Alex Payne

Writer, backer, erstwhile technologist.

C4-[1]: Friday

I’m spending the weekend in sultry Chicago, cooped up in the City Center hotel with a couple hundred of the Mac development’s community’s best and brightest at the second year of Wolf Rentzsch’s C4 conference.

Friday evening started with registration and dinner at the hotel, and a chance for attendees to catch up. Once dinner wrapped up, everyone migrated to the conference room next door for Wolf’s introductory talk. After a few housekeeping notes, Wolf dived into an analysis of the nature of indie development as it relates to APIs and tools.

Wolf on indie development

Wolf believes that the barrier to entry for developers has been radically lowered in the last ten years. A new independent developer in the ’90s had to shell out for development tools, a developer network membership, and book/magazines to keep up with the latest techniques. Today, developer tools are free and the best educational resources are peer-to-peer in the form of blog posts and forums. If you want to “go indie” on the Mac, all you need is a Mac.

Additionally, Wolf argues that the important APIs are moving to the web. For web services, a lack of an API can be a deal-killer when trying to build buzz and community. For developers, it means you’re more in control of both providing and consuming market-making APIs. Big companies no longer hold the API keys.

The talk was kind of all over the map (in a good way), and included the assertion that JavaScript is the best newbie language out there, amongst other juicy tidbits. Bold assertions set the stage for Wil Shipley’s uproarious talk.

Wil Shipley on hype

Wil Shipley is no stranger to hype. The developer of Delicious Library most recently and many of Omni’s best apps previously, he’s a huge personality in the Mac community and a notable figure in the broader tech community. A superb technical mind, he’s outspoken on the topic of his own success. Who better to talk about hype?

Essentially, Wil’s talk was a tutorial on the mechanics and particulars of homebrew PR for independent Mac developers. While this could have been a dry, business school affair, Wil managed to crank out a routine that suggests he’s got a solid backup career in standup. To attempt to replicate the talk’s humor in blog form would no doubt fall flat, which elucidates one of Wil’s best points: everyone remembers a character.

In short, Wil suggested the following to get noticed: build something great, take advantage of online PR, be generous with licenses for beta testers and reviewers, talk to Apple and get your app in front of everyone you can there, and make sure you keep the public’s appetite for your work whetted at all times. While most of this is solid and intuitive advice, it’s clear that it helps to be Wil Shipley to have it all work out for you.

A standout: for all his success, Wil claims the most successful app he ever shipped reached a fraction of a percent of all worldwide Mac seats, which is in turn ~5% of the overall computer market. On the hand, it’s motivational that one you can make a good living off such a small market. On the other, it’s sad that such great work is reaching so few people.

The evening concluded with drinks on the hotel’s rooftop pool. Classy!