Webstock 2018 – The Highlights

By: Jessica and Gemma 21 Feb, 2018

Not familiar with Webstock? It’s a 5-day Conference held annually each February in Windy Welly. It’s full of talks and workshops on AI, algorithms, information architecture, inclusive design, performance, privacy, payments, design systems, data collection, digital transformation and everything else in between.

A veritable feast of entertainment, inspiration, illumination and practical application to help you do your best work. We believe anyone who goes will gain an unprecedented amount of value from attending. Here’s a few of my highlights in an attempt to cover the value we indulged:


The Goodies:


Let’s start off with the incredible ‘schwag bag’ everyone received. It was full of all things practical that also aren’t bad for our planet – stuff that can be reused, recycled or repurposed. Check it out below:

Everything was branded beautifully with the intricate Webstock logo. Every aspect was meticulously well-planned and executed. We have no words for the packaging for these Garage Project beers. Heart eyes emoji, anyone?



The Talks:


Main Conference Day 1 – Thursday 15th February Highlights


Nat Dudley – Be Kind, Design


Head of Design at Figure.NZ, Dudley preaches on making data useful for everyone. She speaks about the need to build kindness into digital services. She touches on inclusivity of all in design – making this a first thought rather than a after thought. Decolonizing name collection – steering clear of the western-centric view that everyone  will have a one-word first name, maybe a middle name and a surname. She suggests that we also take into consideration non-binary people and women’s needs such as deadnaming for transgenders, sexuality and gender. She believes “everyone here is smart, so distinguish yourself by being kind.”


Ines Sombra – What does it take to go fast?


Director of Engineering at Fastly, Sombra  spends her time helping the web go fast. She spent her half hour advising the audience on making things work quickly on the internet. She emphasizes the importance of testing and avoiding cutting corners. She believes, “When you cut corners, everything will screw you over at the worst possible moment and you will have to fix it on the spot.” She highlights areas we would otherwise gaze over such as monitoring and database knowledge.


Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen – Monsters in the AI Machines


Crawford, a research professor at New York University and Paglen, an artist and geographer and notable author spoke on how AI (artificial intelligence) is being used in a unregulated manner to amplify and act on our worst collective instincts and prejudices. When machines see, they employ forms of vision unfamiliar to those of us with human eyes. Very interesting! This one left us shook.


Main Conference Day 2 – Thursday 16th February Highlights


Hayley van Dyck – Inside the belly of the beast: creating change in unlikely places


Van Dyck, the co-founder of the United States Digital Service. This is a start-up inside the White House building services for the American people that work better and cost less. She describes it as “Peace Corps for nerds”, it is already one of the largest offices inside the White House and it is “disrupting how the government does business from inside and out.” We live in a era where we can order gluten-free meals and have it delivered in 10 minutes from our phones but struggle to find government documents online. Van Dyck aims to use tech to deliver services quickly, at scale, in delightful ways.


Katrina Owen – Cultivating Instinct


Owen, a Eco-system Engineer at GitHub talks about perpetual learning through the lens of theory and practice, research and anecdotes and speculates how it can be deployed strategically to train new experts. This talk was mind boggling and a lot to take in but equally as mesmerizing!


Anna Pickard – A short talk about things you already know


Pickard, Creative Director of Voice and Tone at Slack puts a humorous spin on things we already know. She inspires us to unpack, unpick, dust off and deploy all the skills we’ve got hidden in ourselves, our team, in our company. All the things we have hidden because we think they don’t work for us.Very inspiring talk to be ourselves and not change to fit in.


Lee Vinsel – The Innovation Fetish


Vinsel, a Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Virginia Tech explores his work on The Maintainers. It is a global, interdisciplinary research network which studies maintenance, repair and mundane labour with technology. He left me pondering the thought that innovation is overvalued? It is the dominant ideology of our era. But what if building, maintenance and repair prove much more important to our daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations?


I hope this short excerpt gives you some sort of insight into the world that is Webstock. I highly recommend going! Thank you for a wonderful week, Wellington. It’s been a blast!

Check out previous event reviews here.