The whole point of the conference needs to be rethought, and the goals addressed from scratch using new approaches. As the greatest challenge for WWDC is in scaling to meet demand, I think it’s obvious that the rethought WWDC should be considered in terms of digital solutions. Call it WWDC if you like, but it needs to take place 365 days a year instead of 4. It needs to serve 300,000 developers, not 5,000. And it needs to take place online, not within the cramped confines of a small convention center in San Francisco.
Apple has effectively headed down this course with their laudable offering of free videos of conference sessions. The high-level goal of merely educating developers is largely met by these. But what of the other goals? The vast majority of benefits that Apple and developers see in WWDC could be achieved online using more effective digital materials that are available to, and more importantly, that scale to the vast number of developers eager to learn about and promote Apple’s platforms.
Apple's attitude of insularity with regard to communications and outreach is an extraordinarily effective marketing tool. For developers and contributors to Apple's ecosystem, however, it's troublesome.
Apple has built the most comprehensive, active, and enjoyable media ecosystem in the digital world. Developers are flocking to iOS to be on the cutting-edge of computing, whilst also gaining the phenomenal chance to make a living out of the iTunes storefront.
And yet, as the ecosystem has grown, Apple's attitude of outreach and support — as Daniel writes — has failed to evolve in tandem. Instead, we see the marketing insularity of Apple applied to a community of people desperate to speak to a person and to receive support and reassurance.
WWDC is an amazing event both for the community and the developers. But, for the swaths of developers left outside the Moscone, or those left in the dark concerning Apple's changing approval mechanisms, or even those reliant upon the ecosystem for their livelihood, it seems only reasonable — however feasible — that Apple might loosen its tie and open up ever-so-slightly.
I don't know what the answer is for WWDC, but I would say that a good tactic moving forward — if only for the sake of its developer base — would be to actively engage more often. Rather than confining interactions to an exclusive event each year — aside from some obvious back-room talks and the like — Apple ought to provide a loosely comparable level of affable outreach for its developers as it does its retail customers in Genius Bars around the world.
Perhaps that's not the answer. Perhaps it's not realistic. Apple already does a huge amount. But I certainly think they, for the sake of the longevity of the ecosystem, ought to do something to address and support their lifeblood in a more equitable and accessible manner moving forward.