Macworld/iWorld 2014 is now over, and I wish you’d been there. For those of us who have been going to Macworld for more years than we sometimes care to remember (every San Francisco show since 1992 for me), Macworld Expo has its comfortable routines. I’m sure my experience is unique, and it has certainly changed over the years, but every day — even every meal — proceeds in a generally predictable fashion. But most familiar are the faces, the people I’ve been seeing once each year for decades.
I’m assuming you weren’t at Macworld Expo, even though many of you likely were, and I very much enjoyed every chance encounter with a person who introduced themselves and told me how much they enjoyed reading TidBITS or our Take Control books. But “many” is relative, and while “many” people attended Macworld, and “many” people read TidBITS, the overlap in those sets was far from overwhelming.
Nevertheless, I wish you’d been there to increase that number, and I wish you’d been there to walk the aisles with me, strolling past some vendors with barely a hitch in my stride (Andersen Windows? American Express? iPhone cases?), pausing at others to request a quick demo (the FluxMob Bolt battery backup and wall charger combo), and taking a break at those booths displaying something truly interesting (Rage Software’s EverWeb, particularly if you were an iWeb user). At least to my jaded eyes, there wasn’t much that would be life-changing (though I’m looking forward to BusyMac’s BusyContacts), but I appreciated that there were so many small companies showing products that were worth a look. In fact, while it wouldn’t actually work to have all of you wandering the floor with me, one TidBITS reader did fall in with our merry band — also including Tonya, Michael Cohen, and Josh Centers — for the morning of the first day.
What he experienced up close and personal is what I most enjoy about Macworld Expo — the random encounters with people I’ve met over the last 25 years (my first Macworld, in Boston, was in 1989). “Walk for 5 minutes, chat for 20” is my standard approach. Handshakes are for people I’m meeting for the first time, or for whom I don’t know well, but greetings are increasingly becoming hugs, because these are people with whom I’ve shared drinks and meals, listened to music, and gone dancing. It’s hard to be formal with someone like IDG World Expo’s Paul Kent, who sheds his General Manager responsibilities for one night every show to play lead guitar with the Macworld All-Star Band alongside well-known names in the Apple world, including Chris Breen, Bob LeVitus, Dave Hamilton, Chuck La Tournous, Duane Straub, and Bryan Chaffin. (And I wish you’d been at MacObserver’s annual Cirque Du Mac party to hear them, though less so if you were going to plant yourself in front of the stage and film the entire thing on your iPhone, instead of paying attention to the music.)
And as counterpoint to the familiar, I also wish you’d been there to see Josh Centers experience Macworld for the first time, taking in the multitudes of booths and people, and running a Tech Talk panel to a packed room, as did Joe Kissell and Jeff Carlson (see “TidBITS Events at Macworld/iWorld 2014,” 17 March 2014). Although Tonya and I limited ourselves to an impromptu panel with Joe about the past, present, and future of digital publishing, I’m proud that TidBITS staffers combined to participate in over 10 percent of the Tech Talk sessions. I wish I’d had time to look in on the MacIT conference that ran alongside Macworld, where our own Rich Mogull kicked off the final day with a general session on security in the Apple world.
It’s hard to compare this Macworld to previous years; they seem quite similar, and if there were a few less vendors (the official exhibitor list hit about 200, and some of those were aggregator booths like BiteMyApple.co that hosted multiple companies), I was still pushing to visit all of them by the end of the third day. If you’d been there, you might have been able to see them all more quickly, though not if you took the opportunity to really talk with those whose products interested you. There also might have been a few less attendees this time, kept away by torrential rain on Saturday, when San Franciscans who have to work during the week would otherwise be more likely to swing by the show floor. But it was far from empty, apart from the final hour each day, when most people were on their way home or to dinner — keeping the show open until 6 PM this year didn’t seem like a win.
Other touches were more successful. I wish you’d been there to see how my iPhone detected an iBeacon and displayed the Passbook pass for my registration as soon as I walked into Moscone North; a quick scan resulted in my badge being printed and handed to me in the easiest registration experience yet. (Alas, the scan didn’t work for Josh or his wife, who had to type their names in manually.) It was a great look at how iBeacons and Passbook could be used in the future, though it felt a little silly to have that pass appear on my home screen every time I entered Moscone over the next three days. On the downside, the single-sided badges were annoying; they were always flipping to the wrong side, making it hard to know who you were talking to.
I particularly liked the First Looks session for media on the day before the show floor opened; it was a nice opportunity to talk with some of the more innovative companies outside of the bustle of the floor. That accounted in part for the increasing prevalence of Kickstarter-funded products like Lumo Lift, Ring, and Glowdeck. But this is fine — one of the positive ways the Internet has changed the technology industry is by involving users much earlier in the product development process, and if we in the press can help expose you to innovative ideas, so much the better.
In the end, all of us at TidBITS had a great time at Macworld/iWorld 2014, and if you’d been there with us, you would have too. There’s no question that the show has changed and shrunk over the years, thanks to the Internet disrupting how product info and support is provided, and because of Apple pulling out, but the core of Macworld remains. It’s too large to build its own community, as tends to happen at smaller and more focused conferences, but Macworld provides a place where members of the Apple community can gather en masse. That’s an essential role, because Macworld is where the relationships that underpin much of the business of the Apple ecosystem are formed, strengthened, and maintained. For that reason, along with the personal enjoyment, we’ll be back for Macworld/iWorld 2015 next year, scheduled for March 12th through 14th. See you there!