WebStock 2008

As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, last week I headed north to Wellington for WebStock '08, a conference for all things Web. Two days of total, unabashed geek-ery. And in the classiest manner possible I might add: you haven’t been to a conference until you’ve been to WebStock! They know how to impress around here. Let me give you a bit of a glimpse into what I experienced; later, I’ll give you a short rundown of my scrawled notes (pleasantly typed for readability).

Wellington architecture

I flew in Wednesday afternoon and, after settling into my hostel, went in search of the venue so I wouldn’t be wandering around the next morning. The conference began on Monday with workshops for three days, so things had been rolling right along by the time I arrived. The extremely kind women from Clockwork (the events management team who helped run the show) registered me right then and I happily walked away with some great swag (including a t-shirt) and an invite to come back, kick my feet up, and enjoy the free wireless.

I had caught wind of a pre-party over at one of the local bars, so that evening I headed over. Small clumps of people leaned together with drinks in hand, speaking in their native Techie tongue. A couple noticed me casting around to find a geek group to join and came up to introduce themselves. Later on I met a group of friends from Auckland. They were kind enough to let me join with them, and later some of us went out for late night pizza. That was a good time, thank you Darren, Dave, and Daniel (sorry, I didn’t get your card, no link!) for the food and drinks!

Street art

The next morning the “Conference Proper” began. The buzz of excitement was palpable as I entered. Eventually we were all let in to the hall. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, unlike the past two conferences I’ve been to, this was not a lecture hall. No, our planners knew that was boring and didn’t breed conversation. Dozens of white covered tables were placed tightly throughout the room, each with their own power source beneath. There were cheers as we began the day. In true Kiwi style, we were fed morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea. As well, once everything was over for the day, a cocktail party and “general merriment” (how many conferences have you been to with “merriment,” I ask you?).

Cocktails and dinner. This wasn’t some measly, “Here, go mingle and have some munchies while we prepare dinner.” No, this was excellent wine and champagne to go alone with tables piled high (literally) with an assortment of bit-sized seafood, beautifully arrayed. When the doors opened for dinner I stopped momentarily to speak to Lousie who works with Clockwork. We’d joked before about my ever-present hunger and how I was excited hostel and the event both had free food. She warned me I wouldn’t even recognize the room. She was right! The tables and chairs were still there, but the room had changed. Each table, now with a fresh new table cloth along with a runner, had a floral centerpiece, in variance, set in a large glass vase. Ferns and other native bushes had been placed throughout the hall. On the stage a live band was beginning to play some soft jazzy music. The place had been transformed! The dinner was absolutely excellent and the service (as throughout the entire conference) professional and friendly. This was better than many a restaurant I have been to. Maybe that was because everyone was buzzing with post-conference excitement (and a drink or two already), but it felt amazing. I thoroughly applaud the teams that pulled this off!

Wellington harbour

The speakers themselves were great! While I’d love to give a rundown of what they spoke about, I realized part way through transcribing my notes that it is going to take me a little while. I’ll write them up and post them separately. During the after-party I was able to chat with several different speakers. They were pleasantly down-to-earth and friendly. Dan Cederholm was a pleasure to talk with. I’ve always enjoyed his work at SimpleBits. Michael Lopp of Apple was kind enough to buy us both drinks and join our conversation. Earlier I sat with Liz and Jason from Happy Cog Studios and privately checked out some of their latest work with them. They’re involved with a refresh of WordPress’ administration area. Jason is another prominent designer I follow on his blog. I was able to help them a little bit in sorting out their post-conference travel plans in the short time they had to explore this beautiful country.

All in all it was an excellent conference, one that I am very happy I chose to go to. It was a close call though, and I nearly decided not to attend. Thankfully that was not the case. Now I hope to take my new-found knowledge and continued passion for this industry into the next season of time to enhance my work.