Last weekend, I had the chance to drop by a fun and helpful Swift Hack Day event hosted at GitHub headquarters. Swift is the new language announced at WWDC 2014 that developers will use to create mobile apps on all iOS devices– so it’s new to everyone and it’s an exciting time!

Time for some Swift!

The event kicked off with an introductory talk by Natasha the Robot, who writes a lot of other helpful Swift-related blog posts. The event was packed with iOS developers, so the material was well-tailored for people already familiar with Objective-C.

(The material was also well-tailored for fans of the Despicable Me movies!)

Standing-room-only in the speaker area!

She covered new aspects like how to use optionals:

or Downcasting, helpful when you want to divide objects by subclass:

Those are just two quick examples, but she also went through how to use Playgrounds, setting default parameters for your methods, type inference, and using tuples in switch-case statements. There was a lot of material, but it was presented very well.

Now, these new things about Swift save a few lines here and there, and but are they enough to justify a new language? That’s a big question that probably only time will tell. But, either way, Apple has thrown its weight behind the language for now. And that’s enough for most people.

Eventually, it came time for some hacking. I spent basically the whole day working through the new Swift by Tutorials book from the fine folks at RayWenderlich.com. It really covers a lot of Swift concepts in-depth, and it’s always good to work through an example piece-by-piece.

As with the best of these events, the biggest takeaway was the collaboration between everyone there. No matter their day job (at big companies, small companies, rival companies, freelance, whatever), everyone was there to learn, experiment, and help each other.

I’ve never liked the myth of the lone genius hacker working in some dark basement on some secret project. If a language like Swift is going to take off and be used for projects that really matter and make the world a better place, a spirit of collaboration and sharing knowledge/practices across the usual boundaries is going to be key.

Besides, it was fun to spend some time working at the GitHub office over the weekend. Octocats everywhere!

Notice the octocat seal :]

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