The official Webstock Schwag of 2018

It’s Webstock Week this week! YAY! If you’re coming along on Thursday and Friday, here’s a sneak peek at the schwag you’ll receive.

We’ve tried to select things that aren’t bad for our planet – stuff that can be reused, recycled or repurposed. Here t’is:

Webstock t shirt
T shirts in many sizes: small, medium, large, xl and 2xl, made by ASColour, and produced under safe, fair, legal and humane working conditions.

Notebook & writing implement
A fine-looking, sustainable repository for your notations, ruminations, ideations and illustrations, made from paper given a second chance at life! These have been handmade by Misprint and Wakefield Digital, specially for Webstock.

By repurposing this paper we’ve saved 200 litres of water – 266 standard water bottles!










A Webstock water bottle

The official Webstock water bottle to keep you hydrated, activated and captivated! This receptacle is made of recyclable BPA-free plastic and can be operated one handed with a simple push of the button! The bottle has the look of glass, but neither the heaviness nor the breakability, and it’s recyclable at end of its life.

The receptacles are reusable, durable, stylish and come with a spill-resistant lid and a drinking hole is designed for optimum liquid flow.

By using your Webstock receptacle instead of plastic water cups, you’re limiting the amount of unnecessary waste to landfill and helping make the Earth cleaner and happier.

Webstock web socks
Merino blend business socks, knitted from the finest natural and performance yarns, perfect for business time and other times too.

A Webstock bag!

This year’s bag has been made with repurposed materials used in Webstocks-past: banners, signage, and other event-accoutrement. They are a restropective, a time capsule if you will, of Webstock over the years.

Flexible, functional, sturdy and stylish, they are a multiple-purpose tote – perfect for the shop, the beach, the bbq, the pool, the plane, the park, the laundry, the laptop, the kids, the cat, the dog, the day trip, the holiday, the heist. We could go on. It’s a damn good bag.

The webstock crew with the webstock schwag









Introducing Leah Culver, Start-up Alley judge!

We’re delighted to welcome Leah Culver as the final judge for this year’s Start-up Alley!

Leah Culver is a founder and CTO of Breaker, an iOS app for listening to podcasts with your friends. Breaker launched in March 2017 and was Y Combinator class of Winter 2017. Leah also previously founded Pownce, an early social networking site and Convore/Grove, a group messaging service.

Leah is also a co-author of both the OAuth and oEmbed open API specifications and is an advocate for APIs and open source.

Leah joins fellow judges Anna Guenther, co-founder and CEO of PledgeMe; Derek Sivers, creator of CD Baby, and Harry Ferreira, who heads up the award winning Small Business team at BNZ.

The end of Webstock as we know it?

Maybe Marco’s on to something. Maybe the era of conferences like Webstock is coming to close.

We can tell you this, though – Webstock 2018, our 12th edition, is the end of something for us. In a few months, the St James theatre – home to Webstock – will be out of action while it receives earthquake strengthening treatment. We don’t know how long it will be closed for – a year at least – but if you’ve ever watched Grand Designs then you’ll know most projects run over some. Considering our previous home, the Town Hall, was meant to have taken two years to complete, and now some seven years on, it’s still uninhabitable, we just can’t be certain!

So this will be the last Webstock at the St James. For now, or forever, we don’t know. The space in which we hold our event – how it flows, how it feels, where it’s located – is paramount to the experience we’re trying to create. The experience is everything! This has always, always been a guiding principle for us. And it means, given the absence of suitable venues here, that this Webstock may be the last in Wellington. Or indeed anywhere.

So, while we feel a great sadness at the thought of something we love coming to an end, we do feel it’s a time to celebrate everything we’ve had the chance to do, and see, and hear, and those we’ve had the chance to meet. We want to celebrate the shared experience that being together with a group of peers and friends and strangers can bring. And we want to celebrate the opportunity to learn from, and be delighted and excited and empowered by this group of people.

