Webstock 08

Webstock 2008 was even better the second time around. It was entertaining, thought provoking, and most important, full of good ideas. I came away feeling encouraged about the future of accessibility. Although I didn’t learn a great deal that was new from Shawn Henry’s excellent presentation, it was good to reconfirm what I know. It was also important to hear about developments in the WAI WCAG standards and to catch up with Shawn and other accessibility aficionados.

One unexpected pleasure was the presence of disabled people. Not many of us, but still we were there and our needs, along with dietary requirements were generally accommodated. Most obvious were the NZ Sign interpreters. Many presenters obviously had no idea about how to work with them and made their job extremely difficult by speaking very fast. They also told me that speakers had not provided material in advance in a field with very specific technical language. They deserve a medal for their hard work.

The food was good, the entertainment was lively as was the company. But what was with all the cats? Geeks must all be cat people, as I am myself. Felines featured in many presentations, although Kathy Sierra managed to introduce a puppy of two!

For those of us looking for inspiration there was some seriously good stuff. It was great to see a greater emphasis on people as well as the cool technology. Russell Brown provided some interesting media analysis for media junkies like me. There were some thought provoking sessions on tech business.

A surprising number of presenters drew on the past, and I mean over one hundred years ago to provide insights on the future. Who would have thought that Florence Nightingale would have provided inspiration to twenty first century technologists to use and analyse data more fully.

Amy Hoy’s Usability for Evil was enlightening, and Damien Conway’s dire take on Web 2.0 had us all falling about laughing while giving some clear messages about the difficulties experienced by long suffering end users, and Jason Santa Maria had great overheads.

I can’t wait to put some of the ideas into practice.

I sense a growing maturity in the geek community, with what I always call the “gee whiz technology” culture being tempered with a more balanced and healthier focus on the people factor.

And as one of the few people there old enough to remember the original Woodstock I can assure everyone that Jimi Hendrix lives!

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