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Webstock 2012 highlights – meet your heroes

Posted 6 years ago in Tech by Philip Fierlinger

You know the expression “never meet your heroes”? I’ve often found that to be extremely good advice.

But at Webstock, the rule doesn’t seem to apply.

I had the privilege of spending time with several of my design heroes thanks to Webstock and it was freaking awesome.

  • I did a fantastic workshop with Jennifer Brook on designing prototypes for iPhone/iPad apps, using Keynote. It’s a great technique that has the potential to change the way we prototype for touch. Jennifer ran the best workshop I’ve ever attended. Plus, it was great to talk with her about her experiences working with Steve Jobs, designing prototypes for the iPad launch.
  • Wilson Miner came by Xero HQ to meet with our design team. He shared different experiences he’s had working at Apple, Everyblock and now as head of design at Rdio. It gave us a unique chance to compare a variety of different methodologies practiced by the best in the business. Wilson’s presentation at Webstock was one of the highlights for me: a moving visual essay on listening to your instincts, while creating designs that are enduring. The slide above resonated deeply, because it’s at the heart of everything we do at Xero.
  • I’m a huge fan of Adam Lisagor. as you might guess from such videos as Xero Touch. Adam is even nicer and more charming in person than he is on camera! And his concept of “interface as character” and the idea of “who is the camera” is more than just a brilliant approach to creating promo videos for apps, it’s also a really powerful way to think about designing the user experience itself.

Webstock offers our design, dev and marketing teams a rare chance to learn from their heroes and discover new ones. High on many people’s lists were: Erin Kissane, Kathy Sierra, Jeremy Keith, Matthew Inman, Michael Johnson, Jessica Hische…actually the list includes more or less everybody speaking at Webstock.

Startup Alley

A highly welcome addition to Webstock this year was Startup Alley. In the spirit of Dragon’s Den, it featured local NZ startups pitching their business to an esteemed panel of experts for an opportunity to get $10,000 and 3 months at the Launch Pad in San Francisco.

It’s really inspiring to see people putting their dreams on the line, sharing their vision for the future, and making their own dent in the universe.


Every year there seem to be a few resonant themes that emerge for me and strike a chord.

  • Make something now: The act of making something – do anything, just get going – propels you forward as it generates its own serendipity and momentum.
  • Make it up, as you go: Where we’re going, there are no rules.
  • Build forever: Think about how the work you do now might be relevant for generations to come. Challenging yourself to think in those terms will immediately clarify your priorities and elevate expectations for quality.
  • Find your purpose: Personal fulfillment and a sense of purpose are ultimately far more valuable and enduring than money. That applies across the board, with life and business. Employees, customers and products also need a higher purpose.
  • Just remember, it’s not about you: User experience isn’t about your product, it’s about what people do when they aren’t using your product.

It’s no substitute for being there, but hopefully this wrap-up gives you a little taste and some inspiration.

If you went, what other themes did you pick up?

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