What I like about this conference it isn’t overloaded with streams, vendors or the like, it’s just kept simple, one main stream, and a minor secondary stream for a limited number of sessions.
With a range of the best speakers from around the world, talking about their passions. It’s like every talk is a keynote, yes the quality is that high.
What is cool about Webstock is the attention to details from the bags, to the table layout, the coffee or the wonderfully different food. There is an under current that Tash and Mike love Webstock with all their heart and it shows.
The funniest thing is that you talk to New Zealanders about Webstock and they are often surprised that people like me will come from the other side for Australia to just “old Webstock”.
They have no idea what they have here – a world class conference on their doorstep.
There is a complete set of sketchnotes for Webstock 2012 available.
Kathy Sierra – MBU: Building the Minimum Badass User
I have been waiting to hear Kathy speak for a long time.
Her style is purposeful, however it’s not very interactive, more a preaching from the expert. I suspect she gets very nervous talking. Note Kathy also gets a little ranty on gamification, understandable, but it’s sometimes a little overboard in my view.
That’s not to say what she said wasn’t without merit. Kathy was discussing ways to improve the potential experience of a product or service focusing on making the user feel “awesome” as a result of their experience.
This is achieved by transforming the user into an expert in the opinion of their peers. It’s about allowing users to transform their vision of the world into a high resolution one.
I attended the workshop on the same topic – which I frankly hate, as I feel ripped off a little having the talk the same as the workshop. You know after doing the workshop for a day, I’m still not sure HOW to implement Kathy’s idea of instilling the expert knowledge into the user.
Jeremy Keith – Of Time and the Network
I hadn’t seen Jeremy talk in ages, I had forgotten what a good speaker he is. After personally greeting just about every attendee through the door that morning Jeremy mused over our pretext that the “internet is forever”, and the information will always be available.
It was a good talk, I could nearly feel a number of my archivist friends tapping me on the shoulder during this talk saying “told you so… nothing is forever”.
Jeremy walked up through the information recording mediums, the possibilities, the failures; and the way it all seems to die.
The only way to maintain the ageing web is for us to take charge and at least personally archive it. We need to think for the longer term not 5 years but 20, 30, 50 years. Very inspiring talk. Maybe I should bring back some of my very old sites.
Danah Boyd – Danah dreams of Valentino
Danah is another speaker I had been looking forward to seeing speak.
She talked on the culture of fear that we are unknowingly designing. How by social media and our desire to completely fill our attention span we are now pushing the boundaries in order to meet this need. Problem is the “news” resource is very scarce. To the point we now push into the unethical.
Technology was meant to bring us all enlightenment, when in now all we have is Governments promoting fear and trying to control the information flow.
We really need to take stock. Stop, take care, filter the bubble of information that we design. Build it so we can control it, because everything being visible is not always good, we socially need to have some boundaries. Privacy is important. We should not discount it.
This talk made me think are we opening people up too much to the web, maybe some privacy is a good thing.
Estelle Weyl – Mobile: Don’t Break the Web
I was to in two minds to go to Estelle’s talk or not. I’m glad I did go. It make me realise I really miss building stuff! Now to find some cool projects, where I can build and design.
Estelle present an honest, non zealot based presentation on mobile performance issues. The type that you will encounter with an average site, the gold is that she showed how to get round them with various tricks and hacks.
The little hack, for example, for embedding locally on one page and saving to local storage was ideal.
Lot’s of goodness in this talk, some givens, but overall very informative. Watch out for the video.
Erin Kissane – Little Big Systems
Erin presented a talk that I didn’t expect. It’s wasn’t something I was against, just it surprised me.
She talked on the value of craftsmanship.
How we often are we just cookie cutting and churning out products without providing the love the passion and engagement. Soulless things that lack the care to attention to detail of a product that has been sweated over.
It is easier in the digital world to just stream out a product without due regard to the quality. Cut and paste is almost the enemy.
Discussion focused on the corporate CMS and why this beast has been allowed to exist. Solutions lying in making project managers learn to love quality and the craftsmanship of their industry.
Nick Mihailovski – Acting on Data
Okay I’ll be frank I didn’t like Nick’s talk. I considered it to be the lowest point of Webstock.
Nick talked on using Google Analytics and aligning it with your business KPIs and goals. He showed the highlights of the Google Analytics functionality. Pointing towards little used elements like error message pages, conversation paths and social media sources. Personally there was nothing inspiring or new here.
There wasn’t much to this talk, it should not have been on the main stage. I really hope this wasn’t a paid speaker slot.
Matt Haughey – Lessons from a 40 year old
Matt Haughey talked on the lessons he has learnt over the years. This was a great talk in my view, very much honestly from the heart. I found myself nodding in agreement with a great deal of what Matt was talking about.
