Webstock: Day One

At the crossroads of should and must

You know that “should” stuff, right?

  • “I should be going to work for my employer every day.”
  • “I should work out more."
  • “I should be a doctor because that’s what’s expected of me."

Elle Luna kicked Webstock off this morning by inviting us to think less about what we “should” be doing and make room for what we “must” do. She suggested that when we consider our “should”s we might ask a few questions:

  1. Where did this “should” come from? 
  2. Is this thing I “should” being doing really at the core of who I am?
  3. Is this “should” something you want to keep a hold of you?

Elle suggested that we clear out those “should”s and make room for “must”.

What is your “must”? She suggested the best way to find out the answer to this is to ask your mother. Ask her what you were like a child. What was it you did? What made you joyful?

Can you carve some time in your life for this thing? this thing that makes your heart sing? this thing that is at the very core of you? find the space and sow the seeds of must: your drive; your passion.

We started the day with a focus on the dignity of work; the dedication to your life’s work; to your calling.

Sketchnote from Elle Luna's Webstock 2015 session - click to enlarge

Product strategy and customer success

Then Des Traynor came along and talked about small, fast moving teams of software engineers and product innovators are making applications that are changing us. How we once used to go out for a cigarette and how fiddling with our mobile device is our new smoko break. 

Des urged us to look to smooth the transition between applications; build on what’s gone before. Don’t remake the wheel so much as ease it from one path to another. Remove that friction and bring delight to the people using your product. Bring value, don’t bring features because shipping means nothing and usage is everything. You bloat your app and people'll abandon it.

Product Strategy in 7 Minutes


Customer service and the chamber of secrets

Champion of front line call centre staff Matthew Patterson has learned a lot about who holds the knowledge - and it’s those hard working call centre support staff who deal with your product customers. They know what’s not working, they know what’s bugging the bejesus out of users. They’d tell you too if you asked them, if you included them in your communications sitting up there in your fancy-pants designer studio with your amazing vision boards and user experience journeys.

Let them  know what kind of feed back you need and a platform to supply it and you’ll have excellent, relevant, valuable data about your product and your customer up to your wha-zoo before you know it. Don’t let information and knowledge get stuck between the floors of your organisation - create an environment and a means for info to flow between teams and you’ll be better (and maybe even richer) for it.

Notes on trackydacks.com


Writing in the real world

The whole time Kate Kiefer Lee was presenting, I hoped that certain members of my team were listening. She said that while "most people aren't professional writers but most of us write every day."

We write emails and reports, tweets and web copy. We write to communicate and if we're sloppy writers, we can cause confusion. We all nodded at the memory of some badly written email in our past that took ages to decipher or caused huge misunderstandings.

Kate walked us through her process for writing and I was chuffed to see it was exactly my process for writing (everything except blog posts which you get right off my fingertips, so sorry about that) everything from Tweets to emails to NaNoWriMo disasters - and it's pretty simple:

  1. Start with a question or conversation, and then write the answer
  2. Read it out loud - does it sound like you? does it flow? is it helpful and clear?
  3. Get messy - get it written - that first draft is supposed to be shitty
  4. Edit until your piece is clear, useful, and friendly.

I was surprised to realise that Kate worked with Nicole Fenton to write the book I'm currently reading. It was also delightful to see fellow-Content Strategy MeetUp'er and organiser Emma Knight hugging her newly signed copy at Webstock.

All the best people go to that conference, you know.


Designing for context not for device

A simple but vital shift in thinking - think about when people need information, and then get it to them regardless of the device they have in their hand, on their desk, or embedded under their skin (future-proofing this blog post).

Derek Featherstone presented a number of ideas, situations, and solutions to the concept of bringing value to information people need. He talked about what defining context meant; including time, proximity, location, capabilities and demonstrated a number of practical examples.

I really liked his idea of context mapping around an event supported by a website he and his team designed. They coded different situations into the site so, for instance, on the day of the event the schedule was the homepage because people visiting the site would need that, and changed the "Register" button to the email subscription one because registration was closed.

I might be ham-fisting this because his examples were refined and smarter than my memory - that's why I'm sharing the URL of his site below so we can both get better at remembering it's not about the box, it's about what we need right now regardless of context

Sketchotes from Derek Featherstone's Webstock 2015 talk - click to enlarge

Responsive fonts

"I tricked you a bit there," Kris Sowersby started his presentation by admitting "I used the word 'responsive' in there because I know you're into that."

So Kris wasn't here to talk about responsive fonts. Instead he treated us to an incredible, almost understandable (not because of him, because of the material) treatise on the human visual system which even survived Kris's realisation that he'd forgotten to print out all his notes "Hastag Webstock hastag fail."

He distilled his weeks of research into chunks of information that was intensely interesting and [mostly] comprehendible but, as he said "If you don't understand this, you only have yourselves to blame."

