The meaning of geek designer formal

The dress code for the ONYAs is: ‘Geek designer formal – you’ll know it when you see it. But don’t be that guy who shows up in jeans, t-shirt and sandals.

We’ve had a few queries as to what this means, so though it might be apposite to outline our thinking.

So the first thing is that we made a little mistake – it should read, ‘geek/designer formal‘, rather than ‘geek designer formal‘. [Ed note: I’ve just realised this is the internet. I could actually go and change that!]

It’s an important difference. What we mean is that it’s appropriate formal wear for ‘geeks’ and ‘designers’, rather than ‘formal wear for geeks that is designer-y’.

Broadly (also unfairly and lazily) the Webstock audience has lots of geeks and lots of designers. And working in the web is where the two tribes meet. We appreciate and embrace that. We’re also aware that the word ‘formal’ (in relation to dress) might cause some stress to both parties. The web doesn’t really do formal. But awards, of course, do!

All of which is a roundabout way of saying we’re expecting a wide and unique variation of dress at the ONYAs. We’re looking for you to define ‘formal’ in a way that suits you and in a way that’s appropriate to a night celebrating the best of the New Zealand web industry.

We know, for example, that your host for the evening, MC Russell Brown will be wearing a tux. We know that certain members of the Webstock crew have already been on numerous shopping expeditions in preparation for the ONYAs. And we know that dressing up for an evening like this is fun!

All of that said, we won’t be turning anyone away on the night!

We’re also aware that most people attending the ONYAs will have been at a conference (a most awesome one if we do say so ourselves) all day. We can help with that.

There’ll be a room set aside on the Friday of Webstock to store outfits you might want to change into for the ONYAs. And there’ll be changing rooms available between the time Webstock ends and the ONYAs start.

To help you further, we asked Charles Bird, Director, International Markets and Business Development for Webstock to model appropriate and non-appropriate ONYA attire.

Not appropriate

Definitely appropriate. Understated elegance is never out of style.

An outfit made from Webstock schwag? That’s a winner on the night!

Swandris? Really? No.

If you come dressed in noir, we’re not going to argue or turn you away.

We think you get the picture. It’s going to a fun night. Don’t get too stressed about the ‘formal’, but do dress up a little.

Feel free to ask questions below. We’ll do our best to answer them.

Interview with the DJ: Peter McLennan

Peter McLennan (@dubdotdash on Twitter) will be providing the sounds at Webstock and we’re really stoked. Webstock’s Ben Lampard caught up with him using the power of the internets and this is what happened.

Well Peter we’re very excited to have you providing the sounds at Webstock this year. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I like chocolate.

Oh, you want more? I discovered Len Lye and punk rock roughly at the same time, as a teenager. I later figured out a lot of Len Lye’s attitudes to art were very punk. I started playing guitar at high school in a band called the Worst. The name was apt. I ended up going to art school and working with film and video, while playing in a band called Hallelujah Picassos, who released two albums, a handful of singles, and played around the country scarring young minds as often as we could. Our approach to playing live was best described as “search and destroy”.

I went on to direct a few music videos for the Picassos too, which led me to work in TV for a while. I’ve also had other gigs as a music journalist, magazine designer, radio DJ, office cleaner, music video shoot runner (I got to drive Shayne Carter round once for a Bike video, we talked about Sly and the Family Stone) and more.

I like chocolate too. You were a member of the Hallelujah Picassos, easily one of the best live bands of the time. For instance, the gig you played in 1994 at the Otago University Student Union still ranks as perhaps the best live performance I’ve ever seen anywhere. Tell us a bit about the band.

We labelled ourselves as the four-headed beast. We all wrote, we all sang, and we all played at 100 miles an hour intensity onstage. We mashed up genres way before it became cool (see Sublime, Rancid) and had a great time playing to folks around the country. Our sound generally got labelled with a barrage of hyphens…. ska-reggae-hiphop-funk-punk. See? I’m proud to say that all my former band mates in the Picassos are still my friends.

What keeps you busy these days?

Currently I DJ on BaseFM and KiwiFM, write a music blog and make music as Dub Asylum.

I’m also writing a book.

Holy cow, and you found time to do this interview. What are some of your current influences and how would you describe your sound for those who haven’t heard you recently?

Oh crap. Seriously? I hate this question. It sucks harder than a vacuum cleaner. Current influences… Rhythm and sound, Lee Scratch Perry, Onra, Public Image Limited, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Ragga Twins, Julien Dyne, Carl Craig and ZILLION more… My sound is a mix of reggae, funk and hiphop. That’s the type of music I make as Dub Asylum, and also what I play when I’m DJing. Cept when I’m DJing there is usually some steel drums in there.

Yeah, sorry about that question, I thought it was mandatory when interviewing musician types. Too much Rip It Up as a kid. What 5 songs/albums/artists would you recommend to our readers?

