You Can Check Out Anytime You Like

A week or so ago on John Gruber’s The Talk Show, Gruber and special guest John Moltz recapped the situation with WWDC selling out and with the sprinkling of alternative conferences and events springing up to fill excess demand during the same week in San Francisco. Among those conferences is altWWDC, put on by folks from Appsterdam, and the CocoaConf Alt conference.

During the podcast they remarked on the use of “WWDC” literally in the naming of “altWWDC,” and joked about how likely it was that Apple would take notice and demand something change on that front. As far as I know, altWWDC has escaped thus far unscathed, but CocoaConf Alt has not been so fortunate:

We had secured space in the hotel directly next door to the big show, and we were putting together a phenomenal list of speakers. Ticket sales were better than we had hoped. All was well until we got an email from the Intercontinental San Francisco, saying that they had determined that our event was in conflict with Apple and that due to their contract with Apple, we couldn’t use the space.

Taken at face value: CocoaConf reserved space in a reputable San Francisco hotel, counted on that reservation to sell tickets and to begin organizing the conference in earnest, and now the hotel has backed out of its agreement.

There is a lot of “who, what, when, why and how” missing here. Did Apple specifically ask the Intercontinental to cancel the deal with CocoaConf upon learning about it, or did somebody at the hotel discover a conflict while reviewing the contract terms and proactively seek to avoid an issue with Apple? My hunch is that the hotel is either overacting on its own initiative, or that some individual at Apple is overacting without the full, reasoned consent of Apple’s leadership.

Whatever went down, and whoever is to blame for it: this is not good for developers, not good for San Francisco, and not good for Apple. In an era when WWDC conferences sell out in minutes, it’s only natural that other events would rush in to help to fill the void. And it’s only natural that some of those events will seek to capitalize on the momentum of Apple’s huge event already drawing the spotlight on San Francisco and attracting hundreds if not thousands of additional visitors who are not registered attendees of the conference.

Apple should actively encourage parallel events such as these. They could even go a step further by participating to a limited extent in the events. Sending a few company representatives out to float among each of the satellite activities would give attendees of those events a sense of connectedness to Apple without overly-straining Apple’s limited resources inside the conference.

One of the major benefits of WWDC to Apple is to draw the world’s attention the company’s relevance to desktop and mobile developers, and to how eager the company is to serve them. Even being cited as the cause of quashing meet-ups in the periphery of WWDC is not in the service of that goal. If Apple was involved in pushing for this decision, they should clarify and retract that position. If they were not involved, they should take care to ensure that the hotels they sign contracts with in the future understand they hold no ill will towards these events.