I was privileged enough to be able to attend Webstock this year, after a couple of years off the circuit. Webstock is one of the most slickly run conferences in New Zealand, or indeed anywhere in the world. It’s no wonder it’s regarded as a speaker favourite.

I always leave inspired to do good in the world, but this time I feel I’m taking away something a little bit different. My previous attendances were life altering, my first Webstock inspiring me to pursue web as a career alongside illustration. This time is life changing too, but at a different level to my previous experiences.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to articulate it exactly, but I thought I’d write a blog post to record a few more of my ideas down.

While each speaker brings a unique set of experiences and topics to the conference, the points I take away are ones that seemed to pop up through several talks.

Don’t be siloed

This is something that has been talked about a bit. Whether it’s within an organisation or within yourself, you need to take ALL the parts into consideration in order to be able to deliver the best possible thing.

At an organisational level this is communication within teams and areas, sharing expertise and recording it accurately so that repeat work doesn’t happen.

On a personal level this means bringing all of your skills to the table, even the ones that don’t seem to quite fit right now. The mix of things that you like, that you’re good at and that drive you are the things that will make your work unique.

Stories matter. Numbers are hard.

People don’t live like numbers, we like to think we can work like numbers do, but we just can’t. We live like stories, and a story will always win over a number every time. We need to design for people, not for numbers.

Look after yourself

Sometimes things are hard. Creativity isn’t an endless well that can be tapped into forever. Your skills need to be nurtured through structure and balance, and the things that aren’t your ‘thing’ can feed into making you better at your main skill. I shall take this to mean I don’t have to feel guilty about videogames or knitting (as long as I structure in the ‘exercise’ time for my other skills).

It’s about designing for people, not designing for technology

We are losing things between the gaps in devices. We are not providing an experience that suits enough people – or perhaps even any people. We do not think enough about the way people are actually using the tools around them. We think too much about the tools, and not enough about the things they help us to do. Designing for the task rather than the tool will make for a better product.

Everything is broken and it’s our fault.

A lot of how the web and the internet work is broken, and a large reason for this is because we’ve let it happen. The systems that we have built to manage big data are the same systems that the NSA are using to spy on us. 2013 will be seen as the year we stopped being able to hide from the reality of this.

While there has been a lot of outrage that the system’s been abused like this, the truth is that we have built this system in a way that means it can be abused. By carelessly building, by structuring things without designing for possible consequences, we are designing a world that will turn against us, and is turning against us. For some of us, the internet and the web has always been a hostile place, because of the cultural default that it has been designed for.

I think the way we can overcome this is to hear from more voices, it’s to have more people with more experiences involved. It is to get away from the default and explore what happens when you design with more people in mind – and when more people from more backgrounds are doing the designing. The diversity is already here, we collectively need to start placing more value on it. If we don’t, we are doomed to create broken things that will turn against us.


The most important thing I learn, and I learn this every time, is from Webstock itself. There’s so much love involved in making this show happen. There’s love for the speakers, there’s a love for the attendees. There’s love for the creators, and the special agents who keep the week working smoothly. There’s love crafted into every little stitch of detail that there is there, from the swag through to the specially brewed beer. It’s these things that are what make it a special experience. I feel valuable when I am at Webstock, I feel loved. And I leave wanting to make things that are this valuable to other people, this detailed, this aware of them, this special.

Thank you Webstock. It was amazing and I love you. I am looking forward to using my lessons in everything I do this year.


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