NSNorth Conference

Kai, Peter and Nic participated in the NSNorth conference near Montreal, Canada. NSNorth is a small community-run three day conference and was held at the beautiful Fairmont Le Château Montebello resort Peter’s pics. The conference was targeted toward the Apple development community. Here are their impressions of the event.

Location

The conference was held at a fancy resort hotel in Montebello, Quebec. Being roughly halfway between Ottawa and Montreal, there were few options for sightseeing or other distractions. The remote location had the advantage of focusing participation on the conference itself instead of tourism. We felt this likely increased the interactions between attendees versus more urban settings. We also enjoyed the natural setting and its opportunities for getting out on wooded trails to get some fresh air. The all-inclusive venue eliminated the logistical stress typically associated with conference attendance.

Talks

The consensus amongst our group was that compared to what we were looking for, the talks were a little light on technical content. That being said, the topics were engaging in a more generalized software development context.

We found the following talks to be especially interesting:

Vanessa Logan from Sago Mini gave a great talk about the challenges and successes developing iPad applications for preschool children. Quality children’s apps require an intense exercise in user empathy.

Rob Rix from Github gave a nice talk on code reuse and general good object oriented programming practices in the the context of Objective C.

Christa Morgan from Rogue Amoeba’s talk about when to overhaul vs. update an application was engaging and applicable to Substantial’s business. She gave a nice overview of how Rogue Amoeba decided to rewrite a successful application, and how they shepherded existing users through the transition.

Apple Watch

A developer who developed a commercial iWatch app presented a Watchkit demo, going over the architecture of how the watch and phone interact and how to set up a Watchkit project.

The Apple Watch pre-order began while the conference was taking place. Many attendees stayed up until the 3AM release to order one. Even with that, we expected much more enthusiasm from a group of Apple developers/enthusiasts. Strangely, even those who had stayed up late to pre-order seemed somewhat ambivalent about the product. We had several discussions revealing a general skepticism about the incremental utility offered by the watch vs. the iPhone. Many attendees expected somewhat limited unsurprising functionality from the first version, imagining that V2 will be the real one to watch (pun intended). It was an uncharacteristic “wait and see” attitude for the Apple world.

Social Stuff

The conference was small, with fewer than 200 participants. Holding the entire conference in a single resort hotel, with so few people, meant that it was actually possible to meet everyone and have a chat.

Meals were included and offered a great opportunity to get to know one another. This was a super friendly, “professionally social” conference. It meant that it was very inclusive (highly emphasized on their web site), well organized for random interaction, and friendly. Activities such as curling and game night were part of the official program. Activities for children and partners of attendees were included as part of the conference, and several attendees organized additional activities appropriate to the location such as running, photo walks, etc…

Conclusions

[Nic] The things that have stuck with me the most from the conference are the skepticism from attendees to the Apple Watch, the pleasant location, and the positive and engaging social aspects of the conference. I would recommend NSNorth to people who are looking for a long weekend getaway with a group of like minded geeks.

[Peter] The conference was fun. It offered a stress-free, comfortable environment in which to meet and get to know fellow iOS developers. Skewed towards the social side, it felt less like school and more like a field trip. Though the talks were a little non-technical for my taste, there was no shortage of smart, experienced people to talk to. “A-, would attend again.”