C4[2] Brain-dump

Writing this at a table in Heathrow Terminal 5, halfway home to Scotland after spending the weekend at C4[2]. I'll try and pull out my highlights.

The crowd is a feature at C4. I don't want to insult those not in Chicago by saying that "everyone who is anyone was there", but everyone who was there was someone well worth talking to. I had a number of incredible conversations which variously inspired me, gave me new insight into problems and just outright made me glad to know these people. I won't embarrass anyone, but there was a time when certain people were heroes to me and to have those same people complimenting me on my work is a source of great satisfaction.

I thought C4 was incredibly reflective. If you imagine it as a smaller WWDC, it's really nothing like that. The amount of code shown on-screen is really quite small, and the conversation is really about the art, craft, business, science and lifestyle of Mac development.

C4 paid for itself on the first night with Richard Hipp's talk on SQLite. Besides being one of the nicest people I've ever met, Richard blew through all my concerns, questions and confusions with the SQLite C API in the course of his talk. The talk was so clear that instead of bugging him with questions over Sunday brunch, we had an amusing discussion about Cold War-era operations on Scottish fishing vessels between here and the Baltic sea.

I really appreciated Rich Siegel's talk on taking the long view of the business of Mac development. Two words from his talk continue to stick in my mind: engineering discipline. It's so easy not to have this when you're a one-man shop, but I will continue to look for ways to increase the level of discipline I bring to my coding. I got burned early in my career with the Xjournal project by putting too much in. I'm vastly more conservative with features than I have ever been, and I'll probably get worse with age.

Another topic, not on the schedule this year, but should be next year is QA and support. I had a great conversation with Rich and Liz Marley (Omni's QA Queen) about the subject. It's another thing that's easy not to do as a one-man operation, but we need methodologies that scale down.

There was talk, as ever, about marketing and pricing. I feel, though, that the indie community is starting to come to a rough consensus on this: don't underprice; don't listen to the whiners but, if you don't have whiners, you're leaving money on the table. I'm paraphrasing the theme, of course!

Rich commented to me that the discussion is changing as people's businesses and products mature. Many of us are on version 2 or 3 of our products and, of course, are moving to a new platform with iPhone. It's no longer so much about how to start and a lot more about how to start to scale the business up from one person. A huge part of that conversation is about how to handle support.

From my own perspective, I've found that people are no longer asking me the "how do I get started?" questions quite so often. The most common question I get asked is "how do you find the time to do it?". That might make a good title for a talk.....