDev. He was in Amsterdam and couldn’t travel back over here, so it was a pretty legitimate reason.

Yeah, I think that was definitely one of the highlights for me.

Mic: Everything was only finished late last night. A lot of people came back after the closing remarks, probably for a lot longer than anybody expected, which is great. It bled out into the bar as well and everybody was reflecting on how great everything was. The Razeware guys, we went out for a meal last night and we tried to make some sense of everything that had gone on the last 2 days. Given that we’ve had a little bit of time [00:10:00] now, was it everything that you expected it to be?

Ray: Oh yeah, definitely, because this was my first time ever doing this and so I’ve been a little bit nervous about it and saying are we really going to be able to pull this off, especially since so much planning and organization had gone into it, but there was this moment about 2 weeks ago where I suddenly stopped being nervous. I was like you know what, we have our materials ready, we were prepared, we’re actually going to pull this off.

I was nervous about a few things here but everything seemed to go really smooth and what made me the most happy was just the feedback that I got from attendees. People were saying how much they loved it, how they wanted to come back again if we were to do it again next year and how much they got out of it. They seemed really genuinely loving the experience. All the work we put into it made it worth it once I heard that kind of feedback.

Mic: Now you mentioned in the closing remarks you’d already thought of a couple of things that if you were to do it again you might change. Can you give us an idea what those were?

Ray: Sure. The first one, a lot of people said that they wished there was a little more time for the tutorials because when you’re teaching someone a live demo, you have to take your time and go through code a little slowly and we could have used 15 more minutes for each of those. That was the number one thing.

The second thing was to help with that, the way [00:12:00] we practiced is everybody had a partner who was also a speaker who looked at things, and then I also reviewed everybody’s material, but it might have been better if we had a board of volunteers of a mix of different levels of experience to give us a little more feedback to make sure we’re going at the right pace for things.

The third thing was we had course materials and they were a little bit confusing how they were laid out, so next time we can do a little better at making sure that’s all clear.

Jake: For myself I wondered about the tutorial format because you can’t cover as much material when you actually have people write code and do stuff, and the sessions were an hour and a half something total. Yeah, it was interesting because personally as an attendee of other sessions I really appreciated what I learned and I think your intuition was right on that walking out of a conference, usually you go through 10 or 20 sessions in a couple of days. It’s not something where the next day you could actually sit down and use what you learned. You’ve got to kind of mull it over and then go back …

It’s like WWDC, you’ve got to watch those 3 or 4 times to absorb what you’re looking at. That was my experience. [At RWDevCon], it was useful immediately. It seemed like from the people I was talking to, and being a speaker, I don’t know that people would run up to me and told me what they didn’t like, but that was universally the feedback I got that everybody appreciated it and anything they were asking for was more time and I looked through my evaluation forms and I got a bunch of those comments. I just wanted to spend more time.

It seemed really good. What was a personal highlight for you, Ray, from the conference?

Ray: For me it was getting a chance to all come together as a community in a couple different ways. One was the team, because for me this was the first time that we’ve had such a large group of folks from our site together and there’s been a lot of people on our site that I’ve never met in person, despite years of working together, including Mic who is sitting right next to me and Matthijs is over here. [00:14:00]

It’s really cool to all come together as a team. That’s huge. Then also getting to meet people who have known about our website, and so many people have come up to me and they’ve said, you know, your guys’ site has helped me get started with iPhone development and I’ve been reading it ever since the very beginning and seeing people who know the site like that and getting to hang out with them and share some drinks, some funny stories, it’s been incredible.

Mic: John, I’ve got a question for you – seeing Ray stress and panic and run around like a headless chicken on all this effort, on everything that’s gone into the planning of this conference, so being on the inside of that and seeing how much work has gone into it. What’s your motivation for not only putting on your own conference but then to help other people put on their conferences?

John: The same for both. There’s a ton of stress and generally freaking out that goes into it up until the first session starts. Then you get that high of it’s all going and so at that point once it starts, anything … You’re kind of locked in. Everything is either going to go well or not and you play it by ear. Then there’s the high of the last session and going to the bar afterwards and hanging out with everybody and it’s done. You’ve accomplished the job you set out to do. I enjoy that feeling of once everything starts.

The lead up to it is very stressful and I’ll probably be grey earlier than I should have, but otherwise getting to it and doing it is the fun part that I love.

Mic: I have a similar question, as Jake asked Ray – what was your highlight?

