Blog 53

A summary of our four day trip down to Wales for the iOS Dev UK conference.

As part of the iOS team at Degree 53 Chris and I were fortunate enough to attend iOS Dev UK in Aberystwyth; a well-known conference all about things to do with iOS, with some Android thrown in for good measure.

We took away a lot from the conference, but our key highlights included:

  • Identifying different ways of designing and building apps
  • Ways to improve our current processes
  • Gaining knowledge of new aspects of the iOS framework

Day One

We set off from miserable Manchester, and after a good couple of hours we arrived in sunny Aberystwyth. With not a clue where to go, we jumped in a cab and set off up the gigantic hill (we were in Wales, after all) to get to the University. After finding our accommodation, which happened to be in the University halls, we set off to register and headed out for talks that evening.

iOS Developer Meeting

Monday’s talks were just small workshops, as the conference was not starting properly until the Tuesday. These consisted of a great discussion by Jon Reid, from Facebook, on test driven development and a Swift talk and jam which ended in free beer and pizza. As well as the other developers like myself, we were also joined by a VIP in the form of Dave Addey; an Apple developer who had worked on Swift. This was a great experience, as he was able to answer any questions we had about the new language. That night, like every other night, we ended up down the pub.

Day Two

Day two started off bright and early and was the first full day of the conference. After our full English, we headed back to the lecture theater. Tuesday’s talks were very good again; it started off with a really interesting presentation about the relationship between Apple and its developers. Steve Scott’s main point was that Apple’s main priority is not that of its developers, but its customers, and developers need to take that into consideration. The day continued with great talks, the highlights for me being a crash course on AVFoundation, which is how developers use the camera and video to do some really cool things. For example, zooming in to live video or creating a ripple effect whilst using live capture. Other things like Security, Core Graphics and SVG were also topics of interest that day. As hard as it is for me to say this, there was also a great Android workshop on how to design an app for Android and not just iOS.

After the talks for that day had finished, we headed down to sea front where the conference had put on dinner for us. This was possibly the biggest carvery I have ever seen in my life; I don’t think there were many empty plates and the dessert table seemed pretty un-touched. The meal gave us a good networking opportunity to meet other developers. It was fantastic to hear about all the different projects they had been working on, as well as telling them what I’d had been up to at Degree 53. It was also great to hear that more and more people have heard of Degree 53 especially, outside of the northwest. Someone even recognised me from the Big Chip Award we won back in July.

Once the meal had finished, some of us headed into town guided by a local Welshman to the best bars in Aberystwyth. With Tuesday being Aberystwyth’s biggest night, I don’t really remember the rest.

Day Three

Day three also started with full English to try cure the hangover from the night before. We then met up with everyone else to start the third day of talks. Again, all the talks were fantastic. There was a great presentation by Simon Whitaker from Facebook about UIKit Dynamics, and all the exciting animations you can do with it. This gave me lots of new ideas which we could put in to our own apps. For example, we can now create great animations by adding real collision and gravity physics which, in most cases before, would have required a third party framework to work.

Other talks about the logic of app design and constraints were also the highlights of my day. There was also quite a controversial talk about how businesses should not use third party code in their apps. Whilst a lot of attendees disagreed with this argument, I do think he has some really good points. For example, if you have ever used third party code, it’s important to know exactly what that code is doing. You don’t want to be stuck with a framework that itself has loads of other dependencies, which may break your app further down the line.

Day three's talks ended with a great presentation on Health Kit, which Apple has introduced in IOS 8 and covered what you need to think about when making a health app. After the talks had all finished, a group of us headed back into town for a well-deserved curry.

The Final Day

The final day of the conference only went on till 12.30, but was no less valuable. There were some great talks with my highlights being a discussion by Vincent Garrigues from Soundcloud on their continuous integration process. After a small coffee break, Graham Lee treated us to my favorite talk of the conference about being a Principled Programmer. Not just because the man is a comedy genius, but the talk was really interesting, explaining lots of different rules and principles on how to make good software. He gave an excellent presentation, pulling apart the Solid principles and explaining which ones are more, or less relevant, when developing iOS applications. At Degree 53 we pride ourselves on writing clean, productive code and the pointers I picked up from this talk will improve our processes even more.

Overall, I was really impressed with the conference, we met some great people and picked up numerous ideas on how we can improve our processes at Degree 53.

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