An open letter to the organisers of Webstock

Dear people who made Webstock happen:

I think I love you. Can it please be Webstock every day? Even if we would all die from over-knowledging, over-caffinating and over-drinking?

I got home today sometime after 5pm. It’s been a hell of a week. I will update more when I have napped.

The Innovation Workshop

My first Webstock twitter (The WS is to send it to the Webstockbo so that everyone subscribed could read it): ” Ws I am late for my Scott Berkun workshop. I find nothing innovative about mornings! “

The lovely Kat modeling the Webstock bagDespite having stressed out about the bus being late, I stopped off at the Dixon Street Deli for coffee, before heading off to the Town Hall to check in. The lovely Jeff was on the door, which is always a good way to start, and things got even better when I was handed my webstock bag. So sexy! And so filled with intriguing things! I took my bag and my coffee upstairs, and found Amanda waiting in the foyer for the workshop to begin. I flicked my way through the brochure, marveling at the beautiful design of it all, and tried to figure out what talks I wanted to go to. And then the workshop began, and things came alive again.

I should say here that I had been having a really rough couple of weeks at work and in my life in general. This is why there’s been no updates on Hubris. Moving proved to be such a stressful experience that I stopped going to the gym and stopped taking my meds properly. It was of course that stupid downward circle spiral that I periodically get stuck in. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t functioning, and that coupled with the rather large project that I’ve been struggling with at work, and how hard that’s been to launch has made me pretty despairful. Before Webstock began I forced myself to fill my pill box properly, so that I could go back to 30mg instead of 20, and so yes, there’s that working in my favour again. That said, Scott Berkun was so fucking amazing that even if I hadn’t been on my proper dosage, I still would have had my world utterly rocked.

He started out by showing us slides of things we see every day- big macs, arches, browsers, google, and an assortment of other things, and asked which of those we thought were innovations. Then he explained how they all were, and that every successful innovation will eventually be taken for granted, and that its value may only be obvious after it has been created. He also suggested that if people are using the word innovation, it probably isn’t happening. I have pages and pages of notes that I don’t want to write out in full here (I’ll stick them on my work wiki though) but essentially, he talked about the process of innovation, and where things fall down. That was really great for me, because I was able to slot in my work project, and go “oh wow, apparently I’m not the only one who ever has any problems”. That sounds simple, but it has been really hard to see. He also mentioned that old “Genius is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration” saying, that you would normally expect to see on the poster of some lame cow-orker, but it didn’t sound trite or cliched from him, it sounded like the truth. Oh yes, perhaps I am buying into a cult here or something, but it was just SO GREAT.
@johubris says ā¤ the branding, ā¤ the sandwiches and most importantly am feeing good about my big project again! 10:34 AM February 12, 2008

I was sitting at a table with Amanda and with Mike Brown and Anna and Belinda from SPARC, so it was nice to know people around me. I was introduced to Kris, and it turns out that he’s the brother of the guy I work with. Small world! At one stage, we all had to contribute random words, and then we had to pick three and create a new company with them. We created Robert’s Ecoterrorist Adventures, it was awesome. And he made us come up with ideas for the worst cellphone in the world, so that we could work backwards from there to create a great product. Really nice ways of changing thinking.

johubris Ws the couches at the town hall are for napping on, right? Being re-enthused by scott berkun is FTW,but i’m so tired! 12:54 PM February 12, 2008 from txt

At morning tea we had rolled sandwiches and friands. There were mountains and mountains of friands, but the sandwiches ran out quickly. They were mighty tasty though. At lunch we had a buffet that had the added distinction of having a written-out menu by the plates. It’s always nice to know what you are eating. I mention this because everyone who went to Webstock in 2006 talked about the food. And also because I like to talk about food. The conference rooms were nice because they were old, and stately, instead of being all bland like you might expect. I wrote pages and pages and pages of notes. Scott asked if anyone was having a bad day, and I didn’t raise my hand, but when he asked if anyone was having a bad week, I did. He got the whole room to applaud me and then asked me what story I wanted him to tell. Awww. Thanks Scott! Not just for the applause, but for just the sheer awesomeness of it all. Without transcribing all my notes it’s probably really hard to express just how inspiring the talk was, so I suppose you’ll need to take my word for it, or check out his work yourself!

