Written by Michał Apanowicz
Published December 9, 2016

An iOS developer at #Pragma Conference

Let me tell you about an iOS conference called #Pragma Conference 2016. It took place in Verona (Italy) on 13th-14th October 2016. Did I fall in love like Romeo with Juliet?

In my last article, I shared with you my opinion about Mobiconf. This time I’m writing about the 4th edition of #Pragma Conference. Previous editions took place in Milan (2013, 2014) and Florence (2015). So it seems that #Pragma travels across Italy, which is just a great idea. This year, the conference covered the following tracks: iOS📱/macOS💻/watchOS⌚️/tvOS📺/UX👥/general🎯 (😅). And also, one day before everything started, there were 4 additional workshops.

Workshops: Thinking in Swift

So, let’s start with the workshops. You could pick one from the four topics (additional pay):

  1. “Thinking in Swift” by Ash Furrow (Ash was replacing Daniel Steinberg)
  2. “Hands-on tvOS” by Ben Scheirman
  3. “Test Driven Developments hands-on” by Jon Reid
  4. “Designing app icons for fun and profit” by Michael Flarup

I attended the first one, so it’s the only one I can describe. First of all, big thanks to Ash Furrow who replaced Daniel Steinberg (who couldn’t make it due to personal issues). This was a full-day class, where we used Xcode Playgrounds to play with Swift as a language. A big plus for the functional part of the language and showing developers how functional methods work under the hood.

What you could learn from that: Protocol Extensions, Iterating Collections, Error types, Combining Methods and Functional Techniques. I must admit that it was a great summary of a bit more advanced things in Swift. During that workshop you could learn or systematize your knowledge.

Lectures I attended:

☠️ Warning! Long list below! You can scroll down for a summary.

  1. Michael Flarup – “How I became a maker and learned the Secrets of the Universe” (UX/UI) – great opening by a designer, not a programmer! Yes, it was a life story about designing his portfolio of great icons. But the whole story was just a simple excuse for sharing with us a lot of lessons that we can encounter as people who are in tech. If you are interested, you can check the lecture here.
    What you could learn: Redesigning your portfolio is an essential part of your life 😬 but what’s most important, it’s a study of making choices in your career and getting better to create more advanced things.
  2. Natasha ‘The Robot’ Murashev – “Build Features, Not Apps” (iOS) – if you asked me about the future (next 2 years) of the iOS development, I would redirect you to this lecture. Natasha made a great analysis of the way users use apps currently, and showed us the nearest future of the mobile. I totally agree with Natasha, and looking at iOS 10 and Android Nougat all those things are happening right now and will be affecting work more and more. If you want to see the future – the crystal ball is here.
    What you could learn: How the future of mobile development might look in the next few years, and how we can prepare to take that step.
  3. John Sundell – “Backend driven UIs” (iOS) – John is boring: every time he gives a talk at a conference, it’s great. Even though I attended a very similar talk (also by John) last year, this one was completely different. It’s because only 2 weeks before he and Spotify had released Hub Framework. It is impressive how the UI elements could be back-end driven. If you somehow missed this concept, please stop reading that article and go directly to the video here.
    What you could learn: Building components and even entire navigation with the back-end.
  4. Ben Scheirman – “Swift on Linux” – Although #Pragma is a conference related to iOS📱/macOS💻/watchOS⌚️/tvOS📺 that talk was connected with using Swift on the server 🙂 Most of you possibly know Ben from NSScreencast but he also created a very useful website http://nsdateformatter.com. What is so cool about this website? Well, it uses Swift under the hood. So you can basically play with the formatter from your web browser. Making a long story short – he was showing how to develop a similar website using the back-end frameworks of Swift. If you want to see some live coding using VIM without any mistakes (at least I don’t remember any) check out the video here.
    What you could learn: Have an idea how to create a simple web app using Swift. See VIM power user 💪 in action.
  5. Anton McConville – “More presence, personality and pulse” – it was a presentation about context data we can gather around and the use of it. A little bit of Internet of Things (IoT), a little bit about health care and a little bit of prototyping. A lot of things from that talk are already happening but some maybe are the voice of the future. Personally, I didn’t like this one, but you can check by yourself here.
    What you could learn: Inspiring talk, prototyping IoT.
  6. Cesare Rocchi – “The hidden powers of JavaScript in iOS and MacOS” – live coding with examples (plus some historical APIs) how you can talk with JavaScript. I highly recommend that talk if you need to communicate (for some really sad reasons 😢) with JavaScript. Otherwise, you don’t need to catch up with this talk. Video here.
    What you could learn: How to speak with JavaScript 😉
  7. Ayaka Nonaka – “Contributing to Swift” – I love stories like this one. A complete case study: from finding the problem to the solution. This is a story of a brave girl called Ayaka and her bug fix contribution to the Swift language 😱.
    What you could learn: First of all, even if you don’t feel like a super, uber C nerd🤓 but you really want it, you may contribute to the Swift codebase. Ayaka showed the whole process from finding, through debugging and fixing, all the way to testing.
  8. Lecture that I cannot share with you – next lecture was top secret. We were not allowed to take pictures, record, etc. It was a secret meeting with people from a super secret company. I don’t even know if I will not be sued for telling that there was a super secret meeting.
    What you could learn: Sorry, this is secret. But 🍏are good for your health and your co-workers.
  9. Workshops I cannot share with you – same as above.
    What you could learn: The 🍎 are easy to pick!

