Tripping with Andrew Stone at AltWWDC

Andrew Stone has seen a lot of changes in the Apple ecosystem - changes he talked about as a featured speaker at AltWWDC, the event that's happening concurrently with WWDC and is only a few blocks away.

AltWWDC is a five-day gathering on the sixth floor of the downtown campus of San Francisco State University. While space is limited, it's absolutely free to attend. The event mixes technical labs with breakout sessions and featured speakers.

Stone's trajectory through the Apple world is the very definition of a long strange trip. An architect by trade, Stone began programming when he was introduced to HyperCard, Apple's landmark visual programming tool. When Steve Jobs started NeXT a few years later, Stone began developing software for it. He's a vanguard of the NeXTStep operating system, the bedrock basis of OS X and iOS. He continues to make his living from that work - his Stone Design makes apps like Twittelator for iOS and Videator, the VJ and video effects tool .

Stone, who lives in New Mexico, talked openly about his use of psychedelic drugs as a consciousness-opening experience. He was also part of lab tests for a psychoactive compound called DMT. Consumed by South American natives as a tea called ayahuasca, the substance is derived from the South American jungle vine caapi. Stone has written about his experience.

And for those who question the use of drugs all together? Stone says that we have the power to create similar experiences ourselves, using nothing more than our minds and more conscious control of our bodies. He led the crowd in a breathing exercise to demonstrate.

Stone's fascinating story captivated the AltWWDC crowd, but he wasn't just there to entertain with the story of his journey, but to act as a teacher and to impart some wisdom. He offered some practical advice born from decades of indie software publishing.

"Small is beautiful, and you, the individual, can make a big difference," Stone said.

"And to witness that, think of all the little indies that have been copied by Apple," Stone joked, getting a wry laugh from the audience. Stone emphasized the importance of maintaining a positive social media presence, encouraging indie developers reach out to their peers.

Stone's final bit of advice: "Feed your head." More specifically, feed the other part of your head that isn't involved in programming and business. Try to have a rich and balanced life wherever it takes you, even a path less traveled like Stone's.

Peter Cohen