Webstock 2011 Day Two


WebStock Card Game 2011

We now have the famous Webstock card game and webstock bingo in full force, the second day starts a little later, just as well considering the night before.

After an amazing reception that seemed to go on forever,  and a relaxing dinner with friends it was time to pick it all up again the hustle back to the Town Hall for WebStock part II.

So far the conference had been all it was promised to be.  To say it had been anything short of entertaining and informative would be a lie. In fact it was shaping up to be much more than that.

Already for me Webstock had a vibe, the feeling of community, of making the impossible possible.

This essence is something a good number of other conferences have lost over the years.  Somehow Mike, Tash and their team have managed to retain it.  So continuing on from Webstock Day One.

Marco Arment – Contrary to Popular Beliefs

Marco Arment is the founder from Instapaper.

The major thing I took away from Marco’s talk was that we should never build anything for ourselves, not for us geeks.  As we are the technocrats, our needs wants and desires are often warped and not reflective of the mainstream pubic audience.

If you you want a product to appeal beyond the geek web community, you just have to make it useful for everyone.

Marco Arment

David McCandless -Information is Beautiful

Now David was one speaker I was very eager to see.   He is responsible for the the Information is Beautiful site and a series of books on information design.

David mused on the complexity of data and how we need to simplify it, and how as designers it’s our job to achieve this.   However he pointed to the downfalls of making it too complex and unreadable for the sake of design.  This was a very hard talk to sketchnote..

David McCandless

Glenda Sims – Practical Accessibility Testing

Glenda Sims is a fellow accessibility professional, her talk was particularly of interest to me, mainly to see if I was on the right track.

Glenda focused on automated accessibility testing tools, a subject that I have toyed around with via using several in house developed bots (none of which are every going to be ready for commercial release)  It was good to see Glenda’s viewpoint, and her passion for the Open Web.

Glenda Sims

Jason Cohen – A Geek Sifts Through the Bullshit

Jason is another one of those honest no nonsense speakers that Webstock  seems to famous for.  He talked on ignoring the traditional business model.

Consider the web and subsequent ubiquitous computing media to be so far really outside the old school mold that the old business rules just don’t apply.   Not really heard this type of talk since the Dot Com boom.   Still interesting approach.

Jason Cohen

Peter Sunde – The Pirate Bay of Penzance

Peter and his crew are rebels, that is very clear.   There are standing firm within the localised law of their respective countries and using this to bring about change.

It’s extremely obvious that nature of the Pirate Bay has and will continue to change the way the traditional media publishers operate.

Peter did introduce Flattr to the audience a random money distribution system that allows for tipping of people as required but with a social monetary distribution.

Sadly I was interrupted by a phone call halfway through this talk. One to watch the video of.

Peter Sunde

Michael Lopp – An Engineering Mindset

Michael presented a very interesting view that there are basically three type of people on a project development team, designers, developers and dictators.

Each has a separate function and they are all needed, but over all the dictator leads the chase adding direction, killing things off, and providing velocity for  moving forward.

It’s an interesting concept, one at least worth exploring in more detail.

Michael Loop

Tom Coates  – Everything the Network Touches

Tom Coates reworked a presentation previously delivered at SxSW.  Still it was entertaining and did make you think, that maybe the web, as we know it is dying, slowly but surely.

It’s being replaced, not by mobile computing, that too is dying, fast, but by something greater, an infrastructure of services that provide information across all media and structures.

You know we can’t see it, as we are too close;  but I think Tom maybe onto something, we are laying the ground for a society of information connectivity beyond the web in the fabric of our lives, the scale to which we haven’t really  conceived.

Tom Coates

Scott McCloud – Comics: A Medium in Transition

This is another presentation I was waiting for and Scott didn’t disappoint.

It was very interesting to see how the comics industry has tried to translate it self into the digital channel. With success and failure.   It really just pointed towards, there are no rules, no answers, only dreams and maybe solutions.   We just have to find them…

Scott McCloud

Merlin Mann

I’m not publishing the sketchnote for this talk.

I have from time to time watched Merlin Mann from a distance with a fascination. A fascination one has for a horrible train wreck happening in slow motion.

A lot of people considered Merlin’s talk clever and a good wrapup of the conference –  I’m not in that group.

The talk was rambling, it relooped about five times (at least) onto the same topics, as if we couldn’t understand them.  It was depressing, it was everything you don’t want as a final talk for a conference.

For the record he talked on facing your fears and that nothing really bad is going to happen anyway, and we’re all equally scared at one point it our lives.

The one saving grace was Amanda Palmer doing the gig for the after party, that was a great up note, and a major highlight.

In Summary

Webstock is a small conference compared to the massive ones in the US, it has from 500-700 people attending.  This year was the first year it has been capped and the ticket numbers restricted.    There wasn’t four or five tracks, at best there were two tracks.  The speakers however are very entertaining, informative and really do make you think or go explore for more details on the topics.

It’s the limited high quality speakers, the nature of community, the venue and the attention to detail that makes Webstock a leading conference with that killer vibe.

It’s not a highly technical conference in general, catering for the generalist of the web industry.   In terms of hit or miss with speakers and sessions, in comparison to other conferences, Webstock presented itself well, with all but one exception was very good value for money.

Yes it’s worth the time and money,  mark Webstock in your calendar for next year.

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