Music by Iggy and the Stooges, Mulatu Astatke, Eric B and Rakim, Kraftwerk and the entire back catalogue of the On-U-Sound record label. Or the entire back catalogue of Daptone Records, home to Ms Sharon Jones and the Dapkings, The Budos Band, The Daktaris, Naomi Shelton and more. This could go on for days….

And it will go on for days at Webstock ladies and gentlemen. Thanks Peter, we look forward to meeting you and hearing some of this stuff next week.

The speaker interviews: Esther Derby

We caught with up Esther Derby in the middle of snow storm and hoping the airport is cleared before she has to fly out to Webstock in a couple days time! In addition to her conference presentation, Esther is running a full day workshop on Agile Retrospectives.

1) Tell us something about your past work history and how you’ve arrived at where you are.

I started my professional career as a programmer. I wrote my first program using punch cards. My first portable computer looked like this:

Some things about our field have changed a lot.

Other things…not so much.

I was really good at finding the source of odd behavior or errors in large systems. My managers noticed this, and promoted me to be a manager. I believe this method of selecting managers remains largely unchanged.

It is true that all complex systems share certain characteristics, the parts are interconnected and a change in one element can have ripple effects throughout the system. The connections aren’t always obvious, and the fix many be far away from the effect. Still, the skills needed to steer a human system (which is what managers need to do) are just a little different from those that made me good at trouble shooting software. So I set out to learn a different set of skills.

Along the way, I earned a Master’s in Organizational Leadership, studied family therapy, and took a dive into Humans System Dynamics, a new field that applies concepts from chaos and complexity science to groups and organizations.

In my first years as a manager, I missed the challenge and satisfaction of solving technical problem; I’ve come to learn that working with human systems is just as intellectually challenging and just as satisfying. Does tend to be a bit more messy, though.

2) Have you always worked with an Agile methodology? If not, did you have a “ray of light” experience that brought you to it?

I’ve been around long enough that I’ve seen methodologies come and go. When I look back over the teams and projects that worked best, we were applying at least some of the principles of agile development. We found ways to build feedback into the system: working in small chunks, testing early and often, keeping public project progress posters (the precursor of Big Visible Charts). We worked in the same office and we had frequent communication with the people who would use our products.

What got me interested in Agile (with a capital A) was the explicit emphasis on collaboration, sustainable pace, and pride in work. I’ve seen too many organizations where work is a dehumanizing slog. Life is just too short to spend 40+ hours a week that way. Many teams have had success using agile principles and methods. I’ve heard from scores of developers that the Agile teams they worked on were the best work experiences of their lives.

Sadly, I think many organizations are drawn to agile because they see it as a way to squeeze more work out of people. Sort of like the days when executives didn’t read past the word Rapid in Rapid Application Development. The truth is that if executives want to get more done faster, they have to look at the work system, and the way they manage.

3) Why do most managers suck so much?

Most managers want to do a good job, but don’t know what to do or how to do it. It’s not surprising, since most managers in software organizations are promoted into management from technical position (as I was). So they do what they’ve seen their managers do. Or if they’ve had a bad experience, avoid doing what their manager did.

The broader problem is that the predominant mental model of management is way off. I know, all mental models are wrong….and some are wrong in ways that are more damaging than others. Much traditional management thinking focusing on getting people to work harder and smarter with carrots and sticks. But the most effective way to get everyone to work more effectively is to work on the work system so that everyone can do better.

4) You’re giving a workshop on ‘Agile Retrospectives’. Who should attend and what will they learn?

Agile retrospectives are the engine for continuous improvement on teams. Anyone who wants to learn how to help their team think, learn, and improve together should attend. Same for anyone who has dull, do nothing retrospectives. We’ll do a project, have a retrospective, and then learn how to design effective retrospectives by examining the pieces and parts of a retrospective and how they fit together–all without PowerPoint!

5) What are you most looking forward to about Webstock?

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about New Zealand. I’m looking forward to visiting Wellington, catching up with some old friends, meeting new people. I’m also looking forward to the energy and drive that just rolls off the Webstock program. I’m sure I’ll have fun.

Thanks Esther. And we can promise there will be no snow in Wellington in February!

The speaker interviews: Rives

In the second of our speaker interviews, we caught up with Rives.

1) Once a poet, always a poet? Or, have you always been a poet? Or, one day did you just start?

I remember writing poems as early as age seven. But it wasn’t until the song parodies of my tween years that I really hit any kind of rhapsodic stride.

2) Does being a poet help you get laid? I mean, more than, say, being a web designer does?

If more poets and web designers did both, we could make a graph or something. Or you could make a graph — I’m busy that night.

3) You’ve spoken at numerous TED conferences. Are they as good as the videos make it seem?

The TED talks are about as good as the videos make them seem, and the videos in some cases are even better, what with all the fine camera work and editing. The conference itself is a have-to-be-there.

4) Your ideal dinner party. You and four others. Who would they be?

Of the four invitees, I imagine only Vincenzo Peruggia would show up. And I’d send him home with the leftovers. Really, I’d insist.

