The speaker interviews – Cameron Adams

Cameron Adams – aka the Main in Blue – is the third of our speakers to be interviewed. He’s one of those renaissance people that the web seems to throw up, equally at home coding, designing and writing. And he vies with Russ Weakley for the least amount of sleep needed!

Webstock: How has the perception of javascript changed over the time you’ve been working in the web? Is it more accepted as a “real” language, rather than something for dilettantes?

Cameron: The perception of JavaScript has changed immensely in the past ten years. From its humble beginnings as something that you use for doing rollovers and cheesy animations, JavaScript has now become the future of computer applications.

People have realised that the advantages of the Internet — its interconnectedness, its mobility, its universality — trump the desktop. And JavaScript is really the only viable language to use inside a browser. Which isn’t such a bad thing, because people are also starting to realise that the actual JavaScript language is pretty neat — something that’s nice to tackle real problems in, not just animations.

I think these two things together are pushing forward the progress of JavaScript faster than any other language. Browsers are getting increasingly sophisticated with the engines they use for executing JavaScript (giving users and programmers more power), and the tools for programming have become highly developed. Libraries have come a long, long way since DHTML Lab’s flyout menus, and some people are even using JavaScript on the server-side!

Webstock: In 5 years time, do you think we’ll still be having “web conferences”? If so, what will we be talking about?

Cameron: I think we’ll definitely be having web conferences, but hopefully we won’t still be talking about CSS. Well … maybe CSS3, but I doubt it’ll be out by then.

From a technological perspective, I can see a fairly linear progression in our learning and discussion — HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript 2, WCAG2, Ajax accessibility. Those standards move prettttttttty slowly, so in five years I can see a lot more hands-on-this-is-how-it-works-in-browsers talks. Rather than the current gee-this-is-how-I-wish-they-would-work talks.

But what I find more exciting is what people will do with those technologies in the next five years, and that’s a lot harder to predict. Internet for your toilet? Democracy via Twitter? How Facebook collapsed? The most interesting things are the ones you don’t see coming, so my guess is as good as a dog’s.

Webstock: What can people look forward to in your javascript workshop?

Cameron: I’ve tried to make my workshops as fun and interesting as possible, so I’ve re-created exercises which I personally have found challenging and interesting during my exploration of JavaScript.

These exercises serve as a backdrop for learning about JavaScript best practices, the newest technologies (like Canvas and WAI-ARIA), and basically getting your feet wet in JavaScript development.

I like to use a lot of practical exercises so that attendees get to try out what they learn while I’m there, rather than when they get back to work and then have no idea what they’re doing. I find that people learn a lot more when they’re directly involved with coding. I’m there mainly to answer their questions and help them over their individual hurdles.

Webstock: Which speaker are you most excited about seeing at Webstock 09?

Cameron: That’s probably your hardest question; it’s like a smorgasboard of delectable Web speakers. I’d probably have to say that my favourite speaker would be some weird hybrid of Ze Frank and Jane McGonigal. That way you get laughs *and* learn about the latest in games design. (Which has always been way ahead of the general design curve, in my opinion).

Webstock: Thanks Cameron! We’re looking forward to having you here in February.

The speaker interviews – Jasmina Tesanovic

The second of our speaker interviews is with Jasmina Tesanovic. Jasmina is a writer, an activist, a feminist and much more.

Webstock: In general, are you an optimistic or a pessimistic person? Are those terms meaningful to you?

Jasmina: I’m a person who turns her back towards the future facing the storms from the past, thrust by storms into the future: Walter Benjamin’s angel of history. Optimism and pessimism are impressionistic human categories to deal with storms of history.

Webstock: In the history of human inventions, how important is the web?

Jasmina: Too recent and big yet to evaluate completely: let’s say revolutionary. Let’s hope it lasts, yet nothing will be the same if it disappears, we will plunge into a medieval state of communication and arts.

Webstock: What can attendees at Webstock look forward to in your presentation?

Jasmina: Some Balkan weirdness and originality: the way my personal history was shaped through war, war crimes and internet was an early experience of a trend that became mainstream.

Webstock: Thanks Jasmina. We’re looking forward to the Balkan weirdness!

The business case for Webstock

A number of people have approached us recently about help in putting together a business case for them to attend Webstock in February.

Here’s our thoughts.