This hard metal loving typography designer has genius comic timing. He smashed his slot at Webstock and was an instant success. 

Note for long-time thejamjar.com readers: Kris may just be the New Zealand version of our very own Bart Kowalski.

Sketchnotes from Kris Sowersby's talk at Webstock 2015 - click to enlarge

The magic and mystery of big data

Harper Reed came to the stage dressed for the part wearing a broken television test patterned suit as if he took all his fashion advice from Noel Crombie (who used to make the band Split Enz's fashion). He has the look of a crazed genius and that's probably because he just might be. 

He urged us to not fall prey to the hype of Big Data but focus on the value in the numbers. Crank open Excel and get down to asking good questions and focusing on the answers data can give us. I lost count of how many times he told us to test and test and test again - to be skeptical of the data but at the same time: trust it.

Visual experience as a catalyst for institutional change

Now *that's* a catch title! 

Full disclosure: I'm a Shelley Bernstein fangirl. Her last visit to Webstock charged me with such enthusiasm that I flew to New York (during my SXSW/Austin trip) to visit her Brooklyn Museum to see what they were doing in person.

I ambushed for a frenzied meet and greet today and hugged her hard - which I hardly ever do with anyone. I hope to have more poise and grace and have some conversational topics on board next time because she is such a shining example of a woman in tech and I am truly, such a fan.

Now she's back for a second time at Webstock and I was enraptured with what she had to say all over again. I get really excited when people understand that these skills we've honed and use for web applications are as powerful and useful out there in the real world spaces.

That the world, that the web, has no edges!

Building on Harper's talk about Big Data, Shelley talked of tracking all the information she can from visitors to the Museum, from the census, from anywhere and anyone she can get it from, to be of service to her community in Brooklyn. 

They looked at the physical facade of the museum: what was the visitor's experience of the place before they even entered the building. They softened the edges with grass and communal areas; they remodeled the entrance to be less imposing; they set about doing the same to the no-mans-land of the foyer.

They looking at how people are greeted - a security guard and a human-sheep-run for ticketing, confusing ticketing desk and no where to sit. They tested and questioned and investigated and made decisions based on what they found out to build multi-purpose furniture and bring art to the people waiting to enter the building to look at the art (if you know what I mean).

They're using more and more technology too - still being rockstars with social media and their community, crowd sourcing for curation of projects, and activating programmes where their neighbourhood artist studios open up to the community that saw over 70,000 visitors experience where local artists work. They're using proximity devices inside the museum and working with the iBeacon crowd to improve their products.

My sketchnotes don't convey any of the information Shelley shared with us - I was so engrossed by  her presentation. She does have articles and blog posts and a lot of what they're doing at the Museum is online so go take a look.

Sketchnotes from Shelley Berstein's Webstock 2015 talk - click to enlarge (notes to be completed later)

The manipulable city

Britomart in Auckland happened while I was living in Australia.

When I left to live in Melbourne in 2006, Auckland was felt like a sprawling lifeless place. Shared spaces, good restaurants, outdoor events - well that's why I was going to Melbourne because Auckland sure in shit couldn't come up with much at all.

Nat Chesire read his essay about building Britomart. He read it they way he'd written it: it was raw, it was authentic, straight off his fingertips and it was amazing. He spoke of the vision and the craziness, of the impossible challenge of turning 10 hectares into the heart of a city and he talked of the hard work.

The really hard work.

It read like an odyssey, like an epic poem. It was performed brilliantly - I'm not sure it translates the same when read but the link is below.

I didn't take any notes. I stood when I applauded. Afterwards I heard people say things like "I never wanted to visit Auckland, and now I do." "Even I didn't know how big that project was, I have to explore more." "Auckland has changed so much in such a short time, I am so proud of it."

A very dark matter

Honor Harger can't go throwing up the Rosetta Comet Landing, the Large Hadron Collider, and talk about the power of long term thinking and expect me to have the ability to break her spell long enough to take notes!

To be fair I was kinda ruined for Day One of Webstock from Shelley's talk onwards. I shall complete the sketchotes of this day when the videos are released.

So good. So very good. Day One was amazing. Webstock: Amazing. It couldn't get any better: and then out came Jason Webley.

The pyramid at the bottom of the garbage bin

I can't. I can't even. Jason told a story. He told a story of circumstance and chance and creative response and of Margaret.

I can't do him or the story justice - but will add a link to the video when it's published later in the year and you will understand.


Editor's note

Comment from the end of the day: Today's first Webstock speaker day was wonderful. Some parts of the day were sublime. There was even a standing ovation. This conference is the bee's knees - this is my happiest place.

I started typing this on Thursday 18 February and have completed it on Sunday 22 February. I was too tired over the Webstock days, not so much because of the typing, but because of the stimulating days and the tsunami of information shared so beautifully by the speakers.