johubris ws I wish it was Webstock tomorrow, and that I didn’t have to wait until Thursday for more awesome learning and company! 09:26 PM February 12, 2008 from web

The conference proper

Again, I was running late, but I stopped to get coffee anyway, not quite realising that the lovely Peoples’ Coffee people would be making free coffee all day long (we asked, and one of the charming baristas said his record was drinking 30 double espressos in one day. Woaaaaaah). I found a seat for myself at the back and chuckled at the Pulp Fiction soundtrack pumping over the sound system to hype up the crowd. Mike Brown did the introduction, showing a photo of CJ and the end of this series of twitters:

  • Jo Hubris: I have two dates on Valentine’s Day. But they’re both work-related. At least there’ll be booze at Webstock, right?
  • Maupuia: @johubris oh hell yes there will be booze! 12:08 PM January 10, 2008 from web in reply to johubris Icon_star_empty
  • Ceej75: @maupuia and there better be hotties cos its v day!
    12:14 PM January 10, 2008 from web in reply to maupuia
  • @ceej75 there will be enough alcohol that everyone will seem a hottie šŸ™‚ 12:21 PM January 10, 2008 from web in reply to ceej75
  • Hehe!

Nat Torkington

web poemsI’ve never met Nat before, or read anything of his work, but I’ve heard a lot about him (mostly because I’m jealous I didn’t get an invitation to Foo Camp), so I was really interested to hear what he might talk about. And now I know a whole lot about the Crimean War. My only note from his session is “www.overcomingbias.com”, so I suppose I really should look up this site. What amused me the most about his talk was that for some reason he’d chosen to use some really weird font for his presentation, and hadn’t checked it, so half the letters didn’t show up. Despite that, he was a great presenter, and I was really interested in what he had to say. Even if I’m not entirely sure what it was now that there have been so many talks on top of his. Oh, looking at the book, he was talking about the past as a way to predict the future. That makes sense.

Molly Holzschlag ā€” Why Web Standards Aren’t

I work for the government, as you’re no doubt aware, so it is important for me that any sites that I work on conform to web standards,and that they validate (Hubris doesn’t validate, by the way, but that’s the flickr and twitter codes that fuck it up, as far as I’m aware). Other than that, standards really aren’t my area, so I admit to tuning out a bit during this talk. Molly was clearly very very passionate about it though, and CJ said that the Webstock IRC channel was lighting up during her talk because she was saying some controversial things. Awesome! And the line that I took away from it is that web standards isn’t validating like editing isn’t spellchecking, which is a fantastic simile for someone word-obsessed like me to understand.

After Molly spoke, it was morning tea time, with little sandwiches and mountains of mini sweet muffins. I caught up with CJ and Frances and looked around at the various booths set up by sponsors, deciding to investigate them further at lunchtime. And then, because I was trying to make sure I had a written-content focus, I went to see

Rachel McAlpine – Look Ma, no quills!

To be honest, I was rather disappointed with her presentation. I felt like it was a little bit all over the place, and didn’t really have a focus or direction. I did come away with a few tips, like that 20% of people have a low literacy rate, that only professional communicators are trained to communicate and that everyone else is just thrown in the deep end as we’ve moved away from blue collar work, and that you should check your work’s readability with a Flesch plugin.
johubris Ws dear webstockers, remember to get cash out at lunch to buy valentines for CJ and I at Craftstock! 11:25 AM February 14, 2008 from txt

Peter Morville – Ambient Findability and the Future of Search

My very first note from Peter is “Don’t throw away your org chart, but provide other options too”. Oh hell yes. I’ve struggled in past jobs looking after websites whose navigation has been built around the organisational chart, which makes little sense to anyone on the outside. I want everyone in the world to know that often isn’t a very good idea! He also used the line “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” which is so true. As our haystacks get bigger, how can we make bigger needles?