1) Webstock is an unparalleled training opportunity

Studies have shown clear links between workplace happiness and training. Some of the happiest workers are those who feel they have a lot of opportunities for professional development. Investing in training makes workers feel appreciated and, consequently, more loyal.

Webstock offers New Zealand’s best training for the web industry. There are no other conferences here specifically for the web industry and there are few other opportunities for in-depth workshops such as Webstock brings.

More than most, the web is an industry where training pays dividends: new products, new services, new standards and new players are emerging constantly. Knowing what’s important, and how and when it can be used, is vital and Webstock is a unique opportunity to hear the latest thinking, informed debate, and thorough analysis of the changing face of web.

And because Webstock is a New Zealand event, you don’t need to travel overseas to access the training you need – it’s right here in your own back yard.

2) You’ll be better at your job

Webstock will enable you to do your job better. You’ll have skills, techniques and ideas you didn’t have before. We cover all aspects of the web industry – developers, designers, information architects, user experience, project managers, business owners – and expose you to some of the world’s best in each of these fields.

Webstock is also a rounded experience. At Webstock 09, you’ll be exposed to diverse topics, ranging from Open platforms to online communities; AJAX for Accessibility to Agile development; designing for the social web to data mining. This diversity will allow you to examine what you do from many different angles and objectively evaluate the pros and cons of various web strategies, processes and technologies. It will help you make decisions that are right for your organisation.

In addition, the pre-conference workshops are an unmatched opportunity to learn in a practical, hands-on manner from the best of the best. They’ll give you the latest need-to-know info and help you validate the current direction of your web projects and avoid common pitfalls along the way. You’ll receive objective, reliable information that you can use to plan your website or application evolution.

3) The speakers are some of the best in the world

You’ll hear from respected thought leaders and experts in the field whom you can reference throughout the year. They will answer your questions about technological capabilities, system features/functions, business/economic models and life-cycle costs.

These are not people pontificating and theorising. These are not only people who’ve “walked the walk”; they’re the people who’ve built the path. All Webstock speakers are encouraged to be available throughout the conference and we’ve many stories of attendees who’ve gained a lot from chatting with one of the speakers during a break.

The speakers are also great presenters. At a conference, it’s not enough to be expert in your field, you also need to be able to present clearly, forcefully and memorably.

4) You’ll come back better networked

Let’s face it, it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know. And this works at every level – from being able to ask someone about a tricky CSS problem you have, to knowing who to talk to when you’re looking for a development partner, to sharing a coffee with someone who could be commissioning the next website you build. Conferences are about community and networking. People from all levels of the NZ web industry – public and private sector, large and small – attend Webstock. It’s the event for the web industry in New Zealand, and one that you and your organisation can’t afford not to be seen at.

5) You’ll come back inspired

Remember why you got into this industry? Remember the last time you were genuinely excited about building websites and applications? Congratulations if you do, but like many of us, you’re probably struggling with the day-to-day grind of any job.

Webstock is not just another conference. It’s an experience. It’s a chance to recharge, to rediscover your inspiration and to take time thinking about the big picture. It’s not a holiday – you’ll be challenged and stimulated at every step – but the positive effect on you may be the same.

6) Webstock is run by people who care

It’s a conference run by webbies for webbies. We’re committed to fostering excellence and building a vibrant, super-smart web community in New Zealand.

Your time is respected: Webstock is focused, presenting top notch speakers and forward-thinking, relevant and reliable information that will help you make the best possible decision for your network, your company and your career.

Webstock is not another corporate conference preoccupied with making money.


We’ve decided to do this as a blog post because we’re really interested in getting your comments on what the benefits of Webstock are, and what should be in a business case to attend. Please let us, and others, know what you think. Or what’s worked for you in terms of writing a business case. There’s an opportunity here to get some really useful stuff that could be of use to many others.

The sponsor interviews – Intergen

In the second of our sponsor interviews, we talked with Wayne Forgesson from Intergen.

Webstock: Wayne, how would you describe Intergen? What sort of company are you, what sets Intergen apart?

Intergen: Intergen is New Zealand’s largest and most dedicated provider of web and software development services, based entirely on Microsoft technologies.

