If there was a theme to Webstock this year, it was about ignition. It was well-timed: we’re coming out of a recession, and we’re going to see a lot of new businesses boot-strapping themselves into existence: many of whom will choose to use Xero as their financial engine.
With Eric Ries, Mike Davidson and the Xero-sponsored Kevin Rose all giving talks about entrepreneurship and creating a successful startup, there were some very excited people in the room itching to get in front of their computers and start making the Next Big Thing. As a relatively new hire at Xero, it was amusing to watch the more seasoned Xero crew nodding their heads in recognition at Eric, Mike and Kevin’s anecdotes about life in startup-land: endless hours of development, fast failure, and making a little money do a lot of work. Kevin had some great tips on hacking the press and the media: a particularly liked his idea of going along to conference parties to mix and mingle, even if you can’t go to the conference.
I was spot on with my prediction that we’d be hearing about augmented reality: though it was within a wider context of networked cities and the internet of things. Both Mark Pesce and Adam Greenfield painted pictures of a world where, with a richness of sensors available, we’ll be able to live our lives in a more self-aware way. For example: by having a personal profile of our DNA we’ll know which prescription drugs are safe for us, personally, to take. We’ll be able to drill-down on products at the supermarket so that we can see the vital statistics of the very cow that went into a 500g pack of beef mince. Our cities are going to become addressable, queryable, and even scriptable resources. We’ve had the internet absolutely transform the intangible world of services and ideas: now it’s going to transform the tangible world of bricks and mortar. Some city data is already being collected: and some of that data is personally relevant: but if that’s so, we should have the right to use that data too. Personally I’d love to hack my Snapper, One Card or Fly Buys data.
There was a lot of inspiration at work too, whether it was Rives with his spoken word poetry, Ben Cerveny’s extended metaphor on plant biology and software development, or Shelley Bernstein’s brilliant talk on how they increased Brooklyn Museum visits through social media initiatives, via Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube and more. It can be tempting to hold on to your content and retain exclusivity, but Shelley’s talk showed how when you empower people to share and use your content you reap huge rewards. Lastly, Scott Thomas’s talk on designing Obama was a huge privilege. The work they did on the Obama campaign was absolutely transformative. Political campaigns will never be the same.
Another great year from the Webstock team: do not miss the next one!