While we don’t know right now what next year will bring, we do know that this Webstock is one you shouldn’t miss out on. We’ve 22 speakers, leaders in their fields all of them, talking on a variety of need-to-know topics – everything from AI and algorithms to accessibility, information architecture to inclusive content, performance to privacy, design systems to data collection to digital transformation. We’ve three excellent new speakers*. Webstock ‘18 will be a feast of ideas, illumination and practical application to help us do our best, most impactful work. It’ll be an event to leave us feeling greater optimism for the future and how we can contribute in a meaningful way.

We’d love to see you there. Why not register now.


*They are Haley van Dyck, co-founder of the US Digital Service; Phillip Hunter, Head of UX for Alexa Skills at Amazon, and Dr Nishant Shah, co-founder of the Centre for Internet & Society in India, Dean of Graduate School at ArtEZ University of the Arts, The Netherlands and a Visiting Professor at Leuphana University, Germany. 


New speakers!

The lineup just got even better! We are thrilled to announce the addition of three more speakers to our Webstock ’18 line!

Please welcome….

Haley van Dyck is co-founder of the US Digital Service and a key thought leader on Obama’s tech team since the 2008 campaign, where she helped develop the mobile strategy for the first Presidential campaign in history to use mobile and text messaging to connect with voters. Four days after the election she moved to Washington, D.C. to serve on the Presidential Transition Team with a small group of individuals who set the course for the Administration’s technology strategy, including writing the Open Government Directive and creating the first U.S. Chief Technology Officer position.



Phillip Hunter is Head of UX for Alexa Skills at Amazon. Prior to that he was UX Design Manager for AWS. He is passionate about how teams work, understanding systems, and the little details of interaction design that make big differences. Phillip has designed and created strategy for voice-based products and services for hundreds of customer service systems, Microsoft Cortana and Xbox, and now Amazon Alexa.





Dr. Nishant Shah is co-founder and board member of the Centre for Internet & Society in Bangalore, India. He is Dean of Graduate School at ArtEZ University of the Arts, The Netherlands and a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media at Leuphana University in Germany, where he teaches in fields such as Digital Humanities, Computer-Human Interaction and Information and Communication Technologies for Development. His work on technology, identity and social and political movements focuses on the question of how we can remain human in a technological environment.










A statement from the Webstock team

Something happened at Webstock on Friday afternoon. We are devastated by it, and the hurt and anger it’s caused. It is the antithesis of everything we have ever wanted to do with, and for Webstock. It is the antithesis of every preceding talk on the stage this year, and of the spirit of the event as a whole.

Running an event, bringing people together is a privilege. With privilege comes responsibility. We know we have a responsibility and a duty of care to each and every single person at Webstock, and in that we failed. Webstock is a very personal venture – an extension of our values and really, of us as people. This failure feels deeply personal and we can’t begin to adequately express how sorry we are, as organisers and as human beings. We will carry this failing for a very, very long time.

This post outlines what happened; what we did and what we commit to doing in the future.

The incident
To begin his presentation, our last speaker of the day, Stefan Sagmeister recalled that last time he was in New Zealand he told a story about a manatee giving itself a blow job. This was inappropriate and a violation of our Code of Conduct. This was compounded by the repetition of the term for the act, with the intent of having the sign language interpreter on stage, Jenn, sign it. Stefan then continued with his talk.

This was completely disrespectful to Jenn in particular, and she left the auditorium shortly afterwards.

To Jenn
Jenn, we are so sorry. We are so sorry that this happened. It should not happen at Webstock and it should not happen anywhere, in any situation. It is an honour to have you at Webstock and we respect and value you, your team and your work immensely.

We would also like to unequivocally state that the behaviour of Stefan in this incident was wholly unacceptable. We are committed to ensuring nothing like this ever happens again in any environment over which we have any level of input or control.

What happened next
In terms of our response to it, immediately after the incident, we:

  • spoke to one of Jenn’s colleagues
  • sought out Jenn and expressed our apologies
  • apologised via Twitter while Stefan was speaking
  • apologised immediately on stage after he had finished his talk
  • spoke to Stefan as soon as he stepped off stage to make him aware of the gravity of the situation.

We did not ask Stefan to stop speaking. We will debate whether that decision was the correct one for a long time to come.

