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Reflecting on Webstock 2010

Highlights from the Intergen User Experience Design team

So there we have it, Webstock has been and gone for another year. Yet again my mind is reeling from an attempt to digest the two days of inspiration, opinion, speculation and ‘the next big thing’…


Mike, Tash and co always have a tough act to follow to recreate this event each year and have yet again raised the bar and exceeded expectations. A quick scan of the ‘Twittersphere’ reveals that they have indeed succeeded in inspiring and motivating the web community to go out and make a difference.

Once again, Mike Brown opened Webstock by setting the theme for day one of the conference proper: ‘We love working with the web, and that we fall in love with things made from love.’ He also made humorous mention of the “Webstock effect”.

Aside from Mike’s opening, a highlight for me on day one was the first speaker, Scott Thomas, the design director for the Obama presidential campaign. He walked us through an excellent case study on what design and branding means to politics. Scott explained how necessary it was to unify the design of the print and web media – i.e. consistency = loyalty. A consistency and balance needed to be established in the brand messages, which had to be clear and concise. What was also of interest was their approach to community, persuasion architecture and the simplification to the Obama registration process by eliminating perceived barriers to entry and keeping it ‘human.’

I missed a few sessions on the first day but it was well worth it as I escorted Jeff Veen back to the Intergen offices for a ‘sold out’ session with the wider Intergen team. Jeff shared valuable insights from his past and current experiences spanning from his work at Adaptive Path through to his more recent role at Typekit as CEO. We were fortunate enough to obtain a preview of his Friday presentation where he talked about the past, present and future, the benefits of fast iterations over the quality of iterations and how not to sell ice…

In the vein of his friend Ze Frank from last year’s conference, Rives concluded day one and provided the entertainment factor for the day in the form of Web 2.0 poetry, some rather random (but amusing!) anecdotes and a continuation of the ‘we love what is made from love’ theme. 

Day two roared into action and switched gears onto the topic of entrepreneurship and start-up mode – with a sprinkling of Augmented Reality (AR) thrown in for good measure. Eric Ries, Mike Davidson and Kevin Rose were all singing from the same song book and shared their knowledge and experience in creating a successful start-up and how to avoid pitfalls and failures.

Kevin Rose’s “10 Tips for Entrepreneurs” were:
1. Go build it
2. Build and release
3. Hire your boss
4. Raising money
5. Go cheap
6. Connect with your community
7. Hack the press
8. Advisors
9. Leverage your user base
10. Analyse your traffic.

Adam Greenfield and Mark Pesce both presented sessions touching on ubiquitous computing, networked computing and the semantic web. Greenfield reminded us that we have no real privacy in public, large cities are becoming “human Petri dishes” and our need to humanise IT. Pesce talked about how the web has revolutionised the world (in very big words…!) and that the future is in our hands, concluding the Webstock experience.

A few highlights only for sure from the stellar line-up of conference speakers. Be sure to check out the Webstock site when videos of all the presentations are officially released to the masses.

And here are some thoughts from the team…

Joanne Gailitis, Interactive Designer

As a newbie to Webstock, it really was a great experience to see such a great showcase of tech talent brought to little old NZ all under the same roof. Having not participated (or heard of!) Webstock before, it was good to see a sense of community among all participants and speakers from all areas of the web as a whole.

A speaker that really stood out for me was Scott Thomas, who was the lead web designer on President Obama’s electoral campaign. Scott demonstrated the procedures they went through to develop the online platform from being purely just Senator Obama to possibly-the-next-President Obama. I found this particularly interesting as he touched upon the importance of valuable content and how small changes in design and development can truly bring different impressions and outcomes. As someone who generally deals with user experience design, I could identify with what steps Scott’s team went through.

The sponsor stands were a great idea as it allowed all participants mingle, and participate in Intergen’s Great Kiwi Yoyo challenge. Also having the option of attending one of the multiple breakout sessions were great for those perhaps not so technically minded!

As a whole, I found the Webstock 2010 experience a great one, and I would love to attend it again! Showcasing so much talent from all over the world only inspires New Zealander’s to continue to bring their own unique talent into the market place and strive to compete with their more globally located peers.

Raymond Shaw, Front-end Designer

Webstock 2010 was quite the enlightening experience for me... While seemingly more focused in parts on the concept of the start-up, the more technically-oriented talks were incredibly informative and gave me a good jolt of enthusiasm for adoption of upcoming and cutting edge technologies.

Thomas Fuchs gave a very compelling presentation of future-technologies, such as HTML5, SVG and in-browser 3D canvases and various other upcoming technologies to replace Flash, while making quite a strong counterpoint of the fact that contemporary browsers are only just starting to adopt them.

Adam Greenfield presented quite a high-level discussion about today’s Networked Urbanism – how evolving technologies wired into our physical world (such as CCTV, RFID, facial recognition and so on) are changing the way humanity functions.

The highlight, I felt, of the whole event were the last two speakers – Jeff Veen gave a fantastic retrospective on the evolution of our digital world, and drew many tangible links between the progresses made so far, and the progressions we are making now, and will continue to make. Mark Pesce took the “technological evolution” concept a step further, discussing our inevitable adoption of Augmented Reality – using technology to fine tune our interactions with EVERYTHING we experience – from ideal dietary considerations to navigating physical space (much in the same way we do now)...

All in all, the event was an enjoyable and informative experience. I came away from it eager to continue adoption of new and progressive practices (obviously with well-grounded and well-established graceful degradations in place), and an urge to make as much progress as possible towards “something significant” in the technology/business/human world.

See you all next year!

Intergen Recharge Bach 

Posted by: Mark Delaney | 26 February 2010

Tags: Webstock, ONYAs, UX

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