Swift Summit 2016 – A Shorter and Sweeter Conference Experience

I recently attended the Swift Summit 2016 conference in San Francisco, CA. To be honest, it has been a few years since I decided to attend a conference due to my lackluster experiences at conferences in the past.

Sponsors Provide Value, Not Noise

Unfortunately, conferences need sponsorships to survive. Though attendees usually need to pay for the conference, this doesn’t cover all of the costs of the venue, food/snacks, and of course advertisement. In some other conferences I’ve attended, the sponsors were way too much in your face and even gave sales pitches, disguised as presentations…rather than adding to the actual value of the experience.

Though Swift Summit had corporate sponsors, they brought along speakers that more or less had good topics to talk about.

IBM brought Chris Bailey, who talked about bringing Swift to the backend/server, which was exciting to hear.

Tuomas Artman from Uber gave a great talk about migrating the company’s iOS app completely to Swift–a step that involved 150+ engineers in their organization. He shared brutal details about the challenges they faced and how they survived.

Christoper Stott of BuddyBuild shared a bunch of very enlightening statistics collected from a thousand projects they serve to illuminate us on the rate of adoption of Swift. We learned that less than half of the projects built at BuddyBuild actually have any tests!…just mind-blowing coming from a test-driven background here at Atomic Object.

Format is Short & Sweet

The conference itself spanned only two days, a length I was skeptical of at first. Additionally, the presentations were only 24 minutes max, and the first day was wrapped up with several short lightning talks, which were even shorter.

I definitely felt like the shorter presentations forced the presenters to be concise and to bring the value quickly. Although a couple of presentations were not quite so valuable, I was able to get through them easily enough and not lose focus.

At the end of each talk, there were only about two questions allowed from the audience, though further inquiries with the presenters were welcome during breaks. This really helped keep things moving and retained the attention of the attendees.

Content is Single-Tracked

Conferences I attended in the past had multiple tracks, so as to cater to different interests. Though this may have drawn more attendees by providing more diversity, I always found it stressful trying to pick the right talks.

Swift Summit, on the other hand, stuck to a single track. All presentations were in a large and comfortable auditorium with a well-run A/V system. Though hiccups happened a few times, an A/V specialist was waiting in the wings to address/resolve the issues within seconds.

The single track, in combination with the two-day duration, caused the talks to be filtered out very well. I did not feel conflicted about having picked the wrong sessions to attend, and I never got to the point of being burned out mentally due to the increased focus of the event and the sessions chosen.

Diversity FTW!

Though the attendance was unfortunately male-heavy, like the software industry itself, the presenters were very close to a 50% male-to-female balance, and various ethnic backgrounds were represented as well. Talks were not just how-tos, but focused on overcoming tough challenges, contributing to the OSS community of Swift, and learning how to work with others and teach and learn from each other.

Conference Success

I wanted to share what made this conference stand out and reflect on what makes a conference successful and worthwhile. Let me know in the comments if other conferences have left you feeling how Swift Summit 2016 left me.