😢Lectures I missed because I was attending the secret workshops:

  1. Matthias Tretter – “Mind Mapping for all of us – The power of making your app accessible”
  2. Fabio Milano – “‘I have a framework idea’ – Repeat less, share more” video here.

And that was just day 1! After that there was a nice dinner with risotto, pizza and beer (it was not included in conference ticket and not everyone was there).

🗓Day 2 was also quite busy:

  1. Tam Freese – “Protocol Obsessed Programming” – as you know, one of the buzz phrases in the iOS community last years was Protocol Oriented Programming. So this lecture was like Super Size Protocol 🍔 talk checking the usage of Protocols. Because “there is no silver bullet” is yet another buzz phrase currently, so some drawbacks of protocols were presented.
    What you could learn: When to use protocols and when using them is just a bad idea.
  2. Krzysztof Zabłocki – “iOS Application Architecture” – Krzysztof is not only a programmer but also a consultant, who helps to repair bad codebases. During the presentation, he shared his tricks and tips how to overcome problems with smelly code, bad architecture, and poor quality.
    What you could learn: Really valuable knowledge about improving your application’s architecture and providing with better quality. Also informing that there is no silver bullet and TDD is your friend.
  3. Axel Schlueter – “Swift on Android – don’t call it cross-platform development” – I really admire Axel and his team in all their efforts to run Swift on Android devices. I still don’t quite understand the reason for that, but I’m impressed with the work done.
    What you could learn: A little about porting Swift for Android platform.
  4. Jon Reid – “Taming MVC with Model View Presenter” – this presentation was a little bit similar to the lecture of Krzysztof (about iOS architecture) but it was more focused on the Model View Presenter pattern and explaining why MVC is not working.
    What you could learn: What is the MVP pattern? Why it’s easy to use and why you should consider using this.
  5. Dan Ardelean – “Xamarin – Why not?” – yup.
    What you could learn: Marketing how Xamarin is awesome and nice to use.
  6. Rikke Koblauch – “Good process makes a great product” – do you remember Monument Valley? So Rikke is from ustwo  – the company that has created the game. Rikke revealed how to create software and its environment. She also gave us some tips on boiling eggs. Really!
    What you could learn: How to get your game to the House of Cards. It was an inspiring talk about the ways of working of other companies .
  7. Hector Zarate – “On AB Testing” – this talk was about a great approach that can boost your app User Experience. It’s called AB testing. This is a kind of tool/approach where you compare two things on different user groups to see which solution is better, more engaging and gives more fun to the user. There is no video from #Pragma, but Hector gave a similar talk in Australia 🐨.
    What you could learn: What are AB tests and how Spotify uses them.
  8. Dennis Pilarinos – “Don’t reinvent the wheel!” – I must admit that I’m not a fan of the sponsors’ talks. In most cases, they are boring. But this talk was a nice exception. Dennis is the CEO of a company that helps in setting up a nice CI. And because they build quite a lot of apps every day, they gather statistics about people’s preferences when it comes to what they use and what do they support. A lot of interesting questions got answered.
    What you could learn: What frameworks and tools people use in their apps. Also, how to use sponsors’ tool and have a lot of free time.
  9. Kateryna Gridina – “App Search in iOS” – it was a solid talk about using (but not overusing) the search feature in iOS system on the example of Zalando app. I have nothing to add on this.
    What you could learn: How to properly use the search feature in iOS system from the developer’s perspective.
  10. Ellen Shapiro – “Escape from Alcatraz: The brave new world of Xcode Extension” – the closing lecture was done by Ellen. With Xcode 8 we lost the possibility of using plugins from the community in favor of brand new Xcode extensions. This presentation was a case study of changes in Xcode and how we can create new plugins and what restrictions can we meet on our way.
    What you could learn: How to create Xcode plugins for Xcode 8 and what are the limitations.
  11. #Pragma Team – Closing keynote – some summary, team presentation, drawing prizes. It was followed by a little goodbye spritz 🍹with some networking – that was a nice surprise!
    What you could learn from that: Nothing 

Summary (tl;dr) Did I fall in love?

So did I fall in love with#Pragma like Romeo did with Juliet? I must admit: yes. These 3 days were intense and full of knowledge gaining and sharing, networking and sightseeing Italy by night (because the days were filled to the limit with talks). This was a great event with only small drawbacks (but so small you can skip it). The most important part is the knowledge you can get on such event and in this case you could learn a lot.

What I do like about #Pragma Conference 2016:

  • a lot of great quality iOS talks 📊
  • good workshops 🛠
  • focus on Apple ecosystem only (iOS/macOS/…) 📱
  • secret presentation and workshops – awesome 🍏
  • Verona and Italy 🍷🍝
  • videos are published on #Pragma Conference YouTube channel 📽

What I don’t like about #Pragma Conference 2016

  • venue – too small for that amount of people, strange scene, not comfortable chairs🏚
  • party/dinner 💤
  • some of the talks were already presented on different conferences before  📉


Maybe I don’t recommend to blindly buy the tickets but for sure it’s a good idea to put Italy in your calendar next year. It’s a really well-organized, mature conference with a big effort put on the talks quality and the speakers.

Written by Michał Apanowicz
Published December 9, 2016