Sunday, June 25, 2006

Webstock 2006 - a review (Part Four)

Webstock bannerPhew! Well, I've certainly written far more than I planned to, but there's still the wrapping-up to complete. It's all good!

Oh, and BTW, here's the rest of this massive review - Part One (intro and workshop), Part Two (Day One presentations, Part Three (Day Two presentations).

OK - here we go. I felt that Webstock exuded a generosity of spirit:

  • From the speakers in being willing to share their ideas and secrets with us.

  • With the catering, which was absolutely fantastic, flavourful, always on time, full of variety, and always a vegetarian option.

  • In the official gear that we were each given - a very nicely-designed satchel filled with cool stuff, an excellent T-shirt (which I have actually worn!), information-packed programme, free software and chances to win more - and even a giant cookie, a bottle of water and a packet of Chit-Chats.

  • Coffee! Photo courtesy of Webstock's Flickr accountFree real coffee at break times, made for you on the spot.

  • Free pottles of Rush Monroe ice-cream from the freezer, whenever you wanted it.

  • And from the organisers who were always available and who have spent such a lot of their own time making this event happen.

It's often the details that make something special - and as well as this overall feeling of generosity, I really appreciated things like the fact that the whole conference ran pretty much on time; the break-time refeshments were ready when they should be; and the main conference was set out with large oval tables, so you could sit with people you knew (or didn't know!), and put your laptop or your notebook (and your coffee, snack and water bottle) on the table. It felt much more friendly and welcoming than if we had been sitting in rows of chairs instead.

I liked the fact that the conference spaces were always clean and tidy (there were catering staff who cleared the tables periodically which I thought was a nice touch), and that there was always water available from the water-dispensers scattered around the venue (which BTW were the most un-intuitive pieces of machinery I've ever seen!).

We had wireless connections throughout the venue (thanks, City Link!), and, in addition to the website, the Webstock team created a blog and a Flickr account, to which many people contributed. I think it's brilliant that they have also made available video, audio and presentation slides for virtually all the presentations - it's another example of the generosity of the whole event.

Main conference hall. Photo courtesy of Webstock's Flickr accountThe design and branding was superb - well done, DNA! Everything looked great - from the stage with its huge Webstock banner across the front and two massive screens on stage for the presentation slideshows - to the very attractive and user-friendly programme, the name tags, the conference satchel and T-shirt - to the Webstock name and slogan - Code for Freedom! Fantastic.

The after-conference cocktails and dinner were excellent (although it was a bit difficult to see the buffet - the lighting was a little low!) and the after-dinner entertainment from Odessa was great. It might have been nice to provide a quiet sit-down space for those of us (introverts) who need a bit of down-time in amongst the social stimulation, but it's a very small suggestion for improvement amongst a very big success.

It was wonderful to hang out with like-minded people for a few days, to catch up with friends and ex-colleagues, and to share ideas in such a friendly and geeky environment.

I came away completely exhausted, and totally inspired. I know the organisers were initially planning to make this a bi-yearly event, but with the success of the first Webstock, I wonder if they are thinking of doing it all again next year. I certainly hope so. They’ve set the bar SO high on their first attempt that it would be a shame not to capitalise on that success and keep it going on a more frequent basis. We shall see. An announcement is due soon.

In the meantime, THANK YOU to everyone involved in making Webstock such a success, and to everyone who attended and created such a great buzz. Roll on the next one!

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