‘Stand up if you can name more than one Kardashian.’
‘Now stand up if you know New Zealand’s child poverty rate.’
Essentially: we are what we eat and ignorance can actually be caused by consumption of media (i.e. not just lack of information but by wrong information). The more junky tabloid media we consume on the web, the more junky and tabloid the web becomes. We are shaping it through our actions, and we need to shape it - and ourselves - for the better. Linking to sources to allow people to make up their own minds, and using good data to allow the creation of more honest media, were a few of his suggestions.
His call to become ‘a producer rather than a consumer’ and to start each day by writing 500 words hit a note with me, and inspired me to write this, my first ever blog post.
I found the whole of Webstock thoroughly enjoyable this year, both the conference and the fantastic workshop I went to by Chris Coyier. The speakers were a great bunch and even the speaking order felt just right.
As a tech-head who is equal parts designer/coder (otherwise known as a ‘unicorn’ according to Kitt Hodsen) I genuinely found inspiration and something worthwhile to take away from every single presentation. Here are the three that I found had the most immediately applicable ideas:
Chris Coyier introduced me to SASS, Compass, CodeKit and Emmet, and showed us smart ways to use CSS variables, nested tags, breakpointed media-queries, includes, mixins and box-sizing:border-box as well as loads of other great stuff. He somehow managed to cram loads in while giving each concept enough time and examples to really sink in. All the while being really entertaining and likeable along the way.
Karen McGrane talked about COPE (create once, publish everywhere) and used some great examples of what large media companies have done. My favourite was the US TV Guide who decided well before the technology changed that, despite the fact they were still publishing printed guides, they needed to start creating three versions of everything: short, medium and full format - now of course implemented on everything from Sky guides to websites and mobile apps. She also hit on a really simple but important point – we need to stop thinking in terms of our ‘primary platform’ – it’s just as flawed whether you are thinking first of ‘print’ or ‘website’. The content is first. The platforms are ever-changing.
Mike Monteiro delivered an in-your-face wake-up call to web designers that featured a fair amount of swearing and a strong focus on responsibility. Responsibility to be of service to the world we live in and to make things that have a real and positive impact on people’s lives (as opposed to another iPad dock). Responsibility to the craft of design – to write, speak and teach, to share failures and successes for those who come after us. Responsibility to clients – to choose the right ones, to be a gatekeeper, not an order-taker, and to do good design, not just keep clients happy. And responsibility to ourselves – ‘Your portfolio is another name for your reputation.’ He definitely had the best one liners of the day: ‘Not only can designer’s change the world, they ****ing need to’ and ‘Don’t trust a designer who hasn’t been punched in his mouth.’
It seems to me lately that the internet is at an interesting crossroads, with tension between the open environment of the personal computer and the locked environment of new tethered appliances and their proprietary gatekeepers, between what Jonathan Zittrain calls ‘generative’: the freedom to adapt and interact with an operating system, and the security of a virus/malware-free environment, between open source and copyright protection, between the potential and the threat of the cloud.
I was hoping for these concepts to be addressed at Webstock and they were. I’d recommend that everyone who uses the web watch the presentations by these three Webstockers as soon as they go live:
I love that Webstock had such a conscious message this year. I think Clay Johnson put it in context by ending his presentation with a fitting acknowledgement:
‘Who do we want to look back on as the leading thinkers of this era? The Mark Zuckerbergs? Or my mate Aaron? ‘
I know my answer.
Thanks Mike, Deb, Natasha, Ben and everyone in the Webstock team for putting in all the hard work every year.