C4 Conference Begins: Day One Highlights [Updated]

“Gee,” said the man across the table, clearly pushing for my attention. “You haven’t posted anything yet!”

I looked up from my complimentary breakfast muffin, confused.

“You’re supposed to be blogging this!”

Oh, right. Good idea.

I’m here in Chicago, Illinois, after traveling a great distance (3 miles) to attend Jon “Wolf” Rentzsch’s two-day C4 Mac developers conference. And like every Mac conference before it, it makes me giddy with glee.


Let’s forfeit the pleasantries and get straight to it, shall we? Click on to read my Day One recap of C4.

Yes, glee.

Here are some photos from the event. Excuse the poor lighting. (Update: DaringFireball points to a flickr album with better photos.)

Jon “Wolf” Rentzsch welcomes developers to the C4 conference, in their native Objective-C.

C4 is Jon’s response to the loss of the once-great MacHack/ADHOC conference (which I eulogized after its unfortunate passing): he brought together some of the Mac world’s most prominent developers and voices (Gus Mueller, Brent Simmons, John Gruber, Drunkenbatman, Aaron Hillegass, etc.) to create a two-day seminar focused on discussing topics of interest to the tightly-knit and quality-focused community.

Why does it matter to you? Same reason it matters to me: I’m no developer, but to understand this community and the process — and thought — behind their work is to understand the nature of Mac software, and the nature of the Mac itself.

These guys are directing the platform — they are directing its future, and how it influences your life (More on all of this later).

Jon set a 75 member quota on attendance, expecting moderate interest. 98 people registered before he had to cap it.

What does C4 mean anyway? Jon kept it a secret until his opening address.

I obviously figured it to mean explosive. C4 will be an explosive event! Ha ha!

Apparently not.

He even held a contest: correctly guess what “C4” means, and win your choice of an iPod or Zune. “Come on, go for the Zune,” he said. “Don’t be a sheep!”

One attendee (Update: Jonathan Wight) created a script that prints every combination of C words.

Oh those silly programmers.

It actually means “Code, Culture, Community, Conspiracy.”

Which is fine I guess.

Not quite as cool as “explosive!”, but the “conspiracy” part makes up for it.

“We need to modernize moof!” Jon proclaimed.

And the only way to do that, of course, in typical Apple fashion, is to add a reflection.

“But we don’t need a mascot,” he continued. “We need a gang sign.”

TUAW fave John Gruber takes the stage to talk on Apple and UI consistency. “The Gap Theory: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept the Fact That the HIG Is Dead” was his topic.

He made a great analogy, attempting to explain the evolution of a uniform UI: In the past, when the system was less complex and offered less opportunity for variation, creating a UI was like filming an episode of a TV show, a la X-Files: all the episodes are different, but each “feels” the same — dim lighting (“they could walk into a Wal*Mart or a middle school and it would STILL be dark!”), suspenseful, etc.

But now that the system offers so much more, and now that users are trained to understand what things like buttons are (and what they do), creating a UI is more like filming a movie: the components are the same (plot, characters, etc.) but the representation is different.

(And to a lesser extent, it’s kind of like filming episodes of different TV series: as in “Pro Life Show,” where all the pro-apps tend to embrace a similar theme.)

And that’s OK, John argues. It’s not great, but it’s OK.

“The HIG is dead,” he proclaimed. “It’s not a living document,” referring to the fact that it hasn’t changed to match new concepts (i.e., source lists). “I don’t know if anyone has write-access to it anymore.”

The conclusion? Functionality consistency is more important than visual consistency.

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Tj Luoma

Gary is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Apple. With a keen eye for detail, Gary covers everything from the latest iPhone and iPad releases to in-depth reviews of the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers navigate the ever-evolving world of Apple technology. Gary’s expertise and clear writing make him a trusted voice in the Apple community.