Webstock: Making Magic and Other Stuff that Matters (Day One)

webstock-logo-smlThere is a quotation etched in the cement in Wellington’s Civic Square. It’s by Bruce Mason – a famous Wellington playwright – about the impact of theatre on community.

It reads:

bruce mason quote: "I ask not only that my city, but all, give themselves to the essence of our cult - the ritual assembly of an interested coterie in a space where magic can be made and miracles occur".

Quote by Wellington playwright Bruce Mason

I’ve been to Civic Square many times, but I only noticed this quote last week. I found it particularly poignant, because a kind of theatrical magic happens in Wellington this time every year: Webstock week.

Some people see Webstock as a web conference, but those of us who attend regularly know it as The Week That Magic Happens. Mike Brown, one of the Webstock organizers, recently commented to me: “I love that you book your Webstock ticket without even checking who the speakers are“. For me, that is the impact of the Webstock brand. I don’t need to justify the ticket price by seeking out the headline acts, because regardless of the programme, Webstock is guaranteed to be magic.

What do I mean by magic?

Let me explain. I don’t cry very often. I didn’t cry while watching Titanic, heck, I didn’t even cry while watching The Notebook. I certainly don’t cry at other conferences. But I cry at Webstock.  Every. Single. Time. This year, I cried at three different points. Once when Garr Reynold’s voice broke while he was sharing a video of his now-deceased parents. Once when Mike Monteiro told us about Bobbi Duncan from Texas who was inadvertently outed as a lesbian to her homophobic parents on Facebook and again during Tash’s closing speech, when she was given a standing ovation before she even got halfway through.

Registration desk

Even the registration desk is beautifully designed. (Photo courtesy of Webstock.org.nz)

If you were peeking in through the auditorium doors at any point during Webstock, you could be forgiven for thinking there was some type of Christian Revival meeting going on. And you wouldn’t really be too far off the mark. The eloquent speakers carefully chosen for Webstock are evangelists of sorts – preaching to us about the importance of creating a better world wide web and therefore a better world, making us stand up and yell out affirmations of our commitment to the cause with passionate gusto – “Yes we can!”

But although, as one non-attending Twitter observer wryly commented, the Webstock speakers seem to be inspiring rousing renditions of Kumbaya, in reality, they just serve as a reminder that we CAN change the world, one pixel at a time.

It’s not the speakers who make Webstock magic, it’s the inspiration they spark within us, the audience, that makes Webstock magic. We leave the conference believing in our own superpowers, our talents and our ability to make stuff that matters.

The thoughtful Webstock swag

The ever thoughtful Webstock swag (thanks to Diane for sharing the pic)

I hadn’t been at the conference more than an hour before I made the decision to radically change my business. I realized that if I’m going to make stuff that matters, I have to throw myself into my online training business and make it my #1 priority. Because it matters. It matters a LOT. It’s not enough to Write. Speak. Educate.  I have influence over students in 57 countries and counting. That matters. I can no longer treat my company as a hobby or a second job. I need to set an example and the only way to do this is to stop working for clients and start working on stuff that really matters to me.

From my perspective, Webstock 2013 can be summarized in those three words: STUFF THAT MATTERS. Below are my own takeaways from some of the presentations and how they fit into this three word mantra.

work on stuff that matters

Clay Johnson kicks off the Conference mantra

DAY ONE

Clay Johnson: Industrialized Ignorance

Clay Johnson is best known as the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008.

The fact that we know the name of at least one Kardashian but NOT the child poverty rate in New Zealand is because of the way we consume media. Pizza tastes better than broccoli. Opinion tastes better than news. Confirmation bias is the new H1N1.

It’s up to us to be responsible and create a more honest media. Clay says we should try to write 500 words first thing in the morning before checking email or Twitter. Consume with care. Stick to a healthy information diet and stem the tide of industrialized media. Your clicks are votes for crappy content. Produce rather than consume.

Key Takeaway: Work on stuff that matters.

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Jim Coudal: Digital is analog

There isn’t room to be afraid, be open to serendipity. If you don’t get started, you won’t get started. You need adversity in order to change your goals. Ideas take the path of least resistance, and it is very easy to talk yourself out of something. Don’t talk yourself out of a good idea, treat it like a regular client, give it the respect it deserves. If that means sacking all your clients to concentrate on your passion, do it without fear.

Why make profits for your client when you can be creating opportunities for yourself? Trust your instincts.

Key Takeaway: You make stuff that matters.