He talking on spending too much time at work and not focusing on family. Oh, Matt I know all about that one. He reflected that you really need to focus on the smaller aspects and things that are important, the money will come, but really if it does, you don’t really need it anyway.
He took the view that unfunded startups are like unsigned bands, more control, more freedom, more agile. Cashed up startups are like signed bands – you sell your soul, become a brand.
Very sobering talk.
Lauren Beukes – Kinking Reality
Up till this point I had never heard of or read anything by Lauren Beukes. I’m no longer a big SciFi reader, I leave that to my sister. So when Lauren took the stage I had no idea what she was going on about for a little while into the talk. Then it became a little clearer.
Presenters please take note – your audience is not full of fans, some of us have no idea about who you are, assume nothing!
I must say Lauren’s story was amazing, the lengths she went to in order to capture the realism, the feeling for her stories is a template for writers everywhere.
She used her journalistic skills to the maximum to find the rigth people and circumstances to mirror the situations and environments for her fictional world.
It was the attention to the details that mattered to Lauren, and this talk reflected that passion. It also presented a good number or storytelling methods that would be very useful for any UX professional.
Amy Hoy – Change the Game
Amy did a wonderful job given the short notice she had to step up as a relief speaker.
She talked on the 3 invisble rules that are all around us. How we try our best to avoid having to think, how you just apply social and proceedual patterns that we have learnt in place of having to think.
The rules focused on being conservative, doing what you are expected to do, and getting the approval of your peers.
Everything that I personal can’t stand. Which is why I enjoyed this talk as Amy systematically broke the rules down and destroyed them.
Amy suggests we just find the smaller paths, less todden and take those, break invisible rules.
Matthew Inman – How to get a buttcrapload of people to read what you write
Matthew is the guy behind the web comics by Oatmeal. He reminds me of a good number of my old cartoonist or comic artist friends. The quiet disposition, a somewhat shyness.
His story was filled with the under dog going against the system, and yet focusing very clearly on just making things good, funny and likeable. Making it reactionary, short and snappy… maybe with more pop.. and pink, don’t forget pink!
Matthew was the last talk for the day, he stood between us and beer. Mind you he is a PITA to sketchnote, hard without copying his work.
Also note to organisers it gets dark in the main hall, not good for taking notes or drawing.
Jared Spool – The Anatomy of a Design Decision
Jared had the hangover slot, the first talk of day two. When everyone is a little tired, and the coffee, even a triple shot, just doesn’t cut it.
He took us on a journey through the various types of design styles from unintentional design to experience focused design (trendy new Jared speak for UX), with an explanation of their strengths and what makes them work. All this will a side trip to Lings Cars.
The core of Jared’s talk is the comparison of informed design vs process design. Process design is the one where you use a methodology, produce guidelines, processes, and methods, or just dogma on how to do things. Well according to Jared’s research this just fails.
Our major problem we are in the corporate world using process based approach. Going from failure to failure.
The better way is to empower people with knowledge on how to react to a design problem.
You do this by teaching them the relevant techniques and even tricks or hacks around problems, help them be informed how to overcome the issue themselves. This works mainly because you have to understand the problem to over come it.
You are not just blindly applying a methodology “hoping” it will work.
Gabriella Coleman – In Lulz We Trust
OMG – this talk that Gabriella gave was very intense.
I had to focus really closely to this one to even follow the context and the understand it. This was a talk that I think you would get extra information out of by re-listening to it twice.
Her talk was on Anonymous and the LULZ of the movement. It dealt with the aspect of the real and the unreal or shadow players in Anonymous and their overall base desire to maintain the LULZ.
She systematically recounted the take down of Visa and Mastercard in operation payback, as well as the Church of Scientology, and the Arab Summer. Amazing what a few well placed DDOS attacks and hacks can do.
It was interesting to see the chaotic Anonymous thinking and multiple headed hyrda approach to things, and yet they didn’t present a solution to all the issues, just disrupting things such that we have time to rethink on the issues being controlled by government or big corporates.
It will be very interesting to see the direction Anonymous takes as a “fractured” movement going forward.
Scott Hanselman – It’s not what you read, it’s what you ignore
Scott’s talk was one of those timely reminders that you are a slave to your own workflow.
His rules for dealing with workflow, were a little GTD, but overall they were interesting.
Simple things like don’t check you’re email in the morning, don’t look at stuff you are CC on, in fact just file it. Only reply with a 5 sentence reply for emails, use templated replies – yes it just saves time.
If you are going something and it’s not improving your life – drop it.
Was a very much a wake up call type of a talk, certainly made me rethink the way I was doing things.
Wilson Miner – When We Build
Having seen Wilson’s talk before (online), I was keen to see him live, and really see if the talk had been updated any. Would this talk be as good as a legendary TED talk.
