We’re lucky to live in a big little city (Colorado Springs) that has a vibrant iPhone developer community. There are regular CocoaHeads and NSCoder meetings, as well as non-affiliated iPhone meetups and various UX discussions. Just last night we were able to see and critique some interesting demos of unannounced projects. We also got into a lively discussion about best practices for an App Store description. This kind of feedback is highly valuable.

If you are a solo developer it’s important to keep in touch with colleagues on the outside. Maybe you could call it a corollary to Retro Dreamer’s Indie Life Tip #7 – Exercise, but routine contact with other developers outside your coding cave is also important. Mailing lists, blogs, chat, and forums are great for the day-to-day needs, but you should seriously consider getting involved with other local devs on a regular basis. Maybe you already meet with a few friends or former co-workers on an informal basis – great! If not, or you are new to an area (like me), you might want to start something up.

If You Schedule It, They Will Come

When I still worked for that large Finnish phone manufacturer (desktop software, cough) in the Boston area, there were a couple of new iPhone meetups already going. I “inherited” a meetup that was abandoned, but after switching jobs I wanted to move the meeting from Burlington MA to a location closer to my home. I thought, “what the hell, let’s move it and see if anyone shows up.” So I set something up in my town, a quiet suburb in the middle of nowhere, and soon we had 20-40 people showing up for regular meetings. Because the other Boston meetup had more or less gone dark at that time we were even getting people from the city to come out. Plus we met a few other lone wolf devs who were literally in the next town working in anonymity, happy to have a meeting to attend occasionally.

It’s a bit of a hassle to get speakers and schedule meetings, but often a “roundtable” discussion is perfectly suitable for those willing to show up. Don’t be afraid to enlist your friends to talk, or put yourself on the schedule to talk about something you’re interested in. Keep a list of suggested topics, and actively seek volunteers at every opportunity. We’ve found people are most grateful to have a chance to get together and discuss what they’re working on, even if the most popular part of the night (usually) is the adjournment to a nearby pub.

Just Do It

I typically don’t enjoy getting up in front of people to give a presentation. Just doesn’t come naturally to me. As my friend Daniel Jalkut has advised, though, I’m trying the Say Yes policy to overcome the scared nerd-brain response. Results are mixed so far, but it’s easiest if you start small and stick to what you know. If you are not already blogging about your experiences, you should start. This iDevBlogADay post is part of a series that encourages devs to write about something once a week, but there’s no reason not to do so independently and/or more often. Writing about something often helps to clarify your thoughts in a way that may inspire you to give a talk or make a presentation.

Conference Up

If at all possible you should try to attend one or more of the relevant conferences. Here’s where you meet in person the folks you’ve exchanged emails with, or some twitter followers, or just someone whose work you admire. I can’t say enough for the smaller conferences. If you’re an iPhone developer, go to 360iDev (Austin, TX, Nov. 7-10) or VoicesThatMatter (Phila, PA, Oct 16-17). These conferences are affordable for all budgets, and they have several locations throughout the year, so you often don’t have to travel that far. The sessions are usually great, but the networking is exceptional. If you are working for a company which can send you, or already making a decent living, go to the Apple WWDC, typically in June in San Francisco. This is a once-a-year opportunity to meet and talk to the folks that make and sell the devices and systems we all love. I think there were over 1,000 Apple engineers participating this year, so that’s a good Apple employee-to-attendee ratio!

Whatever outlet you choose: speaking, organizing, attending, instigating, it’s good to get out!


´╗┐This post is part of iDevBlogADay, a group of indie iOS development blogs featuring two posts per day. You can keep up with iDevBlogADay through the web site, RSS feed, or Twitter.