Webstock inspired nail art

Webstock inspired nail art, courtesy of @narelle_nz

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Jason Kottke: I built a web app (and you can too)

Listen to your slow hunch. You can do it – things you don’t know how to do are documented. Creating is about showing up and doing the work.”Sit in the chair and do it.”

Key Takeaway: I built something that matters.

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Aza Raskin – Design is the beauty of turning constraints into advantages

It’s not about thinking outside the box. It’s about finding the right box to think inside. It’s the box itself that matters. Context is important. Perceptual scope is crucial because perception is different for everyone depending on how you phrase a question.

Aza demonstrated this concept by showing us beautiful architecture created within extreme size constraints. One example was the architect who wanted to keep the tiny Hong Kong tenement apartment he grew up in and made it work by using sliding walls and panels to create 24 beautiful, functional rooms within a single tiny space.

The power of constraints is learning to choose the right problem. Constraints force us to overcome obstacles and create solutions. Find your creativity within contraints.

Key Takeaway: Constraints matter.

Aza Raskin on Perceptual Scope. Do you see H's or S's?

Aza Raskin on Perceptual Scope. Do you see H’s or S’s?

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Miranda Mulligan – Your Survival is Designed

The work of the typical web designer goes well beyond pixel-pushing beautification and rare is the project that has no need for a designer. At one point or another, nearly all departments cross paths with “design” in order to conceive or execute a project, and the most successful ones engage a designer from concept to completion.

Therefore, the designer is uniquely positioned to be one of the most informed people in any organization, knowing most of the idiosyncrasies of all the moving parts.  Understanding our medium makes us better storytellers. But most journalists dont understand the Internet: Terrifying! Therefore, journalism needs more design thinking.

Key Takeaway: Design matters.

Miranda Mulligan on why media needs design

Miranda Mulligan on why media needs design

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Artur Bergman – The Internet, performance and you — mysteries of a CDN explained

Speed is good, slow is bad – self evident. If you decrease your site load time by 1 second, you might half the bounce rate for your site. Make the Internet fast:

  • Avoid latency
  • Appear fast – users can be tricked in to thinking your site is fast with good UI
  • Be fast.

Key Takeaway: Deliver stuff that matters faster.

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Kelli Anderson – Finding the Hidden Talents of Everyday Things

Although they were all brilliant, Kelli’s presentation was the one that probably inspired me the most.

We can all make disruptive wonder. The familiar face of a thing often belies the complexity of its underlying material (or digital) conditions. You should regularly “hack” your mindset and experience to find the hidden awesome. You should better understand how things work in order to demonstrate the surprising capabilities in the world, hiding in plain sight.

To demonstrate this point, Kelli showed us how she created a Fake New York Times and what happened when she distributed it to a bunch of people outside the NYT offices. People were forced to change their perception of the world for just a few moments and wonder “what if…?”

She also showed that you can take mundane, everyday items and make them into something magical. For her friend’s wedding, she made plain paper into musical wedding invitations. Paper became a completely different, unexpected medium with a little clever thinking and thoughtful design.

Key Takeaway: Use disruptive wonder to make stuff that matters.

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Kitt Hodsden – Set yourself up to succeed

Many of the successes we hear about these days are the big ones, the ones that are most sensationalized, given the loudest voice or the most coverage.  What we often don’t hear about are the small steps that, over time, avalanche into those big successes.

Learn to streamline your digital work. Utilize digital shortcuts and the power of the command line in your day to day routine so you can make more stuff that matters in less time.

Key Takeaway: Small steps matter.

Refreshments, Webstock style

Refreshments, Webstock style

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John Gruber – In Praise of Pac-Man: Lessons all designers can learn from the perfect video game

“You’ve done your best when people don’t notice what you’ve done” is an adage that applies to designers in nearly any field. Game designers have created a body of work that can serve as a model for all software designers, whether they’re creating apps, websites, or anything else.

In the first few years, Pac Man earned more than Star Wars. It was so successful it had a cartoon and song on the radio. John thinks Pac Man was successful because it was:

  • Fun
  • Simple
  • Obvious
  • Challenging

If it’s meant to be simple, you should be able to explain it in one sentence. Simple designs are often the most popular – complexity doesn’t necessarily add value. Keep that in mind when designing for the web.

Key Takeaway: Simplicity matters.

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Garr Reynolds – Story, Emotion, & the art of 21st-century Presentation — aka No Sleep Till Webstock

Garr talked about the importance of storytelling principles and how to evoke emotions in modern presentations.