The following day we communicated further with Jenn and Stefan. Stefan apologised publicly via this series of tweets:

And via instagram:

The public response
There has been an understandable and completely valid sense of anger and disgust in response to this incident, along with criticism of us and our handling of the situation. Please know your criticisms have been heard. We are disgusted and angered too, and much of that is directed inward.

We acknowledge and thank those in the audience who called out the unacceptable behaviour. We are all learning as we navigate this life, and by letting someone know that we’re not ok with a given situation, we as human beings signal that we care enough about each other to address issues that impact care, respect and cooperation in the future. To see so many people care is a sign that people believe in something better. It is a sign of optimism, and optimism is essential for progress and for more just, respectful, and safe environments. Compassion and empathy are essential for this too and we acknowledge and are thankful for the empathy and compassion displayed by so many people. We also want to specifically acknowledge and give thanks to Nat Dudley for this, and to Etainia for this. Thank you both so much for your wisdom and perspective from which we have learned so much.

The code of conduct
We acknowledge the criticism of our Code of Conduct. Our intention in the Code of Conduct was to highlight and encourage positive behaviours, rather than the negative. We acknowledge this approach may have been flawed. In light of the feedback we’ve received, we will be reviewing it, and seeking the advice of those we feel to be experts in this area to help us make our Code of Conduct better and stronger.

We acknowledge the criticism of our vetting and will be reviewing and refining each and every part of this process. We will make sure our speakers are better briefed in future. While we send copious communications, we know that these may not always be read in full, so we will make sure we include a detailed briefing session for any and all future events.

The experience is everything
The experience of those attending Webstock is something we sweat over. It means everything to us. We don’t get everything right – we know that. But please, never let it be said we don’t care, or we don’t try. We do. We pore over small details to try to act responsibly and to help people feel included and valued; catering for all dietary requirements, childcare, scholarships, minimising waste and the use of recyclable/repurposable conference materials, and a speaker line up that reflects some of the diversity of our industry and our world are paramount to us. And yet, we failed on something so fundamental. Making the space safe. This is something we are really struggling with, and for which we are so deeply, truly sorry.

This experience has highlighted many things. Including the impact our words can have. Stefan’s words had impact. All our words have impact. Whether spoken or written, in a book, in a blog, in a tweet, our words matter. We can think of little else right now: how something one person may think is innocuous and/or funny, can humiliate, hurt and harass one or many others. It has highlighted to us that we must not end up replicating the very behaviour that we are trying to change. If we’re talking about how important Codes of Conduct are, followed by an abusive comment directed at the speaker – or anyone for that matter – perhaps we are then violating the very standard of behaviour we’re seeking from others. Surely, if we want respect, we must seek to give it too. That is not to say we can’t or shouldn’t criticise or provide strongly worded feedback about behaviour that was unacceptable and intolerable. But the words we use matter. Our language is a reflection of ourselves and our values. Abuse is not the way to solve Code of Conduct violations.

It is an immense privilege to have the platform of a stage to share one’s words. It is an immense privilege to give others a platform to do so. And, as said earlier, with great privilege comes great responsibility. We know this. We have a responsibility to create spaces that are truly safe and inclusive, and we wear that responsibility more fully than ever before.

We have learned that we must rid ourselves of any complacency. We must act with greater care. We must care more, and be more compassionate, and we must hold ourselves accountable when we have failed. And when we know better we must share this knowledge with others so they can be better too. Such learning is essential for us to have a more positive impact, and a better future. Because surely, that is what we’re working towards.

This has been a very painful lesson. A serious mistake was made, many heartfelt apologies have been given, a great deal of self-reflection has been had, and will continue for a long time to come. We hope we can regain Jenn’s trust in us. And others’ trust we’ve lost too. We hope that real change in many people’s attitudes has come from this.

It is our hope that out of this, rather than tear down, we can instead lift up. We all win when we help each other do and be better.

In the words of our friend Nat Dudley, anger is easy; compassion in the face of it is so much more of a worthy challenge. We apologise wholeheartedly and unreservedly again, and hope that from this we can move forward together, armed with a renewed and steadfast commitment to care, empathy and safety, and a greater understanding of the importance of our words, our actions and the consequences of them.