And then it was lunch. Mmmm lunch! I loaded up my plate and went and talked to Belinda and some nice people from the National Library. Someone was eating ice cream, and so I found my way to a freezer full of it, sweet little tubs from Kapiti. Mmmmmm! I had a big decision to make in regards to which talk I should go to after lunch, but luckily, I decided to go to:

Liz Danzico – The Framework Age

Damn! It was so fantastic! The idea behind it is that assorted Web 2.0 aps provide a framework for communities to grow off, like jazz music has a loose frame compared to that of classical music so there’s room for things to happen. She talked about social patterns, and hacking of public signs like the New York Subway (adding in “downtown” to train routes that don’t specify things), and oh, it was just so so wonderful. She brought all these random strings together and wove them into a beautiful tapestry, and I could have listened to her talk all day. But unfortunately, it was only 50 minutes long. I really need to look her up online and see if I can get more ideas out of her.
johubris Ws Liz is talking about how classical music leaves no room for participation. @ceej75 is man-hunting, @darren is playing bingo. WEBSTOCK IS SOFA KING RAD 01:47 PM February 14, 2008

Kelly Goto – Getting unstuck. Moving from Web 1.0 to 2.0

Kelly’s talk was all about ways of finding your “AHA!” moment, and moving into “the flow” when you’re just working on the highest possible level. She was a total bundle of energy, and was one of the many presenters who made me go “Damn, I want to be her when I grow up!”

Michael Lopp – Primal software development

Michael works for Apple, and he said that they don’t do secrecy – they do theatre, which made me laugh almost as much as when he asked how many people had iPhones, and when a whole bunch of people (like seriously, many many people) raised their hands he was like “hmmm, they’re not available here though…”. He had some good ideas about the types of people that you should have on a project team, although it did have a bit much of an American perspective – if you work for government, you don’t get to hire & fire really. But he had some great ideas about getting the job done.

Jason Santa Maria – Good design ain’t easy

I think this twitter sums up the awesome power of Jason Santa Maria:
Ws wow, for the first time since i was 18 i’m thinking design might be nearly as important as actual content! Go Jason! 04:47 PM February 14, 2008 from txt
His slides were beautiful, as was his idea that design tells a story. I learnt about the golden ratio of 1:1.618, and about the rule of thirds, and just marvelled at the pretty pictures. It made me happy to see Fray up on the screen cos it made me remember the olden days a million years ago of The Vision Project and how we wanted to be them.

And then, there was a fireside chat between Rowan Simpson and Sam Morgan. I liked that Sam admitted to ripping off many other people’s ideas and designs, but I was absolutely furious when he was talking about his micro-credit work, and said that they don’t lend money to men because the men would just drink and gamble it away. Way to move forward with helpful stereotypes! And he was so clearly a National supporter, and that made me bristle.

Then we had Powerpoint Idol, where presenters had to talk on a random assortment of slides, including lots of Lol Cats. Lol Cats were a reoccurring theme, of course. I liked the judging panel, of course.

And even more than the judging panel, I loved the cocktails upstairs, with Wellingtonistas selling crafts, and fun people to talk to. Eventually I went to the Phoenix Foundation with CJ and other assorted Silverstripers, and that was wonderful. We’d taken a Canadian we met (Hi Johnny!) along, and so I was like “here, the Phoenix Foundation is my country’s gift to you in exchange for the Arcade Fire”. It’s good to share. Wellington SO turned it on!

Day Two

Again, it was a rush to get there on time, and again, I opted to pick up coffee first, correctly anticipating huge lines at the Peoples’ cart. I found myself sitting at the back by myself again, but I knew by now that wasn’t a big deal, even if I did briefly have school cafeteria flashbacks over lunch with seating indecisions. But nevermind my ridiculous insecurities! On with the show!

