Webstock 08 Coverage

Just a note to say that I’m back from windy Wellington and have been busy turning my mad laptop ramblings from the Webstock Conference into blog posts and articles since I got back. You can read coverage of some sessions already on my SiteProNews blog and I’ll post others here shortly, including some of the more interesting things I learned and all the goss on my catch up with Jill Whalen. Stay tuned!

Webstock 08: Designing for the Future

Webstock logoNat Torkington has chaired the O’Reilly Open Source Convention and other O’Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web site in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook and was on of the founding Radar bloggers.

Nat started off by saying he’s not going to predict the future. He’s going to talk about trends. He’s a bad futurologist. Nat said that as web innovators, the challenges we face aren’t new. Nat’s job at O’Reilly is to spot trends, build products around them and help the company embrace the trends. He says we should all become Alpha Geeks. Alpha Geeks have the ability to spot future trends and expand those observations into usage. Florence Nightingale would have been an awesome Alpha Geek.

Moore’s Law is the number of components on an integrated circuit. It means that the power of your computer doubles every 6 months. Nat demonstrated this by comparing a PC from 1981 to one in 2007 both in size and storage. Machine learning is the new trend. Nat made the point that you can buy a 1TB of storage for about USD 400.

Nat recommended thinking big - expand your scope. Do the data tracking, purchase TB, track video not just audio. Gather information about your site - what do visitors click on? How long does it take a page to render? Keep up with User Interface research. Study what is “currently unfeasible” as it may be possible in two years time. Agitate for better broadband!

Newspapers are feeling pressure thanks to the Internet. People are using the web to do journalism. Web journalism is unlike traditional journalism because it creates an interactive web application as well. People are using the web to watch TV. Nat says there is a big gap between blogging and journalism. We don’t write letters, we email. We don’t email, ,we IM. We don’t blog, we Twitter.

If you run a web site, you should display live information because that’s what the expectations are. If you aren’t live, you need to explain why. Fresh is the thing. Mobile is joined at the hip with live connecting. People are portable, live and instantaneous. Your mobile is the computer of the future. Open source phones are here - Google’s Android is a prime example of a free mobile operating system. OpenMoto too. But mobile computing is trapped in walled garden as it is not scalable.

Flickr marked the start of the designer being involved in the site development. Designers are now part of the core team. integrating design and function together. When you create a web application or a site, remember that people who use your software are just people. Appeal to them. Learn how they work, what they want, what they need.

Takeaways from the presentation:

- Invest in UI (User Interface) now. Look at your site interface and make it more usable. Let users do fun new things on your site.

- Don’t have all the fun yourself. Users are curious and want to have fun - let them!

- Remember that users are people too!

- Read the Overcoming Bias blog

- Design software for how people are and not how you think they are

- Change the world by focusing on people

- Everything happens in real time

- Make your applications more usable

- Read the Mind Hacks book by Tom Stafford & Matt Webb. It talks about hacking the brain to come up with great ideas.

Off to Webstock 2008

Webstock logoBlogging will be sporadic for the rest of the week because I’m flying up to Wellington tomorrow for Webstock 2008 - New Zealand’s premier web conference. This will be my first Webstock and I’m absolutely thrilled to be going as I’ve heard great things from previous participants and the program rocks! I’m hoping to do some live blogging of the sessions both here and on the SiteProNews blog, but it all depends how dependable the WiFi connections are in the sessions and my hotel room.

A highlight of the Conference for me will be to finally meet Jill Whalen in person, after nearly 8 years of communicating online! Jill is giving a workshop and a conference session but we hope to hang out and maybe catch a meal together at some stage. Another highlight will be Kathy Sierra’s presentation which will close the conference, as well as some of the fun sessions the Webstock crew have got planned, such as Powerpoint Karaoke Idol and the 8 x 5 session.

If you’re coming along to the event, make sure you say hi!

Q and A: What program can I use to check search positions for my site?

QuestionHi Kalena

Can you recommend a service that will give me a monthly report on page positions for my website based on keywords. I have been using Submitnet.net, but they recently changed their program and no longer give me what I need.


Dear Robbi

Web Position is probably the best choice for running monthly search ranking reports. They have a free trial. BUT you should be aware that some of the functions performed by this tool (e.g. automatic submissions and search rank querying) are discouraged by Google in their Webmaster Guidelines.

Other tools you might find useful for SEO and SEM are listed here and here.

Buy Books, Fight Poverty

I’m too tired tonight to tackle a Q and A, so I thought I’d mention an interesting project I saw advertised on TV today.

Good Books New Zealand is a new not-for-profit startup that is trying to fight poverty in a very unique way. They call themselves the online bookstore with a conscience, because they plan to donate 100 percent of profits from their book sales to Oxfam. Here’s a blurb from their site:

“Every time you buy a book from Goodbooks - any book - we contribute all profits to Oxfam to help fight its global battle against poverty and social injustice. There is no extra cost to you. We do not mark up our books to cover this contribution; our prices remain among the lowest you will find; delivery worldwide is completely free, and with over two million titles in stock our range is one of the largest you will find.”

Terrific cause and great idea! I don’t know how they are going to fund the business side of things, but I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here. They ship books worldwide for free, so buy a book and fight poverty.