C4 conference promises to be explosive

Why should you care about C4? Well, to answer that you’d need to know what exactly C4 is. The brainchild of developer Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch, C4 is the spiritual successor to the long-running MacHack (later, redubbed ADHOC) conference.

Aimed at independent Mac software developers, C4 is in its second year, and in addition to returning speakers, it’s also got plenty of new content. C4 might invite comparisons to Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference and while it attracts a similar audience, there are some major differences.

For one, C4 is much smaller: while WWDC attendees numbers in the thousands, C4 is attended by a couple hundred developers. For another, the stress here is on independent developers. “Indie means nonlarge,” says Rentzsch. Not to say that independent developers are altruists, since Rentzsch also points out that indie also means commercial.

Most important, unlike WWDC you won’t really find a large presence from the likes of Adobe, Apple or even—heaven forbid—Microsoft at this conference. What you will find is the developers behind those “other” applications that you probably use: the Transmits and BBEdits, Delicious Libraries and NetNewsWires.

But back to the main question: why should you care about a smallish developer gathering? Because the kind of developers who attend C4 make the software you use. As a result, C4 winds up influencing your Mac experience.

Friday night’s agenda featured Rentzsch speaking on the Indie Ethic and Delicious Monster’s Wil Shipley on how to harness hype for applications. On Saturday, the schedule includes Red Sweater Software’s Daniel Jalkut on acquiring applications, TidBits publisher (and Macworld contributor) Adam C. Engst on hacking the press, and noted blogger drunkenbatman on combatting Steve Jobs’ legendary Reality Distortion Field.

Sunday’s events are probably the most highly anticipated, starting with Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser speaking about the development of its latest application, Coda. Following that comes an appearance from what was supposed to be a surprise speaker—a surprise, that is, until the New York Times outed Forbes editor Daniel Lyons as blogger Fake Steve Jobs. But Fake Steve will make an appearance on Sunday, despite his lack of anonymity.

Then comes a new feature, which for many of those present might be considered the main event. Iron Coder Live is based on MacHack’s old Hack Show contest, in which attendees were invited to compete by developing a software “hack” in a limited amount of time, based on a certain theme and API. Rentzsch has tweaked the formula slightly, announcing the theme—“conspiracy”—and API—“iPhone”—ahead of time. As to what precisely that entails, Rentzsch notes on his Web site, “Officially there’s no such thing as an iPhone API… it’s up to you to decide what that means.” Competitors will show off their hacks in front of the rest of the attendees.

While C4 might garner less attention than WWDC, its focus on the Mac independent developer community is unique, and important for the impact that it’s likely to have on many of the developers whose applications are cornerstones of the independent Mac community.

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