Unlike normal web conferences, Webstock is cool. The speakers are competent, the presentations are almost perfect and the lessons are memorable. (And thankfully Webstock is not a sausage fest1 like most web & technology conferences. Does anyone actually enjoy networking at TechEd more than networking at Webstock? But seriously, gender aside, Webstock is unique because it attracts an equal amount of designers, developers, usability gurus, etc.)
This conference is special, which is why I volunteered my time for the entire week. I’m helping the Clockwork team ensure the event runs smoothly. This is how useful I am:
“Excuse me, where’s the loo?” she asks.
The loo! Your strange word2 intrigues me, colonial! “Down the hall and to the left,” I answer.
“Is the wireless network down?” they wonder.
“Well it certainly isn’t up! I’ll find out 3 when they expect to fix it, no worries.”
So on and so forth. I do feel helpful, usually. But down to the nitty-gritty, for the first three days I attended workshops by:
- Amy Hoy, who showed me that people are oblivious. She was lovely, but her personality was more powerful than her presentation (I remember her more than the content of the workshop). She’s a fan of exposing information (e.g. display a list of links instead of using a select menu) and her vocabulary was refreshing, too. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say egregious.
- Kelly Goto, who gets shit done! (e.g. she stood on an American highway stopping truck drivers because she needed them for a usability test). She focused on iterative application development (agile development) and the importance of usability testing (painfully obvious to knowledgeable designers). Her presentation was too high-level for me, but it was appropriate for the workshop audience. I would like to see her speak about product management methodologies.
- Luke Wroblewski, who knows how to make the most of a bad conversation between a user and a form. I met Luke in 2002 because I helped produce his first book, Site Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability. Yea, he didn’t remember me (after all, it was six years ago). His workshop on form design was excellent because it’s based on research,4 instead of opinion (research always makes a presentation interesting for me, because design and development practices are often expressed as opinions).
- Jill Whalen, who showed me my website through the cold, heartless eyes of the Google. Did you know that search engine bots ignore the title attribute in images or links? I didn’t. After the workshop I felt that search engine optimization is vague, and possibly fruitless.
My coworkers can expect a presentation about this juicy information next week. The workshops learned me well, they did!
A note to my readers: Hi! If you read this thinking “what the hell,” I’m sorry… (hello, family!). At least now you see the geek in me.
1. Sausage fest: when the number of males in an environment overwhelmingly exceeds the amount of females present. For example from the urban dictionary, He told everyone he was bringing 50 hot bitches from Arizona State to his house Saturday night. But it was just a bunch of dudes watching “The Matrix.” We blew that sausage fest right away and never went back.
2. I guess it makes sense, considering loo’s rhyming word.
3. The team communicates through radio headsets. The first day I felt like a member of the secret service. I said, “Mission Control we need a bucket of ice up here A.S.A.P., over.” They didn’t laugh. I did. The next day they called me “cheeky monkey.”
4. This is why Kathy Sierra’s 2006 workshop was enthralling. She made sense of the research about how our brains work, and applied the findings to product design. Holy shit.
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