Russell Brown – Creative Deficits & Publishing Realities

As a regular reader of Public Address, a lot of what Russell spoke about wasn’t new to me. He talked about Keith’s fisking of Deborah Codswallop, and other times when the community came together, and also about how it’s a site where commenters actually behave – at least most of the time. The part of his talk that took my interest the most was regarding online advertising, because that’s something we’re starting to give some serious thought to over at The Wellingtonista, because while we don’t want to be sell-outs, we would dearly love to have a proper site design and an entertainment fund. It’s just a question of how fifteen people who all have day jobs can walk the fine line between editorial independence and actually getting some ads on that don’t compromise our values. I need to have more conversations with Miss Biz and also Russell to resolve this.

Other interesting tidbits from Russell’s talk included the fact that 92% of New Zealanders don’t use RSS, and that he wants historical data and trends out of government websites. Another note that I have at the time was “I wonder how many of the audience here now are hearing impaired”, because for all the main speeches, there were wonderful signers standing at the side, signing away, and believe me, some of the speakers would have really made them work hard with the speed at which they spoke. Although of course, perhaps the signers were actually really crap, but I doubt it. One of the speakers did say out loud that he was wondering if he was being editorialised, but I can’t remember who that was. Anyway, I thought that was just another sign of how fucking awesome Webstock was, the way they were making it accessible, and I hope that the signers were videoed so they can be a resource as well.

johubris @verymiao Russell Brown is namedropping u (as Ball) in relation to his Webstock speech about moral panics about “bebo suicide cults”. Random! … … 08:59 AM February 15, 2008 from txt

Simon Willison – OpenID and decentralised social networks

I don’t use an OpenID logon, but I found this talk much more interesting than I expected, to be honest. I thought it would be very technical, but actually, it was a lot more about the ideas of trust, and perceptions of trust and who you feel comfortable giving your password to. This relates very very strongly to the GLS, and if you don’t know what that is, you probably don’t have to worry about issues of government and authentication. I wonder if there is a way to take the good work that people have done on OpenID and run with it. What I loved about Simon’s speech was the way he personified all that he was talking about, so that OpenID was like “Hi Simon!”.
johubris Ws I just refered to Webstock as ‘this festival’ rather than a conference, and that’s so true. So much love! 10:50 AM February 15, 2008 from txt

Then there was morning tea. CJ and I went and had our photos taken in the very sexy Verb.Ltd photo booth, and collected our robots, but apparently the photos of us were too ugly to go online, even though we hit the green button. That’s a shame, cos I thought they were damn cute. Ahh well.

Tom Coates – Designing for a web of data

johubris Ws Tom Coates saying “darter” instead of “dater” and using the word “thrusty” is reinforcing his cute hotness. 10:57 AM February 15, 2008 from txt

Your site is not your product. Your territory is anywhere your network touches. Tom’s presentation was really really lively, good looking (He said at the end he was using Gotham Rounded Bold, for the font geek in all of us) and he talked extensively about twitter, which is something that I get. Hurrah! Plus, he had such a jones for data, it was very endearing.

johubris If i was a dirty bitch, i’d say i wanted Tom Coates to open up MY ‘data source’. And i am dirty. 11:41 AM February 15, 2008 from txt

Luke Wroblewski – Web page heirarchy

What I love love loved about Luke’s talk was his many ‘Before’ and ‘After’ shots of websites that he’d worked on. It so clearly displayed how he’d made changes, and why. Although what I didn’t like about his talk was thinking in my mind about Hubris and the Wellingtonista, and how they could be a lot clearer than they are right now. Oh well!

Amy Hoy – Usability for evil

Amy used Hitler examples! Therefore, she wins! Also, the audience were the winners, because she was fricking hilarious, while still managing to be very informative and on-to-it. Did you know that ads work better if the pretty lady keeps some of her clothes on and is presented to the left? Well now you do! Although I do question whether New Zealanders turn right when they go into shops. I seem to always turn left. Is that to do with the way we drive on our roads?

