Apple announced WWDC 2012 this morning. The event will be held in San Francisco June 11 to 15. The tickets went on sale around 5:45 AM Pacific time. Fortunately for me, I was in Austin, TX and eating breakfast when the word got out (7:45 AM Central time). Since I haven't gone for a few years, I jumped on my chance and got my pass. The conference sold out in about 2 hours.
Apple did make some good changes this year. They are no longer allowing resale of registrations. Also, they are capping each organization to 5 passes. These are both very good moves. However, it still doesn't solve the simple supply/demand problem. More people want to go than can get tickets. Today, the west coast paid the bigger price since many people weren't even awake during the entire time tickets were on sale.
Clearly, something else should be used to allocate tickets. The following are some alternative methods to allocate passes.
This is probably the simplest option. Allow people to pre-register for a ticket lottery. Apply the same rules as sales (no transfers and no more than 5 per organization). At a specific time, run the lottery and allocate the 5000 or so tickets. Give lottery winners 24 hours to redeem them. Any remaining tickets could either go up for general sale or further lottery.
The problem here is that you may see more developers than really want to go enter the lottery. It is the most democratized form of allocation. There is no priority being given. There probably would be pressure to have VIP passes that circumvent the lottery. It could be hard to keep out some high profile companies.
One Pass per Active Developer Account
In the old days, you could buy an ADC developer account. In exchange, you would receive special ADC mailings 4 times a year, a significant hardware discount, and a WWDC pass. If there are less than 5000 organizations, give every active account the opportunity to buy one pass. Put any remaining passes up for general sale or lottery.
Another scheme could be to favor first year developers. If you are in the first year of your developer account, you get a pass. The problem with this is that you could see individuals creating new organizations every year to get a pass.
If you went last year, you can't go this year. If the pool isn't big enough (i.e. less than 10,000 potential attendees), you could go to a system where you can attend 2 out of 3 years. The idea would be to sideline enough potential attendees to control access.
Local User Groups
The final solution I can think of is to organize user group events for the week of WWDC. You could do live streaming of sessions, spread Apple evangelists to key regions to host in person events, and other outreach tactics. The idea here would be to make it more of an active global event and rely less on the primary event.
Of all the solutions, I think one pass per active account is the best solution. Since they are offering 5 per organization, it seems more fair to allow all organizations to have one pass and then offer what is left to others in an organization. I think they can probably combat the problem of people creating accounts just for WWDC by charging for the pass upfront as part of the subscription. You would need to be pretty serious about going to pay for the ticket up front. This would at least allow organizations that know they will send at least one person to lock down their spot.
As many WWDC veterans will tell you, a huge amount of the value is the networking with other Mac and iOS developers. That alone is incentive to attend. Hopefully, Apple can find some sort of equitable solution to make sure as many people as possible can actively participate in WWDC.