In terms of what sets us apart, there are a number of things I could mention here. For anyone who has come into contact with Intergen, chances are they come away with two very distinct impressions: first, our people are extremely passionate about what they do; second, we’ve got a really strong (and very yellow) brand and culture, which our people are really proud of and work hard to preserve. The yellow padded meeting room doors in our Wellington office are an example of passion, brand and desire for all things fun.

We started out as a small operation in Wellington, and now employ more than 200 staff across offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Sydney and Perth. From the early days we have always had a focus on our people, and this has remained true and I think this has really helped shape Intergen’s unique culture. We’re lucky to employ some of the best and brightest in the game, we have a number of technology evangelists and experts who are leading the way not just within New Zealand, but globally as well. In the words of a recent Intergen inductee: “Intergen is made up of intelligent extroverts who are the best at what they do. I love the fact that every way I turn I see talented people excelling at what they do and absolutely loving it.

Webstock: Intergen is closely aligned with Microsoft and a Microsoft partner. What benefits has that brought to Intergen?

Intergen: Being a Gold Certified Microsoft Partner is absolutely central to everything we do. The benefits go both ways, and the strong partnership we have with Microsoft gives our customers the certainty that they’re dealing with proven, universally recognisable technologies and engaging the most experienced New Zealand company to understand their individual business needs and implement the best possible solution.

On our staff we have one Microsoft Regional Director, four Microsoft MVPs (most valuable professionals), plus a number of other subject matter experts as well. What this illustrates in a nutshell (for the non Microsoft) is that we have staff on board who not only bring the best of breed solutions to our customers, but who are also extremely active within the New Zealand technology community (as well as globally), and who also act in an advisory capacity to Microsoft in helping them shape their future directions. We were really pleased to be named Microsoft Partner of the Year 2008, in recognition of our commitment to Microsoft since we started out as Glazier Systems back in 1995.

Webstock: How would you describe the web and software scene in New Zealand? Is it competitive? Collegial? Is there a sense of being part of a larger NZ Inc, competing against the world?

Intergen: It seems to me the web scene in New Zealand is extremely collegial. It’s an area of tremendous, almost unprecedented growth – a really exciting place to be. The internet – and the way in which we engage with it – changes every day, and we learn the most by sharing knowledge and networks. New Zealand has some terrific examples of web successes, and these successes have been shared, to great effect. I’m always proud to be a Kiwi and especially proud when our friends/partners and competitors are making a difference in the international scene. One thing we focus on is trying to share our learnings, and thoughts from our experts, by offering seminars of relevance to technologists and web enthusiasts alike. A recent example of this is the free Online Communities seminar we offered, with a visiting specialist from Sweden giving real examples of how organisations in the Northern Hemisphere have successfully built online communities.

As for the global question, and whether we’re competing against the world… Intergen is in an interesting position, and I’m sure there are numerous companies in the same boat. As we share a very strong relationship with Microsoft, we are often engaged to work with Microsoft Corporation on upcoming projects and new technologies; and these engagements can see us working and presenting all around the world. In an online world where New Zealand is no longer considered quite so ‘remote’ as it used to be, working ahead of the clock can have distinct advantages, and I don’t think there’s so much of the ‘us against them’ mentality. We may be a small nation, but in all senses of the word we’ve proved ourselves to be world class.

Webstock: If there was one project that you felt best encapsulated Intergen – your ethos, your philosophy, your strengths – what is it? Tell us a little about it.

This is actually much harder than it looks and there isn’t one project that does this, there are many. In fact we want all our projects to do this. Our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is about positively touching everyone with what we do; “Everyone, every day, is touched positively by the things we do” and this is truly an intent in what we do. Key aspects for us are; making a difference, having fun, solving technical problems, having fun, working with new stuff and having fun.

Significant projects that help us achieve our BHAG have included:
Tertiary Education Commission – a range of projects that have improved the processes within TEC and their ability to achieve their business goals
Department of Internal Affairs – rates rebate project for local authorities to accept and process rates rebates claims from low income families
Westland Diary – Financials, reporting and process improvement projects for Westland Diary

Webstock: Intergen has been a sponsor of every Webstock. Why? What have been the benefits for Intergen?

