Craftstock posterIn the webstandards email today they announced a combination of two of my favourite events... Craft 2.0 and Webstock blended becomes CraftStock! It is such a cool idea and normally I would be writing a post that used an excessive amount of exclamation marks to convey my excitement... but this is almost like salt in a wound for me... (so instead there are excessive amounts of ...s to convey my sadness...)

I can't make it to Webstock this year because a close friend of ours is getting married at a farm two hours drive from Kaikoura over the 14th - 17th February, and Aaron is going to be the best man. Andrew is the sorta guy that is so lovely and such good friends to Aaron that he considers him more of a brother than a friend. There is totally no way I can go to both, and family/friends comes first.

But it's still gutting because there are so many awesome speakers - I was especially looking forward to meeting Jason Santa Maria - and it's encouraging and refreshing to go to a conference like this and get that input to your day to day work.

BUT no doubt the wedding will be lovely and will be well worth the sacrifice ;-) After the wedding we're going on a holiday around the top of the South Island, it will be very nice to relax, get some sunshine, and have a break.

Webstock - conference Day Two

Webstock in the Town Hall AuditoriumWow what an awesome conference! Russ Weakley delivered a very funny and informative presentation on letting go and allowing the users to control their own experience. He related it back to working with one of the Australian museums which wanted to structure their information by department - but this of course isn't how people will look for the information when using the site. So he was like "Well what if we tagged pages and then people could search for them and related pages by tags". And then bringing this to the next level by allowing users to comment and add tags themselves.

Heather Hesketh talked about Progressive Development - Gradual small changes, rather than large redesigns, and scheduled for say quarterly or monthly. This is really interesting because the general impression I've had from clients is that they want the project to be just finished, and we have been trying to encourage them to treat their site almost like a living thing, it needs attention regularly.

Ben Goodger did a talk on Firefox, the history and also showed a demo of Firefox 2, which looks great. I love one of the new features - if it, or the computer, crashes it reopens with all the tabs that you had open restored. There have been times when I have had 15 tabs open, and lost them all because something crashed and I hadn't got round to reading or bookmarking them yet!

Tony Chor from Microsoft did a good presentation of IE7, which is of course a huge improvement on IE6. I don't think the crowd were really impressed because I'd say most, if not all, Firefox users and IE7 doesn't really have anything that Firefox doesn't already. But I think it's awesome because most internet users only have and only know about IE, so it will be really great for them, and for our jobs!

Then there were drinks and nibbles, following by dinner, followed by Odessa playing and dancing. There were some gorgeous kids there who loved the music and were just dancing by themselves!!

More photos are of course on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/webstock/

Webstock - conference Day One

I am so exhausted! It was an awesome, full on, day. Probably the highlight of the day was Joel Spolsky's talk "Shiny geegaw vs great design", which was very similar content to Kathy Sierra's workshop that I went to the day before. Essentially - make an awesome experience for the user.

After lunch was the 8x5 sessions, which I was taking part in. My talk was on Web Standard and .net - which is a pretty contriversial topic!! To be honest, 5 minutes isn't long enough, and I think 5 minutes wasn't long enough for any of us because we all had really in-depth topics. But it was fun making it fit into that, and it was great having the fast-paced stuff!

I chose to go to Rachel McAlpine's stream which I found really interesting. She really brought writing for the web down to street-level. The fact is that anyone and everyone these days write content for their website or intranet. So she pulled out some basic guidelines for making that better - like using a lot of headings and making sure your main points are at the start of the paragraph.

Kelly Goto's talk was of course really good! Again, she brought up the whole user-centered design of applications and sites. Getting to know - really know - who will be using your application and what matters to them.

Cocktails at Webstock - Town HallAnd, the Kiwis won in the Tim-Tam, Chit-Chat Trans-Tasman Taste-off! Yee-ah! Then the day finished up with cocktails :-)

Webstock - Kathy Sierra's workshop

Me and new friends doing an excersise at Kathy Sierra's Workshop To kick Webstock off, I went along to Kathy Sierra's Workshop - Creating Passionate Users. It was SO good that afterwards I ran to the office to tell the others all about it!! It is really exciting for me cause I now I have some really cool ideas of stuff we can do with Go Fetch! and make it better for people who register and use it. There was so much stuff that I learnt, and there is no way I could cover it all here, but here are some key cool things:

  1. People are passionate about things in their lives, and this is characterised by certain behaviour. But we can also use this in a backwards way to spark people's interest in products/services and to keep their interest up.
  2. For people to be interested and attracted to something there needs to be a brain-level reaction. Our brains react and pay attention to things that are:
    • Novel - something strange, different, unique.
    • Beautiful
    • Cute and innocent
    • Funny
    • Faces and facial expressions - and these don't need to be human faces it can be animals or drawings
    • Unresolved - things that make you go *huh?!*
    • Sexy
    • Scary
  3. If things are written in conversational tone rather than facts and information then people pay attention much better.
  4. Animation - we take notice of moving things and tonal changes. So this should only be used well to draw attention to a specific thing on the page.
  5. So now we have people's attention, we need to retain it by giving them a compelling picture to aim towards ("That looks cool, yeah I want to do that!") and a way to get to it, an easy way to get started.
  6. We love learning and understanding, so there needs to be a way for people to learn more and more about what they are aiming towards. Also to keep learning, the tool or site needs to be very unobtrusive so that people don't have to learn to use the tool, but instead focus on achieving their goal.
  7. Games are really good at keeping people motivated by providing levels - and the same idea can be applied to our tools. They don't need to be as specific as levels, but people are continuously motived if they feel they have achieved something and are more able or get some reward afterwards.
  8. If people feel they are part of a bigger picture or meaning then they will be more enthusatic. E.g. Coldplay and Fair Trade. And people will want to and encourage others to do things like wear the Fair Trade braclet or t-shirts.
  9. Community is really important -for people to be able to interact, comment or have some part with others going through the same things.
  10. And of course the most important bit of all, is that it isn't about us webdesigners, or about the tools that we are trying to sell, it is about how the people using the tool feel.