It was a good talk. Nothing amazingly new from a design or ethical direction perspective.
If you are a developer it maybe new. But a lot of the bigger picture aspects of this talk I have been considering for years.
Wilson took us up through the worlds of why we design the way we do, to reflect our image, our totems.
How we have progressed in our interfaces from paper to screens. How everything we interactive design for and our use of an interface has to be learnt. Usually by investigation, trial and error.
In the world we produce we have been running headlong into a stream of shorter and shorter time periods for society to learn and except a medium or device. From the radio 40 years to Youtube, just 6 months.
What we need to do when designing is remember that sometimes things are complex for a reason.
It’s not about what you know, but what you don’t know; we have to see the world as it really is not as we have learn and expect.
We are transforming design, in small prototyped live steps, shifting the enviroment from a world of paper to that of screens, always on.
Rob Malda – Slashdot — the Rise and Fall
Rob had an interesting journey, telling the tale of the Rise and Fall of SlashDot.
I had no idea on SlashDot’s humble beginnings and the way it was basically held together by tape and chewing gum (well almost) in the early years.
This really appealed to me. Especially as I remember the industry very well back then. Before we become professional. It really was just seat of your pants stuff, with servers under desks and the like.
Was amazing to watch the unfolding of SlashDot’s slide into stagnation and the rise of the social networks around SlashDot.
Does just go to prove you can survive the fire hose. Oh and Cache is your friend.
Adam Lisagor – Clients make the world go Round
I had a long chat with Adam at the after party. A really humble and nice guy. Almost everything Adam talked about I have done, and learnt these lessons the hard way over the last 17 years in this industry.
The number of times I have taken that project on just for the money, with no love or motivation than the payday at the end is just countless. He is just right you have to “eat the dog food” or not bother.
The more we liaise and collaborate with the client, the better the overall outcome. You should expect things to fail, as we all do, but when you have a good liaison with the client, that is being in constant communication, any failure just becomes a problem for both of you to solve.
Alex recommends when researching and talking to clients, trust answers, but question when it’s an opinion, knowing the difference is the skill.
The big one was – Don’t Lie.
Make it personal, business is personal, it’s about people, it’s abbot emotions, feelings, no matter how cold people try and be in the board room.
Just know when you have to stop, and walk away.
Adam also suggested – it’s just about telling the story.
Michael B Johnson – Making Movies is Harder than it Looks: Building Tools for Telling Stories
Okay Mike’s talk is not videoed, I don’t think it even has an audio recording for various copyright reasons. But you know I’m okay with that. It was a really good talk from a genuinely nice guy.
Mike walked us through the 3 ways to make a movie and how we could tell a compelling story. Reminding us it’s in the attention to the detail, and the design pain is just temporary compared to the “suck that is forever” from a badly released product, that you rushed.
The way to make a project work is to have a plan A, and a plan B. You always need a backup plan.
He suggested the best teams are the ones where you have fun, and surround yourself with heroes, as then other teams will then defend and support your team.
Jenn Lim and Tony Hsieh – Delivering Happiness
Before this talk I had no idea of the book – Delivering Happiness and the company Zappo. It was particularly telling when both speakers ask who had read the book, a few hands went up, or when asked who had used Zappos, even less hands.
Still the talks were entertaining.
Jenn talked around the experience of the book and it’s promotional vehicle. This was was a little flat, as I had NO idea what the book was.
She assumed (again) I would know all about it. It was interesting, but I still to this day have no idea what they did or what it was about, and really I’m just chalking this one up as, Huh!? I’m not about to waste my time on this book, if the author can’t even tell me about it.
Now Tony’s talk was very direct he just explained Zappo’s service and culture ethos as a company, this was very enlightening.
Showing a company that is committed to its core ethical values of delivering a WOW service.
They haven’t chased the cash dream, but instead ensure their customers had the best service ever. Very simple.
Derek Handley – Doing Good and Well
Derek’s talk was the closing keynote, not that Webstock really has keynotes.
He made us question if we had the scale of our issues in the right order.
When we are on our death bed, it’s not that money, but a meaningful life with purpose that we crave. That level of personal success.
Yet we have our ecomonics measuring finances and resources, we have fallen into the trap that business is a shareholder profit only. The aspect of service just seems to be gone, lost for shareholder profits.
We have forgotten that service and communities are all interlinked. The sad thing is that we have also forgotten that history we judge this generation as we are the most documented generation in history. They will know all we do wrong and right, as we have been telling them all about it.
It’s simple according to Derek just live life for a real self satisfying purpose. Something to think about.
Will I be back for Webstock in 2013? Finances and project schedules permitting I should be back, might even do a little touring around.
If you haven’t put Webstock in the your calendar for 2013, I suggest you do so.