Anyways, she talked about the five types of evil that can be done, and made me yawn by saying the word “yawn” (and now as I write this, I’m yawning again) and talked about emotional buttons to add things to orders. She was great. I am terribly terribly embarrassed that I only met her the next day, half wrapped in a towel, but I suppose that’s a story for later.

The 8×5 sessions

Mike took his clothes off and I filmed it, but I think other people took better videos. Sam Farrow from NZPA made me furious, as this twitter will demonstrate:
Ws apparently news 2.0 uses Comic Sans and stereotypical crime. DO NOT WANT! 03:01 PM February 15, 2008 from txt .

EDIT: I have explained myself quite badly here. Let me paste in an email I just sent off:

Thanks for your email. I think it was certainly more well thought-out than my hasty twitter deserved in response, but obviously my flippant remarks should be better explained.

On the subject of comic sans, well, I just have an irrational hate for it as a font, especially when there were some presenters who had some truly beautiful fonts. I didn’t get the self deprecation in it, which is no doubt my bad, I was probably far too tired and over-stuffed with ideas at that stage to be a very good judge of sarcasm or irony.

As for the idea of stereotypical crime – I suppose I had this idea that Webstock was this magical shiny happy land, where everyone was working together for the greater good, but your use of a South Auckland crime as an example reminded me of the many frustrations that I feel with mainstream media in general – especially the way that Maori and Pacific Islanders have their ethnicity pointed out when they commit crimes and Pakeha don’t. And yes, I know you didn’t use any ethnic identifiers, so it’s possibly my own biases showing through when I presume that you were talking about them when you refered to South Auckland. I’m going to also put a little of the reason for my hating on Sam Morgan’s throwaway comment from the day before about how they don’t give loans to men because they’ll just drink it away. Whether or not there’s statistical evidence that says more crimes happen in South Auckland or that men drink away loans, I don’t feel like it is particularly helpful to continue to say that, unless you’re specifically talking about ways to deal with those problems. I like the idea that we’re all likely to kill or drink away our money much better than targetting specific groups, so I wish that you had used a different example is all. But again, as a representative of the NZPA, you were copping the flack for all media in general, so look at that, I’m doing exactly the thing that I hate.

I’m really sorry if my post came across as a personal attack, and I’ll fix this up. It really wasn’t meant in that way. It was just some rough ideas tossed out into the wind that I obviously didn’t explain well enough. Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me about this, it’s much appreciated.

Jimmy Hendrix came out to play on a ukelale. I can’t spell. I like the idea of the 8×5 sessions, people covered a really diverse range of subjects. I just kinda wish that more women had volunteered to do them. That aside though, I really appreciated the number of women speakers at Webstock in general, and the number of women in the audience. I thought that was hugely encouraging and awesome.

Then Scott Berkun spoke again, and it was as awesome as his workshop. I enjoyed looking around the room at everyone whose energy had been flagging during the 8X5 because afternoon tea was delayed, and seeing them being woken the fuck up, as one twitterer put it. Fan girl squees all around. And then we got afternoon tea.

Damian Conway – Web 2.odium

I wasn’t a huge fan of Damian’s Powerpoint Idol presentation – I thought it was just too obvious to go for something on sex (yeah I know, right? Me saying that is weeeeeird), but his odium was fantastic. He took the point of view that we were elitists and we wanted to protect the web from the evil Morlocks by making it not accessible or proper (what’s a morlock? I must go look it up) so he gave us a list of 28 or so ways to fuck the web up. He used humour to teach! Just like those teachers that Edna Krabapple beat to Teacher of the Year! Except actually funny. And useful. I think no matter how brilliant everyone at Webstock was, they’re probably guilty of doing at least one of the naughty things on Damian’s list, so it was very useful indeed.

But oh man, it was a long talk, and it was already time for cocktails but we still had one more speaker to get through.