Intergen: It goes back to the collegiality thing we touched upon earlier. For us it’s an honour to be involved with Webstock. Every year the bar is lifted even higher, and it’s one of those rare conferences where you really do feel that a ‘meeting of the minds’ is happening, where web practitioners of all descriptions are challenged to be even better, and to never stop learning. You can feel the synergies and the enthusiasm, and the calibre of speaker is always top notch. To be associated with such a group is great for Intergen. We’ve got a dedicated team of interactive designers and developers who really get a buzz from attending. Plus we’re committed to delivering the best in usability web standards to our customers, so being involved in each event is a no-brainer for us. Plus it gives us the opportunity to think outside the square and come up with new ways of being outlandishly yellow each year!

Webstock: Thanks Wayne. We’re really pleased to be working with Intergen again!

The speaker interviews – Russ Weakley

The first of our speaker interviews is with Russ Weakley. Russ is a designer, one of the world’s leading experts on HMTL and CSS, and co-founder of the Web Standards group and mailing list. He’s been an influential figures in the development and spread of web standards globally.

Webstock: Russ, you’ve been quoted as saying that “sleep is for pussies”. Tell us about a typical working day for you – what you do, what hours you work, how much sleep you get.

Russ: I work as a web designer for the Australian Museum three days each week and run my own business outside these hours. I also try to help with the kids in the mornings and evenings, so this means I often work late into the night.

A typical day… It’s a little hard…

7:00am: wake up with a start!
7:00am – 9:00am: prepare breakfasts and lunches, feed and dress kids (amid copious threats of punishment and torture) then drop at school.
9:00am – 9:45am: drive to Museum, cursing traffic
9:45am – 5:30pm: work at museum with web team (which includes a Web Manager, Special project co-ordinator, web researcher, an assistant web person and me). If only I could tell you of some of the insane conversations that go on in our team!
5:30pm – 6:00pm: drive home cursing traffic
6:00pm – 9:00pm: force dinner into kids, check computer too often, get kids ready for bed, hype them up (as only a father can), read them books, then try to settle them down.
9:00pm – 3:00am: Max Design work – yahhh!

Rinse and repeat…

So, I often get around 4 hours sleep a night. A little sad now that I look at it. I think I need a hobby… Does Satan worshipping count as a hobby?

Webstock: You do a lot of teaching and training with HTML and CSS. Have things improved? Do web people in general have a better understanding of how to use HTML and CSS than they might of a few years ago?

Russ: This is a hard one as I think people often have good knowledge in patches – for X/HTML and CSS. Not many people have knowledge across the breadth of these topics.

When I run workshops I try to start with the basics as people often have little pockets of info here and there that they were not aware of.

The hardest group are the developers who think that X/HTML is easy. These people are often males with the least knowledge about HTML – often not aware of basic info like doctypes, elements, attributes etc.

Overall, I have noticed people are more aware of the fundamentals – especially in accessibility – which is very good news.

Webstock: What’s the future for HTML? Will it always be with us? Be supplanted by something else? And what’s your impression of the progress towards HTML5?

Russ: HTML was written in the early 1820’s. In those days there weren’t even cars, let alone multi-column layouts. Consequently, we have a VERY limited range of elements to use. We try all sorts of ways to squeeze as much semantics out of these elements as possible. Many of us have developed Repetitive Strain Injuries from all the squeezing.

So, we need more elements so that we can describe our content more clearly.

HTML5 is a great start in this direction. The team is working very carefully towards a brighter, squeeze-free future. I think by the year 3016 we will be ready to roll!

Webstock: What are you looking forward to in CSS3?

Russ: Chaos! Overwhelmed designers and developers… tears…

CSS3 is much more complex than CSS2. Some people have trouble with CSS2 – especially with browsers and implementation. So, there are going to be people who feel totally overwhelmed when CSS3 hits mainstream.

There are others who cannot wait for some of the cooler features – borders, backgrounds, many of these things will make our lives much easier, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I sit in both camps… Sometimes crying, other times hanging out for cool new CSS3 features to play with.

Webstock: Which speaker are you most excited about seeing at Webstock 09?

Russ: That is a little hard as they are all look good. Maybe these three:

Fiona Romeo, National Maritime Museum
Jane McGonigal, future forcaster (what a title!)
Joshua Porter, social web application designer

Regardless, I’m sure they will all be great (apart from that Russ Weakley guy – who sucks, from what I have heard).

Webstock: Thanks Russ! We’re looking forward to having your inimitable self at Webstock in February.