Event: Webstock

Event: Webstock

I'm completely surprised I made it to Webstock for Day Two. After a night at Mighty Mighty with new and old friends and rodeo clowns, I didn’t hold out much hope as I drunkenly found sleep in the early hours - but I made it! and so glad I did too.

First up was to finally meet Mike Riversdale. I’ve been dipping into his blog for years now, and I recognised him as soon as I saw him outside the Town Hall. I introduced myself and he shook my hand saying I am the reason he and Llew blog – which is quite a hefty thing to hear on a hungover Friday morning - but it became easier to bear once he explained when, years ago, they were trolling around the internets and they came across thejamjar.com and they said to each other "Hell, we could do that!" and they were right and so it's my fault they saw how easy it was to blog!

With coffee in hand, another good front seat Day Two began.

Eric Ries was the first person of the day to give entrepreneurs tips, ideas and information about start-ups. He started his talk with “I do not want, nor do I require your undivided attention. That is what the internet is for.” He talked about his previous experience with start-ups – and how the one that was done ‘right’ ("Like the Cylons, this company had a plan") failed, and the one that where they did everything wrong, worked. He urged people to be flexible and to reduce time between iterations. To be able to change direction but stay grounded in what is learned along the way.

I attended Daniel Burka’s workshop earlier in the week. He preached the "listen and iterate" and "take chances and release often"; message during his time on the Town Hall stage. He wanted us to make small improvements and to not be afraid to prune content and funtionality to create a lean, realigned design. He also said to build with the expectation of change.

Amy Hoy is a funny woman. Her talk was bound for success as she had incorporated the essential elements of Magnum PI and octopi into her presentation. She wanted us to remember that our work/products could be seen as improving someone's day. We are affecting the quality of the day for people using our software. She also said to get on with it "Lions don't wait for an RFP from a gazelle." and we need to be bold, we need to be majestic.

Everyone up to this point wanted to share information. Mike Davidson did too, but he didn’t want any of us to share it outside the Hall. He asked that we not Twitter or Blog about his presentation. It was about entrepreneurs etc too – and I don’t believe there was anything ground-breaking in his talk, but I will respect his wishes and a) not blog about it and b) assure you you didn't miss much.

Bek Hodgson was late to Webstock – Lachlan took her spot the day before, and she arrived in time to take his today. Her presentation was quite short, which left loads of room for questions from the audience. She pulled from her experience in user participation on such sites as etsy and blurb.

Kevin Rose is an internet rock star. He brought a list of 10 Tips For New Web Entrepreneurs, and I managed to grab 9 of them:

  1. Go build it! another call to arms to just get the hell on with it. Don’t quite your day job, but start passionately building your product in the after and between hours.
  2. Build and release often.
  3. Hire your boss. Hire people who compliment your skill set – who have strengths to your weaknesses and who are smarter than you.
  4. Raise money.
  5. Go cheap.
  6. Connect with your community. He suggested when there is no money, not to pay to attend conferences, but show up at all the free after-parties to meet people.
  7. Hack the press.
  8. Find good advisors.
  9. It's okay if not everyone listens. (not sure if this was No.9 but it's pretty good advice)
  10. Analyse your traffic.

The second speaker from a workshop I’d done earlier in the week: Adam Greenfield got everyone thinking – so much so that hardly anyone left the Hall for afternoon tea but preferred to continue the discussion around networked urbanism and humanisation of technology. This man is insanely intelligent, and has a Mariana Trench of thought. He’s funny too – in that quiet, understated, smart-kinda way. He talked a little of movies such as Minority Report “You know that movie? the one where Tom Cruise plays a heterosexual police officer..” He also reminded us that “It’s not to make data public, it is that the public make the data..” which makes it ours? Technology is bleeding into RL – the city has become searchable.

Then the long <a href=”http://www.webstock.org.nz/10/speakers/veen.php” target=”_blank”>Jeffrey Veen</a> took us on a journey from ice-making to the internet. Telling stories from the past, who succeeded who failed and how this relates to us in the business of now.

I’m so pleased that good conferences end with people who reach into the future and get our thinking juices topped up. Bruce Sterling has done it before at Webstock, and this year we had the pleasure of Mike Pesce and the future as he sees it. While some futurists talk about grand things, Mike thinks about the small ways technology will revolutionise our lives. Our access to information will come from tiny points, but with great depth of data. He says that unless everything is connected, everything is useless. He gave examples that included buying a pound of ground beef in a supermarket and scanning the bar code with our smart-device-of-choice to learn not only what is in the ground beef, but where the animal was farmed, what it was fed on, what anti-biotics it was injected with, where and how it was butchered – information that we use to make our purchasing decisions. He talked about books – how they want to be digitised because they’ve always been a message in code. He was incredibly interesting, and left me (and I’m sure many others) thinking about the future and seeing things in wider perspectives.