By Jason Snell
March 31, 2016 12:03 PM PT
Anticipation from afar
I’m writing this from the second CocoaConf conference in Yosemite National Park. The conference is here because Apple’s code name for OS X 10.10 inspired the organizers, and when version 10.11 was just named for a huge granite cliff within the park (El Capitan), it seemed inevitable that we’d come back here.
I grew up not too far from Yosemite (pronounced yo-SEM-uh-tee, more or less), so coming here is a bit like coming home. I take the same route to Yosemite that I’d take to my hometown of Sonora—you just have to take a hard right at Yosemite Junction or you’ll end up in my hometown by mistake (as Yosemite-bound travelers would often do every summer).
If you only know Yosemite National Park from the Apple code names, you’re missing out. Unlike Mavericks, which is apparently a surf break I had never heard of even as a lifelong Californian, Yosemite is a place that should be known worldwide. It’s a vast wilderness area with a small valley at its center, surrounded on all sides by granite monoliths a thousand or more feet high. We’re having springlike weather down here in the valley this week, but it’s still snowy winter up on the top of the granite.
I’m here for a conference, but it also feels like I’m cocooning or nesting a little bit, seeking rest and comfort in advance of a major event. In my case, it’s the Apple event that’s taking place on Monday in San Francisco. I’ll be there, and Dan and I will be collaborating on coverage on Six Colors.
Earlier this week someone asked me on Twitter, “After attending so many Apple events are they still fun for you? Is there a sense of wonder?” It’s a tough question to answer, because the perspective of someone covering the event is very different from an excited fan watching it from afar. I’m not going to pretend to be an entirely disinterested observer—I have made covering Apple my professional specialty for 20 years, after all—but when I go to an Apple event, I’m there to do my job. I’ve been at every Apple event since 1998, but in every case, I was there to cover it.
Consider the difference between someone watching a baseball game from the stands, or from the press box. I’m in the press box for these Apple events. The events themselves have become much more tense over time, because back in the day you’d have time to ponder what you’d seen before you started writing. Now there’s an expectation of live coverage, instant analysis, and a whole lot more. (Follow the @sixcolorsevent Twitter account if you want a live blow-by-blow commentary, by the way.)
But they were always stressful before and after the event. I get the typical anticipatory stress before an Apple event: What’s coming, are we prepared, what do I need to bring, where are we meeting afterward, when do I need to leave the house, where will I park… These events are vitally important for our sphere—it’s not something you want to screw up.
And then after the event is over, it’s a madhouse. Things happen fast. Usually Apple provides a hands-on area after an event, where you can go to see the products they’ve introduced, each one attached to an Apple employee who will present you with very specific talking points and keep a close eye to make sure you don’t do something they don’t want. It’s important to snap pictures and take video here, because you may not actually get your hands on these products for a few weeks.
Then if you’re very, very lucky, you’ll hang around and get called away for a personal briefing with a couple of Apple representatives. If you make this list, you’ll get a briefing and review units of the announced products in advance, usually under an embargo. (In other words, “Here are these products, but you can’t post a review until next Tuesday at 9 p.m. Pacific.”)
Whether or not you a briefing, though, the aftermath of one of these events is extremely busy if you’re covering it. This is the high season for writing about Apple, so you have to make hay while the sun shines. These are the days where I end up going home and working until late into the night, coming to bed when the house is dark and everyone else is asleep. The next morning, you get up and start again. Throw in some podcast appearances and the like, all of which take more time than you might expect.
So what I’m saying is, in an abstract way, it’s exciting and fun. But it’s hard work, too. And so this week I find myself not feeling too guilty about fleeing to the Sierra Nevada mountains, because I know next week is going to be one of the busiest weeks of the year, no matter what Apple announces on Monday.