OK, as a mere conference, Webstock is seriously sexy. Big names, glorious venue, brilliant food and People's coffee, and all this just a stroll downhill from my place. International heroes come primed to give the talk of their lives. That's what we expect, and that's what we usually get.
But the Webstock mystique runs deep, and we also expect to have our minds jostled and jiggled with more than tips and stories. Spot-the-theme is rewarding, because the Webstock organisers scour the internet for speakers who catch the zeitgeist (damn, foreign word) and have occupied the future. So we get an overall sense of where the internet is now and where it's sure to go and what actions are open to us.
Webstock is bigger than its parts. It's like a spa for the mind: you get mentally massaged, exercised, and dosed with stories raw and processed. You leave invigorated, rested, exhausted, informed, worried and inspired.
A realistic disenchantment with the internet flavoured many of this year's talks. I found this reassuring. I hope a lot of people are sick of the ubiquitous BS on how-to-make-a-million-in-five-minutes-just-like-clever-little-me. Instead these themes emerged, among others:
- Stay independent; VC investment has a dark side. (Andy Baio, Sha Hwang)
- I failed and it was fine. (Jen Bekman, Liz Danzico, Hannah Donovan)
- Tread softly and make good things.
- Mobile and multidevice: c'mon, hurry up! (Liza Kindred, Josh Clark, Dan Saffer)
- The internet is corrupt. (Maciej Ceglowski, Spoek Mathambo)
- The internet is our plaything. (Nelly ben Hayoun, Jessica Hagy)
- The meaning of life is life: so get on with it. (Derek Sivers)
I relished the whole Webstock shebang but I feel an urge to write something else, here in the blog-bit that nobody reads. Clive Thompson, Scott Berkun, Tom Loosemore and Dan Saffer all had me scribbling madly: their talks were not only mind-widening and practical — hard to do.
And (I'm going to stop writing soon, promise) I heard loads of appreciation left right and centre for the fabulous lineup of speakers who happened to be women.
Thanks to all you genius speakers, sponsors, Webstock helpers, and visionaries Mike, Tash, Deb and Ben. Oh yes and all attendees (we also play our humble part).
P.S. Miraz Jordan first suggested treating Webstock as a spa.