Workit for Webstock

Webstock’s silver sponsor and longtime supporter Microsoft have taken a different approach to their presence at Webstock this year. They have chosen to take on the role of observer and broadcaster. Their efforts have culminated around a single piece of collateral – a backstage pass and a website – to create a lasting memory of Webstock for attendees and those not lucky enough to participate in the event. We caught up with Microsoft New Zealand Web Evangelist Nigel Parker and talked about their contribution to Webstock this year.

1. Tell us a little bit about the website and the idea of the backstage pass.

I have been lucky enough to be involved with Webstock since its inception in 2006. I have got to know the team and previous speakers that have been involved with the event and each year that Webstock takes place I’m fascinated in the excitement and love that gets generated. Previously we have engaged the audience in activities like our Valentine’s Day Flickr photo booth. This year I really wanted to bottle that excitement and take it to a wider audience and other communities.

2. How did you go about generating the content?

Every year leading up to Webstock a small gathering of fascinating people takes place at Mahurangi College in Warkworth. The event is known as Kiwi Foo Camp and is organised by Nat Torkington and Jenine Abarbanel, with assistance from Russell Brown. This year at Foo I pulled aside Webstock speakers Ben Cerveny and Eric Ries to talk on camera about themselves and the Webstock event.

With incredible support from Webstock personality and Senior VP Natasha Lampard I was able to attend and share Adam Greenfield’s mind blowing Wellington Walkshop and talk on camera with Jeff Atwood.

2. On the site you have interviews with companies and people attending Webstock, what are you trying to achieve with this?

I have been actively part of the New Zealand web community for many years. I am continually inspired by the innovation that comes from kiwis on the web. What I wanted to do with the site was showcase some of the Microsoft Gold Partners that I think are doing cool work. Among them, Intergen has been a resident sponsor of Webstock since the beginning and I caught up with their team at the event and in their office to talk about an exciting new kiosk project that they have been working on.

Also anyone that follows me on twitter knows that I’m a huge cricket fan so it was great to be able to interview another Microsoft Gold Partner NV Interactive about their latest exciting project launched this week for New Zealand cricket.

3. You mentioned Microsoft Gold Partner, what does this mean?

Microsoft is a platform company that coalesces with a strong partner community to achieve scale. The Microsoft Gold partners are highly visible in New Zealand but sometimes that can be intimidating for smaller web companies starting out. This year we have rolled out a new programme called WebsiteSpark. The programme is designed to give smaller web companies the tools to build web solution using the latest Microsoft web and design software with no upfront cost. Peter at Swizzle has done a great job of supporting this initiative with a local hosting offer.

Eighty three NZ web design companies have already signed up to WebsiteSpark. Having worked personally with some of the companies like Mcgovern, WebsiteSpark is already showing its potential to be a great program for innovative New Zealanders working on the web.

4. Webstock is an advocate of freedom and web standards. The backstage pass site leverages both Silverlight and Flash – what are your feeling around using plugins and standards based web technologies.

I find technologies like Silverlight and Flash work as a “ready now” cross platform solution to create immersive user experiences. I see standard technologies like HTML5 as “ready soon” technologies that will achieve much of what Silverlight and Flash can do today. I am excited about the prospect of HTML5 and will definitely start using it when browsers, frameworks and tools evolve.

If you take the backstage pass site as an example. I chose to publish the videos on YouTube for greatest reach and discoverability, this lead to a dependency on Flash that means you needed the plugin installed to watch the videos. The site is fully functional if you don’t have Silverlight installed but if you do have Silverlight it lights up with slicker navigation and an amazing immersive photo mosaic of shots from the Webstock conference connected to the Flickr photo service.

As more web companies support a programmer’s interface to their services the opportunity to enhance experiences on the web continues to develop. It is this future that I glimpse at during the two days of attending Webstock and plan to take back to future projects that I participate in.

Thanks for your time Nigel. We really appreciate the support that you’ve provided Webstock.