Things that annoy us about presentations include :

  • presenters who read slides
  • too many transitions
  • cat photos!
  • incorrect information
  • too many fonts/colours/words/lines

Things that make for successful presentations include:

  • no bullet points
  • beautiful images
  • simplicity
  • story telling
  • moving away from the podium
  • knowing the content
  • confidence

Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) once said:

Dilbert on Powerpoint presentations

Dilbert on Powerpoint presentations

Powerpoint slides should be more like zen gardens – a few things are given power by the empty space that surrounds them.

Key Takeaway: Create presentations that matter.

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Tom Coatest at Webstock 2013

Tom on stage (image courtesy of Webstock.org.nz)

Tom Coates – An animating spark: mundane computing & the web of data

The way we think about the future is betraying our present. The goal is to demonstrate importance of tech, but they are overselling its power.

We need objects that are useful and practical, with an incremental value. We don’t need network computing, we can add value for 50 cents. Everything we need is sourceable from Alibaba.com. Imagine what would happen if any powered object over $50-100 was connected to the internet? What would that look like? What could we do?

Screw the impolite devices  – the fridge door alarms, the frenzied microwave beeps – instead, give me useful connected devices like fridges that tell me when I’ve run out of milk, or vacuum cleaners that tell me where the floor needs vacuuming. Sensor based door locks make sense but expensive Twitter-enabled Internet fridges don’t. We need connected computing devices that solve everyday, mundane goals and core functions.

The future isn’t *future enabled products* it’s just *products*. The future is already here.

Key Takeaway: Make stuff that matters work smarter.

The Plotting Tom meme develops in response to Tom's presentation

The Plotting Tom meme develops in response to Tom’s presentation

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That was my summary of Webstock 2013 -Day One. My Day Two summary is over here.

 

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How to Find Compelling Internet Statistics Without Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

If you’re like me, you do a lot of research online. Cat in a Cup

Whether I’m writing an article, preparing a slide deck, putting together a presentation or researching a subject for a client, I always seem to be hunting down compelling Internet statistics of one kind or another. Particularly topics like:

  • Number of US households with Internet access.
  • Latest search engine market share figures.
  • Most popular search terms for a particular year.
  • Number of Facebook users in a particular country.
  • Amount of e-commerce expenditure in past 12 months.

I always start a search for stats like these thinking it’s going to be a simple task and then end up down some bizarre rabbit hole, emerging two hours later with an amusing picture of a cat in a teacup.

To prevent this from happening again, I’ve bookmarked a list of *Go To* sites for Internet statistics in my Evernote account and today, (you lucky things!), I’m sharing them with you:

  • Internet World Stats – This site lists a range of Internet usage statistics sorted by country and population figures. The site is regularly updated and features a range of handy charts and graphs. There are also links to the latest Facebook usage statistics.
  • ComScore – The press releases and reports from ComScore are often geared to the search industry, so I can usually find something of relevance here related to my particular slide deck or training workshop. Their white papers and presentations are also fantastic sources of visual cues and infographics to help illustrate your points.
  • Forrester Research – Forrester is a prolific publisher of research documents, market reports, analysis and studies of all kinds and in all industries.  A common focus of their research is the impact of the Internet on business activity. Many of their reports are available for purchase, but they also regularly release synopsis’ of their more influential studies for public use through their media department.
  • Google Trends – Don’t overlook Google Trends as a source for useful web statistics and anecdotes. For example, if you enter a search for *mobile phones*, you can track Google’s search history for that phrase and related phrases since 2004 and note the peaks and troughs as the use of cell phones impacted our daily lives. The items highlighted with a letter of the alphabet are influential news items relating to the search term over the historical period. These make fun anecdotes for your presentation e.g. in 2010, Fox News reported that mobile phones have more bacteria on them than the handles on public toilets. Ewww.
  • Facebook Marketing Bible – The FMB apparently started life as an internal company manual and has now become a published guide to marketing your brand, company, product, or service on Facebook. The Facebook Marketing Bible includes summaries about the inner workings of Facebook, strategies to using Facebook for your business, specific how-tos, successful case studies, and insights from social media experts across the board. I include it in this list because it contains some of the most interesting Case Studies for using Facebook that I’ve come across and everyone knows that compelling case studies are the lifeblood of a successful presentation.
  • Nielsen – Nielsen is another prolific global research company. Anything that Nielsen publish quickly becomes extremely influential and many businesses make major decisions based on the data published by Nielsen. Their whitepapers and webinars are freely available for download once you register for the site and new reports are published every day. If I need stats quickly, I always start here.
  • Gartner Research – Gartner Group provide insightful research on the impact of the Internet and the increasing role of IT in business. Gartner’s specialty is technical research, particularly relating to applications development and business intelligence. Unlike Forrester, Gartner’s research is generally only available via paid subscription, but they do offer a 30 day free trial.
  • Simba Information – Simba offer market intelligence primarily for the media, education and publishing industries, but their research reports often include useful technology-related statistics e.g. *The iPad and its Owner: Key Trends and Statistics 2013*.
  • Google Zeitgeist – Google’s annual wrap of the most searched-for topics, year by year, country by country. Think of it as Google’s answer to the Guinness Book of Records.
  • Gap Minder Not strictly Internet related, but Gapminder is a non-profit site that publishes the World’s most important trends in the fields of wealth, health, global development and the environment. In their own words, Gapminder is a modern museum on the Internet with the intention of being a *fact tank* that promotes a fact-based world view. Gapminder produces videos, Flash presentations and PDF charts showing major global development trends with animated statistics in colorful graphics.