5) What’s your process for writing a poem? Do you need to be writing? Does it come straight into your head? Do you revise and edit a lot?

That’s a total of four questions, so: Private. No. Yes. Scrupulously.

Thanks Rives. I’m off to create a graph…

The speaker interviews: Brian Fling

In the first of our speaker interview for Webstock 2010, we talked with Brian Fling. In addition to speaking at the main conference, Brian is also taking a workshop, ‘Designing mobile experiences‘.

1) The past year has been pretty busy for you. Tell us what you’ve been up to.

What? It has been a year already? Wait… it is 2010 already? Actually the past year was crazy, challenging and fun all at the same time. The first part of the year I was finishing up my book, Mobile Design and Development followed almost immediately with starting up the mobile agency, pinch/zoom.

Since then we’ve had the opportunity to work on some fantastic projects with some amazing clients. While iPhone apps have been our mainstay, we are certainly seeing an increased need for other app platforms and a renewed interest in the mobile web.

But my main focus these days is helping people “get” that the interactive landscape is not the same as it was one or two years ago. These little mobile devices, that we sometimes call “phones” are changing everything.

2) Nexus or iPhone?

I’m an iPhone guy. I bought a Nexus One and while it is a pretty sweet little device, I still think the Android user experience is lacking. It is as if it is living in a time prior to the iPhone. And I don’t just mean the user interface, I mean the total experience. People are expecting a lot out of these smartphones these days, from form factor, to UI, to services, and I think the iPhone is the only one that offers a complete package.

3) Looking further ahead, give us a snapshot five years into the future. What’s the relationship between mobile, web, ubicomp look like? Who are the players in this space? What’s the endgame?

You didn’t just say five years did you? If you think about it, it took us nine years to put all the guts of the original iMac into what we now call the iPhone… and it is a phone too!

I try to look at the future as what we know now:

• We know that the always on, ubiquitous network is here. The pipe is pretty constrained today, but there is new tech on the horizon that has the opportunity to fatten it and change the way we look at the network in the process. I think roaming data plans and mobile payments are the next big hurdles that we face, but I expect more here within the next few years.

• We know the cloud is here to stay, but I think instead of thinking as one big amorphous cloud, I think we will see lots of small local or regional clouds emerge. Basically information and services that are highly relevant to my location, but are also highly connected to everything else.

• We know that all devices will increasingly be on the network, and they won’t just be phones. Machine to Machine (M2M) communications is growing fast, especially in the US where billions of stimulus dollars are infused to put everything on the network. But I think of it this way: If it has power, it is on the network. If it has a screen, it has a web browser.

So to answer your first question, I no longer see a difference between mobile and web. It is all mobile, and it’s all on the web.

As far as players, I think we will continue to see Apple play a crucial role in the space for many reasons that a lot of their competition hasn’t even begun to rival. They have redefined the mobile ecosystem in a way only Apple can. Even big names like Nokia, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung and RIM will be hard pressed to compete as long as they serve the operators first and users second.

An endgame? The user… always. Mobile, like no other medium, highlights the importance of user needs. I’ve seen even a basic mobile strategy cobble large companies because they can’t figure out how to shift to being a more people-centered organization.

4) You were a judge in this year’s ONYAs. How did you find that? Any comments on the quality of what you saw?

Overall the entries were pretty awesome. Some of the design was some of the best I’ve seen. However I was a bit disappointed to how some interpreted what is means to be “accessible.” Accessibility isn’t just about technologies like screen readers, it is how your content will be interpreted by things other than humans, like mobile devices, search engines, or even other websites or applications. Poor accessibility traps your content into a single presentational format, the death knell of a by-gone era. With devices like the iPad, eReaders and other mobile/netbook hybrids looming, content must be fully accessible or die.

I also have to admit that while reviewing the entries I went into a prolonged and ill advised tirade on Twitter about Flash. Tasty nuggets like: “The future of the Web simply doesn’t have Flash in its roadmap. Devices that can’t support will become the major mode of access on the web.” and… “Flash will never come near to being ubiquitous on the *thousands* of different types of devices on the network.”

5) You’re giving a workshop at Webstock on “Designing Mobile Experiences”. Who should attend and what will they learn?

Anyone. I try to make sure I have something for everyone. In fact I make a point to talk to everyone before we begin to make sure I understand their background and needs and adapt the workshop of the fly to the people in the room. So no two of my workshops are ever the same. We will cover a lot of ground from how to create a cross platform mobile strategy to building prototypes and testing them. In some workshops we make awesome prototypes and in others we coded up apps.

We’ll cover some things that are specific to iPhone and even the iPad, but I always make sure to abstract it out to the patterns I’ve seen in other mobile application platforms I’ve worked with over the years. My goal is to make sure that everyone, regardless of their level walking into the workshop, walks out with a firm understanding of mobile, gets the basic principles of strategy and design and how to take it back to their organization and take it to the next step.

Thanks Brian. We’re really looking forward to having you here! And re the future for Flash, well, you’re not the only one. *cough* Steve Jobs *cough*