On Thursday and Friday of last week I attended my second Webstock web conference. Basically it involves someone new bombarding you with ideas and examples and insights every forty minutes. Despite having had a weekend to recover and reflect, I’m still trying to sift though it all. The next step is to figure out how to actually use some of the ideas and inspiration on Te Ara.
It’s obviously impossible to encompass the whole thing in a short blog post, but I’ll share some of my impressions and highlights, and hope you’ll do the same by leaving a comment.
One thing I liked about Webstock 2010 was that several speakers made time for questions. Last time, despite a lot of discussion about the importance of interaction on the web, there was very little interaction with the speakers. I also liked speakers who had something to say (most of them), and didn’t like the ones (fortunately few) who didn’t have anything to say or who didn’t really manage to say it.
The main theme of the second day seemed to be internet startups (new entreprenuerial companies). While I don’t see starting a startup in my future, there were still lessons we could learn from the experiences of the entrepreneurs who have been there, such as Eric Ries, Mike Davidson and Kevin Rose – like the advantages of taking an iterative approach and the importance of looking at how your users use your site. It did seem a pity though that all those speakers (and in fact a vast majority of the speakers overall) were from the US, which surely is a very different environment for startups than here. My co-attendees and I agreed it would have been nice to have had a New Zealand perspective.
My three favourite speakers were on day one, and I’ve realised that there is some commonality about them, even though they all work in different areas: they passionately believe in what they’re doing and they’ve made it personal.
The first was designer Scott Thomas, who kicked off the conference. He talked about being the web designer for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. He showed how they used design to change the way people perceived this junior senator – so the public could start to imagine him as president. Clearly they were very successful.
I had been lucky enough to see Shelley Bernstein speak last year about her social media work for the Brooklyn Museum. She’s passionate about audience engagement, and had lots of great examples of how the Brooklyn Museum has been using technology to connect with people. After her session I got all excited about the idea of running a Te Ara video competition (based on this one), where our users could contribute short films they’ve made about something somehow relevant. In the sober light of day, I’m still considering the merits of this.
Despite being a poet myself, I have to confess that I was a bit dubious about Rives, the final speaker of day one, who was described as a poet and pop-up-book designer. I needn’t have worried – he was awesome. He did perform some poetry, but mainly showed us digital stuff he’d made – videos, photos and other kinds of multimedia. While Shelley Bernstein made me want to make you make videos, Rives made me want to go out and make more videos of my own – especially ones with poetry.
I can’t remember who said this first, but someone earlier in the day said ‘People love things made with love’, and things made with love were certainly the things that got me excited.