Hopefully this list has helped shorten your search time for compelling and useful Internet statistics and prevented you from falling victim to the Rabbit Hole syndrome. After all, the last thing we need on the Internet is more pictures of cats in teacups.

Postscript: Factbrowser has been suggested as a worthy addition to this page. Thanks Keith!

 

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24 Hours Left to Use our $100 Discount Coupon

ppcI just realized that there are only 24 hours left before our $100 training coupon for Search Engine College expires, so I thought I’d better throw out a reminder.

In case you missed our last newsletter, we decided to offer all readers a $100 Training Gift Voucher (PDF) towards their next training course at Search Engine College, as an incentive to add tech training to your 2013 New Year resolutions.

If you want to gift the voucher to a colleague or loved one, simply print out the voucher and write the recipient’s name in the appropriate field.

If you want to use it for yourself, simply:

1) Choose your course/s from Search Engine College.

2) Click on the Buy Now button on the course page of your choice.

3) Choose your preferred currency from the top right menu.

4) Enter NEWYEAR2013 into the coupon field in the shopping cart.

5) Click on *Update* to apply your discount.

6) Check that the sub-total has been revised to include your discount & continue to complete your purchase.

If you wish to purchase more than one course, simply press the *continue shopping* button and click on more Buy Now buttons. Your shopping cart should then update to show the additional course/s.

Remember, the coupon expires on the stroke of midnight 14 January, GMT.

Happy New Year!

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SEO, Social Media and Other Hot Tech Jobs for 2013

Happy New Year readers!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday break and relaxing vacation, if you were lucky enough to get one. If you’re in a technology career, I have some fabulous news to kick off 2013.

Tech Job Search

2013 Jobs in Tech

Two major US recruitment firms have released Salary Guides that reveal the hottest technology jobs for 2013 and their approximate starting salaries. The salary ranges show that tech jobs are bucking the trend when compared to other industries and are offering extremely high starting salaries for persons with the right skills.

They’ve even identified SEO/SEM specialists and Social Media Specialists as two of the best paid and hottest technology jobs for 2013. I was so excited by this news that I wrote an article about it: SEO and Social Media Specialists Identified as Hot Tech Jobs for 2013.

You can download the PDF salary guides here:

Robert Half Technology – Salary Guide 2013

The Creative Group – Salary Guide 2013

Print them out and go ask for that payrise! Or, if you are keen to get some training under your belt before knocking on the bosses door, consider taking one of our online marketing courses first.

 

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Well done Search Engine College graduates!

Hearty congratulations to our latest round of graduates for 2012.

Students named below have successfully completed a course at Search Engine College and attained official certification status (requiring a passing grade of 70 percent or higher) in the past few months.

Search Engine Optimization 101

  • Anushree Y Pandya
  • Kate Gold
  • Janice Wood
  • Pat Wolesky
  • Janine Maxwell
  • Tiffeny Papuc
  • Christopher Dallenbach
  • Bob Lamberson
  • Lorna Marlow
  • Nichole Simms
  • Nadine Robele
  • Stefanie Asselmann
  • Artez Young
  • Gary Lent
  • Ayonara Rome
  • Sam Billings
  • Nancy Orenstein
  • Kelli Castleberry
  • Cherish Moss
  • Marike van der Spuy
  • Jim Millar
  • Vicki Portors
  • William Morrison
  • Diana Weaver
  • Arlene Sperandeo
  • Russel Brownlee
  • Roger Whittaker
  • Marika Sjöberg
  • Diego Varela
  • Mark Idoni
  • Christoph Brendel
  • Nadine Robele
  • Autumn Garavito-Chaney
  • Leonard Fanelli Jr
  • Leila Al-Challah
  • Phyllis Rieff
  • Marie Orriss
  • Hunter Ricks
  • Dave Desruisseaux
  • Kasie Christine
  • Erwin Hunter
  • Nichole Gunn
  • Donnell Harmon
  • Christina Cole
  • Christine Rokos
  • Stephanie Moreno
  • Kelly Thompson
  • Sharon Tremblay
  • Adam Dilbeck
  • Carol Szymczak
  • Christine Sun
  • Asif Dewan
  • Heidi Couto


