by Cesare Rocchi

I am gonna miss mdevcon

by Cesare Rocchi

It was 2012. I was … younger. I got involved in the iOS community since the very beginning. I joined the Ray Wenderlich team in 2011. After a few months we wrote iOS 5 by tutorials. My chapters were about iCloud. The book was a huge success. Somehow I got across the mdevcon call for papers. All I thought was: “why not?” I submitted a proposal and then I totally forgot about it.

At the time:

  • Facebook had an HTML5 mobile app wrapped by a native app
  • Three20 was used by 90% of the iOS projects
  • Matt Gemmell was still maintaining MGTwitterEngine
  • REST APIs used to support responses both in JSON and XML
  • ARC was one year old but everybody still knew how to do manual memory management
  • Github was around but the goto places for open source code were Google code and Sourceforge
  • The only lib for graphs was CorePlot
  • Current version of Xcode was 4.3
  • Steve Jobs died a few months before
  • 3 people were secretly working on a new programming language.

One day, out of the blue, a dude named Ivo Jansch sent me an email. My proposal was accepted.

I think my first reaction was: “Oh crap, now I gotta prepare the slides!” Each presentation had an hour long time slot. I think my first draft has 120 slides. Classic rookie mistake. When I started rehearsing I cut around 60 slides.

As I land in Amsterdam Ivo picks me up at the airport. Only later I discovered he was the CEO of Egeniq. How many times were you picked up at the airport by a CEO? Me? 4 times. Bragging right #1.

The day before the conference there was a dinner for speakers. Finally I was discovering the real people behind the Twitter handles that I was following. Most of the people I respected were there, sitting at the same table. It was awesome.

During the dinner a dude started handing stickers, saying: “I am running a podcast, it’s called NSBrief. Ever heard of it?” I had to say no. In the subsequent months Saul interviewed most of us, sitting at the table that night. The dinner was great but we all ran to the hotel right after, to tweak the slides and rehearse. We weren’t pros at partying yet :)

Conference day. Everybody is headed to the Tuschinski Theater. As I step in I curse, while I hold my breath. The stage was huge. Suddenly I understood why the required resolution for slides was that high. Luckily I didn’t know that on that very same stage Dizzy Gillespie and Marlene Dietrich gave their performances. Had I known in advance I’d have flown home without giving my presentation.

8:30am. Keynote. A dude, long haired and with a weird hat, gets on stage and starts talking. I didn’t get acquainted with him during the speakers dinner. He talks about this thing called Appsterdam. His name was Mike Lee. I clearly remember he ended his presentation with the message “Be excellent to each other”. I couldn’t ask for a better start at my first conference. From there, everything was downhill.

The conference was a blast and so was the party after. And so was the day after, when we gathered together to visit the city. 48 hours before, the people walking with me were just avatars on Twitter. As we were crossing bridges in Amsterdam we were becoming friends.

That day, as I hopped on the train to the airport, I had a bittersweet feeling. Why? Wasn’t I going home after all? I wanted more, that was the reason. I wanted to speak at more conferences to meet more people. And it was pretty clear that speaking was just an excuse, the real reason was meeting people. And so it began that part of my career. I had to feed the inner beast. And I did, a bit less than a hundred times in four years.

I became a kind of fixture in the mdevcon line up. I spoke at four editions. Even my wife has this association in mind: mid March -> mdevcon -> Amsterdam. As we became acquainted I began pulling pranks on the organizers. You know, the call for paper form has a tell-us-anything-else-we-need-to-know field. Well, I couldn’t resist. I used to write down serious presentation abstracts and absurd requests like:

  • having a private meeting with the Queen of the Netherlands
  • being picked up by Bono at the airport
  • and many others that I don’t remember

One year I asked for a driver with a private limo, a bottle of champagne and strawberries. I didn’t get the limo but …

Be careful what you ask for, you might get it :)

As the trick was working, the year later I asked for a gold bar. I didn’t get one :(

But they proposed me to be the keynote speaker one giving the last presentation of the day. This page still shows my ugly face were I pose as a mad hatter without the hat. It was a great privilege and I am really thankful to Ivo and the Egeniq crew. It wasn’t easy to be in the same spot that previously was taken by Mike Lee, Graham Lee, Matt Gemmell, Rob Rhyne and Saul Mora.

Pulling pranks means also that you are open to revenge. I am usually not nervous before giving a presentation but those jerks started playing the Gladiator soundtrack in the background while I was waiting on stage and the attendees were staring at me. I admit they managed to make me shiver for a while. Bastards! :)

This year I am probably not going to make it. I didn’t submit a presentation, nor absurd requests on the side. I am cutting back on traveling. My family needs me and so do the services I am working on. The inner beast that wants more is still there, alive and kicking, just a bit more calm at the moment.

If you are planning to attend a conference during the spring mdevcon is a great one. And Amsterdam is a very nice city. This year the speaker lineup is top notch and I am sure it’s gonna be a lot of fun. And if you want to get in touch with local app makers check out the Appsterdam website.