Webstock 2010 – Thursday

Its ALL ON – first conference day is a mad rush to grab tables, expresso, ice cream and get to the right room for the split periods. Your head spins all day and by midday feels like its actually swelling to process all the ideas and possibilities. Because Webstock is a conference about possibilities. Sure there are practical ideas, tips and techniques you can take home and use tomorrow. And that’s great. But what keeps me hyped about my work for six months afterwards, and six months before, is the promise of better tomorrows, whether it’s pot-plants that tweet you when they need watering (check the connected tree) or entirely new ways of imagining data.

The first speaker was Barack Obama’s lead web designer Scott Thomas @simplescott. This was a very interesting session and really very different from most of the others. It was fascinating to hear about the various brands that they created and how they used them in different ways to alter people’s perceptions of the candidate and to get them involved in the campaign. Consistency of design was an important feature, and he also said that designing becomes real easy when you do the research. Actually doing research was a repeating theme at webstock this year and one I’m really keen to follow up on, as was simplification.

Lachlan Hardy’s session was a stand out. He was talking about big concepts of the open web and as he pointed out philosophy is hard so I’m not going to go into it much here. The gist was that more and more technologies are becoming inter-connected allowing us to take our various profiles and freely share them between different services. In order to do this we need to be designing with openness in mind, using open formats and technologies. Several other speakers came back to this, notably Jeffrey Veen on Friday.

Party at the museumShelley Bernstein from the Brooklyn Museum discussed how they had used the web to connect with their community and more importantly allowed their community to connect with them. Its always interesting to hear from similar cultural institutions such as museums, archives and art galleries. There was so much gold in this talk that it will be worth re-watching once the video is posted but for now here are some points I wrote down:

  • give up control: let people take photos of the art and have a pool on Flickr – allowed them to see how people interact with the pieces, created a game around tagging and allowed the community to moderate the 3% of anonymous taggers from which most problem tags came,
  • ask & listen,
  • infuse content with life: the personal voice makes a difference – tweeters & bloggers were able to take their audience with them on their journeys,
  • adapt and learn,
  • contribute to the communities that you are in – don’t just be present.

Jeff Atwood talked mostly about stackoverflow, a collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers. Its quite a unique community and they have some really interesting ways of engaging that community. Users gain reputation by having their comments voted up and reputation gets you more  control, so users with the highest reputation can delete posts etc: ‘revolutionary trust’.

The last session was with spoken word artist / poet Rives – which I will sum up as “weird things happen on the web”. Check out his website shopliftwindchimes.com to find out more.

Want to get a taste of Webstock? See the past conference sessions (workshops are not recorded).

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