Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I was a Webstock virgin

Until Thursday, anyway. Despite the amazing Webstock conference running in my home town of Wellington for several years now, I still hadn’t made it along to one. My loss.

How to describe Webstock 2011? Compared to commercial conferences, it was head and shoulders better than any I had been to, ever. Compared to unconferences and enthusiasts’ meetings, it was way more professional and focussed. But the best description of it was one word – the adjective on the conference pencil (I kid you not) – Awesome!The speakers were at the top of their game. Scott McCloud, the graphic novelist. David McCandless of Information is Beautiful. Peter Sunde of The Pirate Bay. Singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer. Many, many more. The production values of their presentations were immense. Their competence and sheer brilliance was overwhelming. People kept thanking them for coming down to New Zealand and they said: no, this *is* the premier conference – thanks for inviting us. That’s impressive for a meeting organised from scratch by a few passionate and committed people.

The attendees were smart people from all over New Zealand. Mostly Web folk with some entrepreneurs, security geeks and a few scientists. The conversations over coffee were fascinating.

It’s all still a bit of a whirl. Some impressions:

  • The encouragement to get on and do something with the Web, with a lot of concrete advice on how to. Several speakers focussed on this.
  • Talks from success stories, and from someone (Merlin Mann) who spent a long time confronting the fear of failure.
  • Tom Coates trying to unpack what it all means, how the Web is changing our society and creating our future.
  • The conference was in no way associated with Apple, but almost everyone present had a MacBook Pro or an iPad open on their laps. All the speakers had them. Apple has huge mindshare of people who care about technology.
  • We were told that at one point there were 657 devices connected to the conference wi-fi. That’s way more devices than people present. Most people had two or three. Despite this, the wi-fi held up pretty well.

I’m left with a huge amount of material to read. I stopped taking notes after a while and decided to rely on the crowdsourced notes taken by others in the meetings and loaded directly and collaboratively into Google Docs. You can find them here.

I need to thank the organisers for doing such a stunning job, for bringing such cool people together, and most of all just for creating such a thing of beauty.

posted by colin at 3:59 pm  


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Brown, Colin Jackson. Colin Jackson said: I was a Webstock Virgin – blog post: […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention ยป I was a Webstock virgin -- — 19 February 2011 @ 4:42 pm

  2. I have much pure envy.

    First thing I.m doing once I get a new job is securing the grand needed for a ticket to next year’s.

    Comment by Michael Birks — 19 February 2011 @ 5:56 pm

  3. Can’t believe it was your first :-)

    Thanks for the reference to our Google Docs site – man alive it was so awesome to see it in action. Glad it was as useful to you as it was to me.

    Comment by Mike Riversdale — 20 February 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  4. i was definitely NOT overwhelmed by webstock. It seemed very navel gazing to me.. preaching to the converted.. I expected more future focussed views from the presenters.. more of what they think the next year will bring. Coffee queues were appalling, the stampede for food was depressing. The presenters were, IMHO, C-listers. the highlight for me was Peter Sunde. Attendees seemed to form cliques and stay in their own groups. To network I would have had to push my way forward. Overall the odd point of insight but un memorable. Sheldon would have left early!

    Comment by Brett — 23 February 2011 @ 8:06 am

  5. Colin, Sounds like a pretty great conference. I may be able to get down there some day. I have some old friends in Oz I’ve been meaning to visit and this sounds seems like a good excuse.

    @Brett: Thanks for your insights. Interesting to hear a less glowing review of the conference.

    Comment by Sean — 7 April 2011 @ 2:48 pm

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