Craftsmanship & Consideration

WWDC is one month away and while I was out on a walk this morning I got to thinking about how I was feeling about it.

This will be the 16th(!) consecutive WWDC which I have attended1. My first in 2009 was a few months after the birth of my oldest child. He has never known a world where I didn’t disappear the first week of June to focus on my work. It is a pivotal fixture in my annual rhythm.

This last year has been a complicated one as an indie app developer. I’ve been in this community for long enough to know that there are always ebbs and flows in sentiment, and this year has lots of reasons to be feeling the ebb side of things. From new policies which introduced tremendous uncertainty and undermine our importance to the ecosystem, to challenging platform launches…there’s a lot to feel conflicted about this year.

But as I wandered through the woods somewhat surprisingly my feelings kept coming back to how excited and eager I was to once again head to Cupertino. I’ve learned that whenever I’m surprised by a feeling, it is a good idea to interrogate it because it’s an opportunity to learn something about myself.

What I came to realize was that the reason I was excited about WWDC had very little to do with the actual announcements themselves, but instead it was all about the people I’ll get to spend the week connecting with.

Little did I realize that when I was arriving to my first WWDC I was actually connecting for the first time with a group of people who would change my life. A community which valued and celebrated the things I strove towards in my work. I had found my people. Being a part of that community has been incredibly important to me, both professionally and personally.

It isn’t necessarily that Apple itself is the root of this community, but moreover (especially in those early days) they provided a focal point for like-minded developers and designers to coalesce around, which became this community. Apple aspires toward many of this community’s values, but as they have expanded their reach and scope, they feel more like the multi-trillion dollar company they in fact are. There are still countless folks within Apple who are absolutely my people, but over time, I’ve noticed that there is a growing separation between the corporation and the community, at least in my mind.

So what are the core values of the community which I feel so privileged to be a member of? It wasn’t easy to narrowly boil it down but the more I walked, the more it clicked in my head that I could summarize it as: people who are deeply concerned with the Craftsmanship of their work and build things through a process of deep, intentional Consideration.

Once that definition had entered my mind I was sure I’d finally captured an idea which had been amorphously swimming around in the back of my consciousness. I was finally able to neatly describe what I find so special about the community I have the privilege to gather with each June.

Craftsmanship

Craftsmanship deals with the ‘how’ of our design and development process. It is about meticulously building things in a manner which isn’t slapdash or only partially complete. It is about striving to not cut corners or avoid the tough problems. We are people who want to do our best work and don’t need to justify why building something the right way is the best way. We want to improve our craft and seek continuously to learn and grow in our ability to deliver high quality work. We enjoy the process of iteration until we find the most beautiful solution and seek beauty in even the smallest detail.

Consideration

Consideration is about the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of our design and development process. We are building solutions to problems which enrich the lives of the people who use our creations. Before we build something we take the time to consider its implications. We strive to build things which are inclusive and have far reaching benefits. We focus on the long term. We strive to make things which have lasting, enduring value. We seek to be kind, both to ourselves and our users. We are mindful of the impact we can have.

Inspiration

Every single time I’ve left WWDC I’ve felt inspired, motivated and eager to get started on the next season of development. Sometimes this has been because of the announcements made on Monday morning, but more often it is because of the people I have met and spent time with. There is something joyously affirming about being with folks who value the same things you care about. A reminder that you aren’t alone or silly in wanting to do your job in a certain way. Of course not everyone attending WWDC thinks this way, but enough folks do for it to feel unifying.

Each year at WWDC I am also reminded of why this community was formed around Apple’s platforms. The company is filled with folks who deeply care about the craftsmanship and consideration of their products. The secrecy of the company means they are often hidden away from public view, but at WWDC they are given the opportunity to express this. Seeing their commitment to quality is contagious.

These ideals aren’t always expressed in the final output of the company (though if I’m being totally honest neither am I able to always live up to them myself), but I am convinced that they endure as an integral part of their culture. The pressures of being one of the largest companies in history will naturally hinder the expression of these ideals, but they still appear to be core to Apple’s process…which gives me hope. Hope that while the path won’t always be linear, the trend will continue to be towards craftsmanship and consideration.

I continue to be excited about spending a week learning how I can improve my craft, be more considerate in my designs, and spending time with others who feel the same way. If I can still feel that way after 15 years of doing this, then I’m a part of something truly special.

See you in June.

  1. I’ve been fortunate to attend every WWDC in person since 2009, with the obvious exception of 2020 and 2021 when I instead (literally) camped out in my office for a week and attended virtually. 

David Smith