The Case for In-Person Conferences

Recently Apple announced that WWDC 2022 would primarily be an online event, as it has been the last two years. Much of the Apple commentariat has been talking since the 2020 conference about the superiority of online only WWDC, with many calling for a permanent shift away from an in-person annual gathering. There are a couple of reasons people cite for this which I think are valid:

There's another reason people often cite which I'm not convinced by: inclusivity. To be sure, in-person WWDC excludes people - it excludes people who can't afford it, it excludes people who can't travel to California for a week, and, having sold out every year since 2008, it excludes people who didn't win the ticket lottery. Is this a reason not to have an in-person event at all, though? I'm not sure. In the first place, many other parts of the "writing software for Apple platforms" world are exclusive - the developer program costs $99 per year, and of course a device to write apps with costs anywhere from $999 whoops forgot about Swift Playgrounds for iPad $329 to $52,999.

Additionally, Apple has been making the conference content more available than ever over the years - session videos were first available for purchase, then free with a developer account, and eventually free with a developer account and posted during the conference, giving those who couldn't attend the chance to get the same content with only a few days delay. Of course, there were many more people each year who wanted to attend than could attend, but given the efforts made to make the content more widely available, I don't think that's a slam dunk reason not to have an in-person conference at all.

There are also a couple of real benefits to an in-person event which some of the commentary is too quick to dismiss:

I have no idea whether there will be another in-person WWDC, but I hope there is. I even hope the lunches are still bad.