Hard News by Russell Brown


Wellington, you win

Okay Wellington, you win. You're lovely. The Phoenix Foundation's free show last night in Frank Kitts Park was a happening and a half, and debriefing over a whisky at the Hawthorn Lounge wasn't too foul either. I admit: you wouldn't get that in Auckland.

I only wish we'd arrived earlier, but we were busy speaking geek at the drinks after Webstock Day One. I'm immensely impressed with the style of the conference. The people behind it have correctly deduced that you don't get a bunch of tech conference stars to fly across the Pacific by being ordinary. It's not just the organisation, it's the richness of the branding around it.

Example: everyone who goes to tech conferences already has a wardrobe full of nasty black satchels. The Webstock conference bag is not a nasty black satchel, it's a colourful work of art that you wouldn't mind being seen with in public.

The branding extended even to the speakers' dinner, at Martin Bosley's Yacht Club Restaurant, where we arrived on Wednesday night to find personalised pounamo carvings for the first-time guests and lovely little framed works for the returning speakers. The table was set with Webstock-branded menus. The food was fabulous.

"These people," said one of the visitors, "put more effort into the speakers' dinner than O'Reilly puts into an entire conference."

Perhaps a little harsh, but it underlined the strength of being on the edge, doing it different and caring a lot because you only do this once every two years.

Big ups to People's Coffee too. As one of the visitors put it this morning: "Every conference has free coffee. I've never been to a conference that has free good coffee."

Clearly, they're winning some friends here.

I got my talk out the way this morning, and settled in to hear presentations by Simon Willison on OpenID the the end-goal of decentralised social networking (no Faceook required!) and Tom Coates of Yahoo on "the web of data" and other stuff. It'll be easier for you to watch the video when it's posted or visit their blogs than to have me try and explain it, but I found both of them intellectually impressive and rather motivating.

Not so great: the Museum Hotel dropping the ball on internet, really badly. Honestly, people are paying for that service.

Anyway, that'll do for now. Webstock is very Wellington and I'm most happy to be here.

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