I feel inspired, creative, happy, stimulated, fired up. No, I haven’t ingested any illegal substances. The Airsquare team has just returned from Webstock, a yearly conference in Wellington, NZ, featuring some of the superstars of the web industry. Being a non-geek, I had reservations about attending: would I drown in a sea of code? At least there would be free ice-cream.

Webstock was anything but technical and boring. The whole experience was about inspiration and creativity. The speakers were diverse and there were lessons in there for everyone. And so, I'm sharing my happy pills and pearls of wisdom...

On Business

Help your clients to be amazing!

Kathy Sierra stated that our aim should be for our clients to feel 'Badass'. Focus on encouraging clients to be great and to achieve something. Encourage and empower. Our clients should feel "animated by purpose" (Dana Chisnell, Independent researcher, Webstock 2012)

Work to live, don't live to work

In business, it’s easy for your work/life balance to get well, imbalanced. Matt Haughey (founder of Metafilter) encouraged us to take a long term view and to think about how your plan for your business interacts with your aspirations for life. 

"9 out of 10 start ups fail. When you get the funding that's when the real work starts - it's not lottery day"

(Matt Haughey, Webstock 2012)


Scott Hanselman (Principal Community Architect for Web Platform and Tools) gave some valuable tips.

  • Don’t check and reply to your emails first thing in the morning - they'll just reply, and the cycle will continue!
  • Keep emails brief - imagine that you have a finite number of keystrokes before you die.
  • Set yourself three outcomes for the day, for the week, for the month, for the year.
  • Have a Monday vision and Friday reflection

Don’t do it for the money

If you aim to get meaning and purpose from your work, you'll always be rewarded. 

"Never do it for the money; do it for the work and the money will come"

(Adam Lisagor, Webstock 2012)

Focus on building a product/service that people like

It's easy to get in the pattern of trying to push forward and make monetary gains, without thinking about what you're striving for in the first place - business is a service; build a business that works well and serves well and the customers will come.

"Don’t ask for 'likes' - be likable"

(Matthew Inman, Illustrator, The Oatmeal, Webstock 2012)

Thanks for the laughs, Matthew Inman; check out his comic, 'The Oatmeal', if you don't believe how funny he is!

Don't fret over the details too soon

Erin Kissane is a content strategist who, in dulcet tones, spoke to us of the challenges of big projects.

"Work large to small, but ship small to large"

(Erin Kissane, Webstock 2012)

Focus on the big picture and your core purpose first. Then fill in the details later.

Look after your team

Having a cohesive team is crucial.

"Great teams have great morale, even in the face of constant criticism"

(Michael B. Johnson, leader of the Moving Pictures Group at Pixar Animation Studios, Webstock 2012)

Take a long term view

Jeremy Keith (Web developer and author) challenged and inspired, with his thoughts on how the human measurement of time has evolved. His comment

"The dinosaurs died out because they never had a space program" 

made us chuckle. He’s a fan of  ‘The Long Now Foundation’, which encourages long term thinking and responsibility. Food for thought.

Respect craftsmanship

Great craftsmen take the time needed for their craft; focus on the purpose of what you do and allow yourself the time and focus to do it. This was further illustrated by Michael B. Johnson, leader of the Moving Pictures Group at Pixar Animation Studios, who gave us a peek inside the amazing world of Pixar and the intricate processes involved in telling their stories.

"Make things you wish existed"

(Jessica Hische, Illustrator, Webstock 2012 - check out her awesome flowchart)

Jennifer Brook, user experience designer, designer and self-confessed introvert, enthralled us with the story of her evolution from a tree-house dwelling book maker to being the interaction designer for several of the New York Times mobile products. Her story highlighted, not only the importance of craftsmanship and taking time, but also how forms change naturally over time; the key is to build a bridge between what is familiar and what is new. 

On Life

Don't let fear rule your world

Danah Boyd, senior researcher at Microsoft Research, examined the culture of fear, social media and radical transparency. Think about how easily fear gets our attention (particularly in the media) and how this growing culture of fear is being used to regulate and censor the internet and elsewhere.

"Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity"

(Danah Boyd, Webstock 2012)

Be a futurist

It's so easy to get caught up in day to day routines and to lose sight of the bigger picture: Derek Handley (entrepeneur) implored us to be futurists - to "live on purpose" and to think of the legacy that we will leave behind.

"Those who cannot imagine the future are doomed to f*** it up...The world is made flexible through story; we must tell as many stories as we can”

(Lauren Beukes, Novelist, Webstock, 2012). 


De-clutter your life; sort the signal from the noise (Scott Hanselman, Webstock 2012). We have access to a lot of information on a daily basis. It's OK to let some information wash over you and focus on what grabs your attention.

"Recognise the psychic weight of your to-dos"

(Scott Hanselman, Webstock 2012)

Believe in Yourself

Don't listen to the "invisible rules" (Amy Hoy, Webstock 2012) You know - the unspoken don'ts: "you must do it this way", "you can’t do that", "that won’t work" etc... Don't let the 'haters' stop you from trying, and don't let the detractors make you turn back. Poeple like to hear themselves talk.

Be true to yourself; your aspirations; your ideas.


Andy Biggs

Andy Biggs

20th February 2012

Great write up. I really like your pearls of wisdom that you have collected. Some times I get so caught up in what I do that I forgot some of these core ideas. Sounds like it was an awesome conference. Wish I'd gone!

Clare Wade

Clare Wade

21st February 2012

Thanks Andy. I've only captured the tinniest bit of Webstock here - there was so much to think about. You'll have to sit down with a nice wee cuppa (or home-brew) and watch the Webstock videos, as they appear - you'll get heaps more from them.



22nd February 2012

So great to see you guys and hang out in our nation's capital!

Clare Wade

Clare Wade

22nd February 2012

We enjoyed catching up and sampling some craft beer with you too Barry:-)



27th February 2012

Sounds like i missed out on something special. Great write up guys.

Clare Wade

Clare Wade

28th February 2012

Damen, it was really cool, watch the videos as they are released..the speakers were really awesome!

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