Event: Webstock

Event: Webstock

Design, development, mobile, usability, content, community, open data, innovation & inspiration. People say Webstock will change your life – these people aren’t exaggerating.

Registering bright and early bought me time for coffee, and some good luck getting a seat up near the front of the stage in the Wellington Town Hall.

Mike Brown opened this much anticipated conference saying “Webstock is made with love.” and that we all fall in love with things made with love. Webstock is made with love, and is loved: and it shows.

Scott Thomas (@simplescott) was up first. He was Design Director for the Obama Presidential campaign and walked us through some of the strategies and outcomes. He said they established a consistency and balance to exemplify stability and experience through design. He learned that by letting control go, so much more was possible – a message that would be repeated again and again through out this conference – that it’s about the people, for the people, of the people.

Brian Fling rambled his way through his slot. There was quite a bit of disappointment on the Twitter back-channel about the apparent lack of focus of his talk. Personally, I enjoyed it – I thought he was interesting and spoke well.

Lisa Herrod was up next: she spoke passionately about accessibility and how we need to stop making excuses not to do it. She has worked within the deaf community in the past so has a personal touch-paper to her subject. She urged us to develop more insightful personas for testing our online projects – to include people with more challenges, to include characteristics of all peoples and to ensure access to information for everyone regardless of how they access it.

Lisa was followed by her husband, Lachlan Hardy. His passion is the Open Web. He introduced us to OpenID, MicroFormats, OAuth and Webfinger, giving examples of how they are used, and how they are integrated. He said we need to “Solve small pieces of the problem at a time.” I don’t know much about the open web, sources or movement and found this talk really interesting and enlightening.

You probably don’t know this about me, but I’m a bit of a process nut. Not that you can tell by looking at me or observing my work, but I love listening and learning from the way other people work. I’m not in management in anyway, but of all the processes I enjoy knowing about, managing people is the most interesting. Esther Derby come to Webstock with the 13 essential questions managers need to ask to create a design environment for people to do great work:

  1. How does the work really get done?
  2. What information and tools do people need to do their work?
  3. How can we build feedback into the system so people can easily determine and identify errors and solve their own problems?
  4. How do you know when the work is done?
  5. What is the capacity of the team? “All plans are wishes..”
  6. How long does it take to tell if you’re off track?
  7. What reward systems are employed? “KPI and bonus systems don’t work..”
  8. What message are we sending with our reward system?
  9. What message are our policies and procedures sending? “Do we really trust you to make decisions?”
  10. What happens to people when they bring unwelcome news? “If you say ‘yes’ to everything, your ‘no’ means nothing.”
  11. What is your iterative learning cycle?
  12. What do I know that ain’t so? “Most people work for money? performance reviews increase performance? Rewards can reduce cognitive function.”
  13. What do I know that I forget at work? “Don’t overstuff the pipe – give people room/time to think.”

Shelley Bernstein held a workshop in the days before Webstock. I came *this* close to going and after experiencing her Fostering Personal Connection to Place suffered a good dose of regret. She was _outstanding_. Authentic, passionate, dedicated, charming she let us know her mission at Brooklyn Museum was more about community and user experience than anything else. Shelley and her team at the museum have worked hard to create a space that is accessible and welcoming. She said “It’s easier for me to fly to New Zealand than it is for people [in New York] to visit Brooklyn.” She also mentioned the idea of giving up control – the museum allows photography and digital interaction within the museum. They ask their community and listen to the responses from visitors, from comments, from feedback in person, at the museum and from the web site. They are dedicated to infusing content with life and she said “A personal voice makes a difference.” So they encourage people to use their real names, real Twitter accounts, and to amplify the community’s voice, to develop that community on their terms, not those of the museum and to contribute to the community, not just “be there”. Ms Bernstein was inspiring. Later, when speaking to someone who had been at her workshop, they mentioned that she had been extremely nervous about her talk, and believed she wasn’t a very good or confident public speaker. Shelley, if you ever read this, know this, you held us all in the palm of your hand – you carried us on the journey of your beautiful museum with your authentic and passionate believe in community. You were my outstanding talk of the entire conference – and I doubt I am alone in that feeling.

Jeff Atwood said he was so fascinated with “being in the future..” I guess we in New Zealand and Australia are just used to it but it was fun to hear. He talked about Stack Overflow, collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers.

Please, don’t let it be interactive by Regine DeBatty who was annoyed and fatigued with interactive art that wasn’t meaningful.

We didn’t get to have Ze Frank this year at Webstock, but swear to god, Rives is just as good. This New York beat poet brilliantly finished our first day of speakers at Webstock. He mixed multimedia, word-play and stories to spin smiles and touch hearts all around the Town Hall. Some of his quotes I captured included: “I was 15 for 6 years straight.” “My weird mind wanders and my brave heart breaks.” “Your once and future lover has made himself at home.” and “Touching myself was like TIVO in a way.” Take any opportunity to see this man – you’ll find slices of him on ted.com.