Webstock 2011

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I’ve been kicking back in Wellington New Zealand this past week. Why? Webstock, a web design and development conference. Instead of writing the obligatory summary of the week in a boring, chronological manner, I’m doing it as an infographic, or an infotextual. The whole article will be its own kind of ‘scale’ where each paragraph will describe something less rad than the one before it. Basically, a scale of radness. McCandless eat your heart out.

The Y-axis (up/down) will be the axis of scale, but you should know, it goes from 1st paragraph = awesome!!, to 2nd-last paragraph = pretty good. Truly. The conference was that good. The last paragraph was pretty much the only thing that was crap.

Ready? Here we go…

Josh Clark’s workshop

Josh Clark’s workshop on design for touch interfaces was fantastic; right up my alley. A perfect mix of design theory and concepts for touch, and technical limitations/considerations. Barely any code stuff, which suited me perfectly. Super cool guy (although not a ‘hot rod/greaser’ guy, which from his photo on the webstock website and the bowler style shirt worn on the day, I was convinced he was. Not that it matters — I’m not a hot rod guy myself — just a little disappointed in my judge of character. Maybe I should lay off the judging character stuff?) and knows how to handle a situation which almost involved a fight between a design guy, and some enthusiastic workshoppers. Nerd fight!!

Anyway, Champion guy, and really knows his shit. I wouldn’t go gay for the guy (a question I was actually asked and did consider for a few seconds) but he has inspired to create an iPhone app just for the hell of it. Also, I wrote four pages of notes; the next closest notage to this was two sentences. Says something I think.

David McCandless’ talk

David McCandless’ talk on information design was superb. I’d seen much of it before on TED, but it was still as entertaining as it was informative. I can’t imagine anyone in the audience (designers, developers, marketing, managers, etc) disliking this talk at all. Pretty rad.

Doug Bowman’s talk

Doug Bowman’s talk on delivering delight was, um, a delight. He basically talked about raising the bar from satisfying your customers to delighting them. Small details can make a huge difference in their experience, which translates into a more emotional connection. Inspiring talk.

Frank Chimero’s talk

Frank Chimero‘s talk (the first of the conference) titled The Digital Campfire was a great way to begin Webstock. An earnest and thought-provoking look into the way we treat “content” as a cold, inhuman slab of, well, content. The basic gist: humanise it and make it warm. Beautiful slides too (helps to be an illustrator). “Don’t forget the story” were the only notes I took, but it summarises the talk well for me.

The mention of the Withings scale + Weightbot in Tom Coates’ talk

In his talk Everything the Network Touches, Tom Coates talked about the Withings Scale and Weightbot. You may remember this combination from my recent blog post about the same exact thing. I’m taking this as proof that I’m doing something cool, and I’m on the forefront of the nerdy digital age of evolution.

David McCandless’ workshop

David McCandless’ workshop on how to make information beautiful was insightful. Maybe a little less insightful than I had hoped, but that was not David’s fault. I think as a designer I grasped and understood the process of creating interesting and engaging information design pretty quickly, and the workshop focused on this aspect. Great for the less creative people I think, but still good for me.

Peter Sunde’s talk

Peter Sunde’s talk The Pirate Bay of Penzance was entertaining but a bit short. Not Peter’s or Webstock’s fault — just a really interesting topic that I’m sure everyone in the audience could’ve listened to for hours more. Anecdotes on the beginnings of The Pirate Bay, the founders’ beliefs, and their amusing dealings with the authorities. And Flattr.

Kristina Halvorson’s talk

Kristina Halvorson’s talk on content and communication (and Christine Perfucci’s talk on adventurous usabilty techniques to a lesser extent) was pretty insightful. Nothing too new learned, but things I’ve been reading about over the last 12 months and before were validated. Nice voice, and animated, fun talk.

The rest of the talks

Most of the talks were great actually, if not for new information, but the affirmation of stuff I’d been reading for the last couple of years. Other Webtockers, who’d been to nerd conferences such as SXSW and Web Directions, unanimously agreed that the quality of the talks at Webstock were as good or better than the ‘keynote’ talks of the other conferences. Choice!

Free Ice cream

I’d expected this to be much higher in my info-textual article, but my expectations coming in were pretty fucking high. I was expecting a person ‘live-scooping’ from a bar containing at least 20 adventurous flavours, but instead we had a self-serve (awesome in itself) freezer with four (delicious) flavours in pre-prepared tubs. In order of tastiness (a ‘meta-infotextual’, if you will): plum fraiche, vanilla bean, double cream and cookies, chocolate. Ice cream situation was not as awesome as I had hoped, but still pretty good.

The nerdiest thing I’ve ever done

Webstock had several games running during the conference, one of which was the Webstock Card Game. In my small pack of four cards, I had (what appeared to be) a rare John Gruber card. Because I’m lazy I didn’t bother to play the game, I made up my own: Hunt the Gruber. I had the extremely childish idea of having my card signed by the man himself. I don’t know why, other than I’d probably never get the chance to do it again. I read Daring Fireball almost every day and Gruber is really the first serious ‘blogger’ that I ever started reading. A smart guy, and a good writer. I have a cymbal signed by Danny Carey which hangs on the wall at home (took a bit of wife-convincing though). I don’t think Kelly will let the card go up (sorry John).

The only bad thing

The only bad thing about Webstock (which isn’t really about Webstock) was no free wifi at the hostel I stayed at. This is crap given I was there for a nerd conference. However, there was free wifi on the waterfront (60 seconds walk from the hostel) right in front of Mac’s Brewbar. So really, this wasn’t that bad.


Wellington is a beautiful and very Melbourne-like city. I felt at home completely in and out of the conference, and so did the speakers apparently. Webstock was fun and informative, and I had a great time. I even have the ONYAs to look forward to!

  • Michelle
    Michelle Michelle

    I am so glad you were able to come to Webstock – even happier you had a good time. You made my Webstock all the awewome’r for making the trip from KL. THANK YOU!!