Search Engine Optimization 201

  • John Cullen
  • James Kelly
  • Susan Steele
  • Anushree Y Pandya
  • Wian Oliver
  • Robert Mosley
  • Neil Egginton
  • Gaone Victor Ronkwane
  • Trish Anderson
  • Pat Wolesky
  • Janine Maxwell
  • Stefanie Asselmann
  • Gary Lent
  • Ayonara Rome
  • Nancy Orenstein
  • Kelli Castleberry
  • Janice Wood
  • Ross Kenyon
  • Leona Miller
  • Bob Lamberson
  • Roger Whittaker
  • Melissa Moran
  • Christoph Brendel
  • Autumn Garavito-Chaney
  • Phyllis Rieff
  • Mary Li
  • Mark Idoni
  • Michonne Rose Proulx
  • Ryoichi Atsumi
  • Artez Young
  • Arlene Sperandeo
  • Marie Orriss
  • Lyn Beaumont
  • Nadine Robele
  • Diego Varela
  • Patricia Uster
  • Cherish Moss
  • Christopher Dallenbach
  • Christina Cole
  • Tiffeny Papuc
  • Carol Szymczak
  • Asif Dewan


Pay Per Click Advertising 101

  • Russell Hudson
  • Pat Wolesky
  • Janine Maxwell
  • Robert Mosley
  • Stefanie Asselmann
  • Nancy Orenstein
  • Leona Miller
  • Erwin Hunter
  • Nichole Simms
  • Phyllis Rieff
  • Arlene Sperandeo
  • Marie Orriss
  • Nadine Robele
  • Donnell Harmon
  • John Cummings
  • Christina Cole
  • Mark Idoni
  • Asif Dewan
  • Kevin May


Pay Per Click Advertising 201

  • Darlene Sojka
  • Diana Timmons
  • Pat Wolesky
  • Janine Maxwell
  • Keith Rowe
  • Stefanie Asselmann
  • Nancy Orenstein
  • Robert Mosley
  • Phyllis Rieff
  • Ryoichi Atsumi
  • Arlene Sperandeo
  • Marie Orriss
  • Nichole Simms
  • Christina Cole
  • Nadine Robele
  • Mark Idoni
  • Asif Dewan

Web Site Copywriting 101

  • Saresa Bass
  • Kathleen McGowan
  • Gary Lent
  • Carole Pilkington
  • Cindy Hodits
  • Kelli Castleberry
  • Cheryl Magee
  • Autumn Garavito-Chaney
  • Ajay Nair
  • Darlene Sojka
  • Russel Brownlee
  • Brant Skogrand
  • Nadine Robele
  • Mark Idoni

Web Site Usability 101

  • William Smith
  • Nathan Blows
  • Janine Maxwell
  • Stefanie Asselmann
  • Ryoichi Atsumi
  • Roger Whittaker
  • Arlene Sperandeo
  • Marie Orriss
  • Christina Cole
  • Asif Dewan


Link Building 101

  • Anushree Y Pandya
  • Keith Rowe
  • Christoph Brendel
  • Luis Hernandez
  • Nichole Simms
  • Christopher Dallenbach

Certified Search Engine Optimizer

 

  • Anushree Y Pandya
  • Kathleen McGowan
  • Gary Lent
  • Kelli Castleberry
  • Roger Whittaker
  • Christoph Brendel
  • Autumn Garavito-Chaney
  • Luis Hernandez
  • Christopher Dallenbach


Certified Search Engine Marketer

  • Diana Timmons
  • Keith Rowe
  • Ajay Nair
  • Ryoichi Atsumi
  • Arlene Sperandeo
  • Marie Orriss
  • Darlene Sojka
  • Nichole Simms
  • Christina Cole
  • Nadine Robele
  • Mark Idoni
  • Asif Dewan

Congratulations to you all! Please contact your tutor if you are still waiting to receive your hard copy certificate, Status Page or certification seal.

Also, don’t forget to fan of our Facebook page and follow our Twitter profile @secollege for College announcements such as lesson updates, press releases, new courses, events and milestones.

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Thinking about taking one of our online training courses? Download our free SEO sample lesson.

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