Blog » Lessons from Webstock
I don't usually go to conferences. Webstock 2012 was not only my first Webstock, but the first conference I've paid to attend.
It was great.
Above all else, Webstock does a brilliant job of inspiring you to do great work. The event itself is run to a super-high standard which infects and inspires both the speakers and the attendees. It sets the stage for brilliance. The execution of the basics is world class on every level. The web site, the communication with attendees, the programme, the ID tags, the goodie bag, the venue, the graphics to introduce the speakers, the guest speakers, and of course the all-important after party. Every detail was thought through and highly polished and it motivated everyone to step up.
I tend to avoid conferences because they don't feel like valuable work. By their very nature they pull you away from your desk (and in my case, my home city) and away from your focus. They distract you, and some people might say they even risk becoming a back-slapping exercise to remind ourselves we're all masters of the universe. But Webstock has taught me they have their place and I'll most certainly be back in 2013. It was truly refreshing to be sat at a table full of web geeks I'd never met, who cared about the things I cared about and really spoke a language I understood. I felt part of a club. It was a great energy and it was refreshing.
I read somewhere once (or perhaps I even heard it from one of the speakers) that you forget what people say and what people do, but you never forget the way people make you feel. The same is true of Webstock. To be honest I didn't walk away with pages and pages of notes or practical tips to rush and apply to my own projects (although I did pick up some). But that wasn't really the point. I came away feeling great and I met some fantastic people. Already I am busy making evil plans with people I met and hope that it's the beginning of some new and rewarding working relationships. That's what it's been about for me.
Which brings me to my final point. Webstock proves without a doubt that New Zealand is full of talented designers and developers with the motivation to do world-class work. But I'm truly surprised by how few actually use their skills to work on their own projects. I met lots of people with jobs and looking for jobs, but very few working on their own thing and loving it. And I think that's a shame. The guys at 37signals have banged on for a long time about how you don't need to quit your job or raise VC money to start your own thing, and how working for a couple of hours each night or in the weekend is sufficient to get something off the ground. Working on your own stuff doesn't mean throwing in your job and doesn't mean taking stupid risks. Matt Haughey taught a similar lesson at Webstock where he revealed he worked for years and years on MetaFilter and was happy if he made enough to cover the hosting bill. Building something and unleashing it on the world is a fantastic experience in itself, and you don't need anyone's permission to do it.
A big thanks to Tash and Mike for dreaming up and working hard on such an amazing event. I know they're proud of what they've created, and they should be. See you in 2013!