After each Webstock I return with the idea that I should be doing something better; starting of course with writing up my experiences there. It doesn’t happen (with my passive phrasing right there pretty much symptomatic).
This year I won a free ticket, which was very nice indeed. I resolved that because of this I should really really make the effort this year to write it up. Unfortunately good intentions didn’t really result in an epic write-up for each talk. I got partway through this and gave up.
First up was Scott Berkun. I had not heard of him before. He’s spent a year working for famous blog software company Wordpress, and was asking the question: what value does Management have when all the creative challenges belong to the workers?
Good question, if you are in a narrow range of jobs for which that applies. The answer sounded like: workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your trousers!
You see, I get a feeling of dissonance about the whole pants-free thing. I don’t know about you, but when I think of pants I think of trousers and underpants. So pants-free working therefore implies some pretty horrific mental imagery when thinking about others taking up the practice, as well as a frisson of danger when applied to oneself (after all, laptops can get quite hot).
And sadly (as in, I am a very sad person) I haven’t quite yet put down my pitchfork after that time in 2005 when Matt Mullenweg stuffed the Wordpress site full of spam links for money. So I had a slightly unfair and cynical take on his talk. I started writing some random phrases down and they came out like a haiku:
For privileged screen jockeys
Then blog ping chat skype
Well, I thought, that worked out quite good. I might do that again!
I should have heard of Josh Clark. I would have had I done any due diligence on the speakers. My bad: I’ve been busy. He seemed like a really nice chap though.
His issue was that our gadgets just don’t work together too well. Which is true; but the film of cynicism on my glasses had carried over from the last speaker and I couldn’t help feeling like this was a classic First World Problem.
It brings us sadness
Our gadgets don’t kōrero.
Bodge up with more tech!
A First World Problem that of course, people will make billions of dollars from.
Aha! A speaker I had heard of - I knew that she is part of the same design firm as last year’s quite good speaker (but not really the star of the after-party) Mike Monteiro. Her talk was pretty cool: we have lots of data; we think it explains everything… but it doesn’t.
Meaning is tricky.
Stories have power. Data
I was struck with the thought that we seem to have replaced our reliance on reductionist approaches to explaining the world with the opposite: a big-data statistical prediction of it. Neither tell human stories.
This chap came from MailChimp, which seems like another nice internet company. Carrying echoes of the other speakers he spoke of “designing for emotion”, and turning data into information into knowledge into wisdom. All good stuff.
Stories for business
Connect those points, cross those streams
Work your interns hard
Yeah, he lost me right when he mentioned his fantastic intern looking at 10,000 customer emails in a week, a performance that Got Him That Job! I wondered if he was a paid intern. I hoped so. And I hoped like hell that that unpaid intern cultural thing does not make it to New Zealand.
Designing with Details At my current place of work we’re building an app, so I was pretty interested in what Dan had to say.
Little things matter
Imbue feeling, quality
Humanise your work
This was the most conventionally useful talk for me. I’m now waiting for his book to arrive.
Shopping is awesome
The revolution will be
Live on Kickstarter
I was not a fan of this talk at all - but others seemed to get more out of it.
Nelly Ben Hayoun
Crafting the impossible
Ben Hayoun was an incredibly charming French person who seems to have blagged her way into the most amazing jobs. Once again, it’s clear that talent gets you part way there; but self-confidence and risk-taking will take you to the end.
Hammer ooh la la
I have this feeling that she’d make the most amazing star of a documentary. But given that she had instructed that no recording be made of her talk I am guessing that it probably won’t happen.
Stick around and fix it - there’s no video of this one either.
Made Art a habit.
Business blew up. Held through with
Doge and the Right Thing.
Persist and fix your mistakes. This was an interesting contrast to a later talk about the value of quitting.
Mindfully read it.
I really liked this talk despite the apparently frothy title. Now, when stuck in the doctor’s waiting room, you can parse that stack of Women’s Weeklys in front of you. It’s OK.
Peterson has been popping up everywhere lately, even at my favourite magazine, The Baffler. This is great.
“…fleas of deception…”
“…you were never just yourself…”
“…culture is about you…”
In public spaces
People will be creative
Let them have a crack
Keep Portland weird, by
Staying independent. It’s
Easy when famous.
Yeah, yeah. We can all be sustainably living indie techno-hipsters. But it helps if you’ve been struck by the lightning of techno-fame already, I thought.
Civil Servants attending
A very genial chap whose talk was eagerly attended by the many government web people in the audience.
When the artists own
Their means of production then
A scene will explode
Later that evening he put on a pretty storming set as DJ. And you should really check out his version of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control.
Your project can change
Flexibility trumps plans
It’s ok to quit
I was looking forward to this - I had heard of her before in a number of connections; most recently as a friend and collaborator of my favourite comic book duo, Gillen & McKelvie.
Yes, you keep making
Care for your abilities
This is going on
Your permanent record. You
Did this to yourself.
I think of this talk as We’re all going to die (pt. I).
Ceglowski is a wonderful writer. You should check out his blog right now.
Sha Hwang attended Webstock last year; this year he spoke at it! One Of Us.
Ask: are you building
Infrastructures for new crimes?
This is the System.
And this talk is We’re all going to die (pt. II).
This and the previous talk were my two favourites and reflected the slightly more down zeitgeist of Webstock lately. We have designed a monster, maybe by accident, but perhaps we can fix it.
A voice of wisdom.
Taking the long perspective:
Leads to weird usage. Then you
Use to talk to you.
In a clown costume.
It’s as good as anyone’s,
This life’s meaning.
I didn’t really get this one.
So that was Webstock 2014. There’s always too much to think about at these events - which is no bad thing - but it does mean that a summary will never do it justice.
If there was one thing which this and recently past Webstocks have hammered home is that we have to be a bit more conscious of our actions as technologists. We’ve built great things, but also some very anti-human things too.