Next February in Wellington (home to the Xero HQ), some of the best and brightest digital writers and thinkers from all over the world will gather to celebrate good design, champion web standards and  have fun.

Webstock is a true kiwi success story. Organisers Ben and Natasha Lampard, Mike Brown and Debbie Sidelinger have created something from nothing. They haven’t ripped off an overseas format or tried to emulate something that’s been done before. They’ve created something new, with its own identity, which now attracts lots of people from offshore. A tremendous achievement for the Wellington-based digerati who got it started by giving a couple of their heroes a few cheeky phone calls.

But it’s not just a web conference. Past events have touched on print media and journalism, television, film, distribution, logistics, central and local government, hardware, retail, libraries and information management, politics and law, games and game theory, organisational psychology, economics, product design, visual design, management theory, occupational therapy, architecture and even horticulture.  Horticulture?  Yes. In this modern-day web of things, even a a pot plant can have a Twitter account.

How can something so scattershot be of value, you may ask? If Steve Jobs is right, and creativity is just connecting things, Webstock provides an environment where those connections can spontaneously happen, where people can meet and talk and share ideas from many different disciplines. Instead of a hundred bankers talking past each other about the latest innovations in banking, you have a couple of bankers talking with journalists interviewing public servants arguing with artists collaborating with architects brainstorming with hackers: the sort of stuff that drives real innovation.The glue that brings these disparate disciplines together is the web and the wider internet, the potentiality of devices and communication protocols and networks that can be combined and recombined to create new businesses; and to decimate old ones. Last year Meg Pickard from The Guardian spoke about how her newspaper is bucking the trend and transforming into an online content community, while Adrian Holovaty of Everyblock described his vision of a world where every neighbourhood has a newsfeed generated from media, crime stats, local government and more. And he’s already done it for key cities across the US, open-sourced his source code and invited anyone to use his code to do the same for their own city.

Webstock doesn’t have a particular product to push. Unlike a lot of industry conferences, the tools are not the point. You’ll see people from Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Google and Yahoo!, along with free software and open source advocates. They might argue and throw their tools at each other but they all have the same goal in mind: leveraging the power of the internet for the betterment of everyone; creating businesses that are smarter, more efficient and more fun than businesses that have gone before.

At next year’s Webstock I think we’ll see more about online communities, augmented reality applications, mobile, and the genesis of a thousand great ideas, the best of which will be turned into new businesses or campaigns or art which you’ll see and hear about in years to come.

Early-bird registrations finish on the 4th of December, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. If you want to see where the next generation of entrepreneurs are going to take the world of business, you should be there too. Also beginning for the first time are the ONYAs, New Zealand’s independent web industry awards, sponsored by Shift. It should be a great night.


November 17, 2009 at 7:33 am

Matt – that’s one of the best writeups I’ve seen on Webstock and totally gets what we’re trying to do.


November 17, 2009 at 9:45 am

I haven’t been to Webstock since 2006, and I’m getting withdrawals. You can’t put a price on the value that can be gained from spending a day in a workshop with Kathy Sierra, or the empowerment of hearing how good web design helped a blind lawyer “read the newspaper” for the first time.
To any employer with web staff – send them to Webstock. The value you will gain from their resulting energy will dwarf the cost of sending them to the event.

November 17, 2009 at 11:38 am

That is a great write up. I am really, really looking forward to being there and this article sums up why.

Go Xero for hiring such great communicators.

Rick Shera
November 17, 2009 at 1:24 pm

As is most often the case, its the creativity, passion, enthusiasm, hard work and sense of fun of the people driving this that really appeal to me. Looking forward to making it down next year at last!

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December 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm

[…] Matt said in his recent post when opining on […]

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February 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm

[…] We’ll be heading along to the ONYA Awards this Friday which mark the end of Webstock. (For us it’s pretty exciting stuff as Matt explained earlier.) […]

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