Kathy Sierra – Cognitive Seduction 2.0

There seems to be a bit of a strange cult around Kathy. The first I ever heard of her was when she was getting threats online so didn’t go to a conference, and it was really hard to get those thoughts out of my head when she was talking. Admittedly also, many of my thoughts were on the bar. It had been a loooooooooooooooooong day, and my brain was overflowing with thoughts. I did like that she suggested we should give users a “WTF???” button.

And then, that was that. It was all over! Or at least the talking part was. We were released out into the foyers where waitstaff circled with trays of drinks, and massive pyramids of seafood could be found. I made my way upstairs where it was quieter and easier to get wine, and found myself talking to the Silverstripe boys, CJ and Jonny again. It was fun, we talked and ate snacks and drank and good times were had. Finally around 9pm, the doors into the main hall were opened up again and we found ourselves in a totally transformed space:

So pretty! Thanks Google, I hearby pledge to do all my searching with you in exchange for that glorious dinner. Prizes were awarded, more speechifyings were made, and wine and conversation flowed. I was expecting a buffet-style dinner, but oh no, this was fully plated goodness. Behold my beef fillet on polenta:
yumness

That’s a terrible photo, I know. Did I mention the wine? And the dessert trays with lemon tarts, noughat and something else that was also delicious? I wandered around in between courses and afterwards, talking to people and embarrassing people who gave me stern “I’ll talk to you later!” eyes. I caught up with Brendan and also Mark, who I’d known online in Vision but didn’t realise was the same person when he did his 8×5. And then it was time to go to Vintage Bar for the after-party.

I love Vintage, it’s such a pretty bar. Lots of fun was had. I talked to people I haven’t talked to for a million years, without oddness. I made new friends in the bathroom. I talked to Keith Ng lots. I talked to an assortment of new people, and I’m not sure I could match all of their names to their faces. And then there was a kiss on the stairs, and I found myself going home with one of the key speakers of the conference, except by home I mean to the Museum Hotel. And here again we find evidence of the awesomeness of the Webstock planning people – Russell and everyone else might have complained about the wifi in the hotel, but daaaaaaaaaaamn it was a nice place. The bath was as big as my couch, so big in fact that I had to take a splash. I was brought pasta and wine in the bath. SO FUCKING RAD! Best choice of speakers ever, dear Webstock. People are fantastic. I have mad love for my flatmates at this stage too:

progcunt My flatmate is awol and we,re thinking of calling the police 11:05 AM February 16, 2008 from txt

Around 12pm, I got woken up by a knocking at the door, and figuring it was housekeeping I wrapped a towel around myself and went and opened it, hiding half behind the door because the towel wasn’t that big. Amy Hoy was standing there, and she was like “oooooooooh… have I got the wrong room?” and I laughed and said no, and she was like “well okay, do you guys want to come for lunch? Meet in the foyer at 12.30”. I was like sweet, and passed the message on, but then went back to sleep. It was a mighty comfy bed. I only woke up sometime after 4pm when Kat rang me to make sure I was okay. She wouldn’t have been so worried about me if she hadn’t bumped into Hadyn and Amy, who reminded her of my tendency to jump into the harbour at night. But anyways, I tried and failed to throw up discreetly, and went home to my Kat and my cat, both of whom were pleased to see me.

In conclusion: I LOVE WEBSTOCK! Greatest collection of people ever, superbly put together, so inspiring and invigorating, and just wow. I wish it was 2010 already…

2 responses to “An open letter to the organisers of Webstock”

  1. […] go meet up with her and her friend in his hotel room. The baths at the Duxton are not as good as the baths at the Museum Hotel, I can report but the staff are great at finding super glue for you if your boots are coming apart. […]

    Like

  2. […] launch breakfast at Hippopotamus was so delicious that it has made me determined that the next time I get to stay overnight in the Museum Hotel, I must do whatever is necessary in order to earn breakfast […]

    Like

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