John: Meeting people that don’t normally come to my conference, which is always nice. I see people at 360iDev and obviously they’ve come to 360iDev and so I know them. It was cool to meet people in the community that I haven’t met yet, which is part of why I go to WWDC and hang out and do AltConf too is I want to meet more of the community and my little piece of it is just one little piece. It was very cool to meet people that yeah, that have never made it to highdev [00:16:00] yet and I still got to meet and hang out with them.

Mic: Fantastic. Jake, as a team member and a speaker, and an inspirational speaker, what was your personal highlight?

Jake: For me it was when Marin Todorov did a Ray Wenderlich folklore session. His inspiration session was on Ray Wenderlich folklore and he went through … He’s been on the Ray Wenderlich team from the very beginning, and so he went through some of the major milestones like when we did our first book, and I had been there for a lot of it. I hadn’t been there quite as long as Marin but almost. I had had my perspective on what had happened, and it was interesting to see Marin’s perspective because there are so many things that happened that just came together and I didn’t really understand how.

He was really funny, first of all and he had all these great stories. He did this great job of showing us how we came to where we are now with a hundred people on the team and just all the success and all the books and all the things that I’ve participated in quite a few of them, and it was really interesting to see that perspective.

My impression was, especially with Marin, he communicated how proud he is to be a part of it, and I feel the same way and you could tell that there’s a lot of heart that comes from the team and that was really moving and it was funny and it was great. That for me was the highlight. How about you, what was your highlight?

Mic: I think the highlight for me was just this overwhelming sense of community. I’ve worked with Ray probably for about 2-1/2 maybe almost 3 years. We’ve never met and yet I’ve somehow ended up going from editorial team member to working for him full time. We all hung out in Slack, we email, we have communications with individual [00:18:00] offices when we work on books or tutorials. There is a sense of community but it’s virtual because it’s all … It’s not face to face. This is the first time we’ve met, we’ve been doing the podcast for 3 seasons.

Jake: I need to let everybody know, Mic is much taller in real life than the pictures.

Mic: When I arrived, you kind of expected it to be a slightly socially awkward moment where are people going to be like they are in slack? Are we going to get on? What personalities are these people. It was like you’ve known them. It was like these are people that you’ve worked with. They could’ve been in the same office building or whatever and it was … Everybody settled in straight away and it was just great. It was overwhelming, that for me has been the highlight.

Jake: I’d like to … My experience … I don’t do this a lot, go to conferences, but when I have there’s a certain amount of energy you have to put in in order to overcome that barrier to meet somebody that you’ve never met. Even if you know you have a common interest, you’re there, you’re passionate about IOS or you’re there at a conference together so you know you’ve got something in common. There’s this barrier you have to get past before you become comfortable. Everybody I talked to, certainly the team but even the attendees that I’d never met before, it was so easy to talk to people. It was so comfortable, consistently I was surprised by how easy it was to … I met a lot of people and it was great.

Mic: One thing I noticed was, and I think the tone may have been set with Ray’s keynote about when he was talking about friendship, is there was no cliques. There was no little groups of people that disappeared off. Everybody mingled with everybody else.

One of the other things that I think that was a result of was people are already … People who buy the books or read the site tutorials already have a sense of feeling that they know these guys, so these are people that [00:20:00] that are inspired by their books so they know that when they come, these aren’t just random people that have never heard of giving a talk. These are people that they’ve got this already almost emotional connection with, so I think it’s just all about this community and it was great to see that. Everybody was welcome. Everybody was involved. Everybody was mingling and chatting and there was no awkward things. It was fantastic, it really was fantastic. That’s genuine, not just because Ray’s staring at me.

Guys, I think that’s probably a good place to wrap it up. We’re as I said earlier, in a hotel room, we’ve got planes to catch, we’re actually borrowing Saul Mora’s podcast gear which we really appreciate a lot and we’ll get that back to you before you leave.

Just one thing, we’re seeing while we’ve been here, that when people really like things they leave feedback and we got a ton of feedback. We’d really like to stress that for the podcast. We may receive 1 or 2 emails a week. They are genuinely positive but we’d like to hear more. We’d like to hear more from you guys to really understand if we’re going in the right direction, should we change, if there’s things that we should change. You may have noted we recently did a transcript which may help some of you guys that don’t quite understand my European accent.

Jake: It’s accurate. They capture the British accent, the difference.

Mic: The colloquialisms, which is great. Get in touch with us at and also please rate and review on iTunes. Thanks for listening guys, hope you enjoyed this and we’ll see you all next time.