Conferences come and go, they ebb and flow. Sometimes they fade away while other times they grow until quality suffers.
Webstock this year was phenomenal, matching reviews I've heard in years past. Where typical conferences have most speakers giving a 6 out of 10 talk with the occasional 9, I'd say this year's event was filled with two days of 9s and 10s, with only one or two 7/10 talks that still had something you could take away.
The audience was warm, inviting, and extremely friendly. The other speakers and I bonded quickly over the course of the first hours together and came away from it as a large group of new friends, hanging out around the clock over the week. I had only met three or four of the other speakers before but I came away from the conference knowing them all like old friends.
Technology conferences are great places to go and get recharged. You get to hear new ideas, learn about history, and meet like-minded folks. I watched every single talk in the main conference hall over the course of two days and it quickly became my favorite technology conference to date. Speakers were on point with interesting talks, absolutely beautiful visuals, and rarely did I ever find myself checking a clock.
To sum up my favorites: Kathy Sierra came back to the conference scene and dazzled everyone. Jeremy Keith did that thing where you know people when they were younger along with you and then one day you suddenly realize they're beyond one of your peers and they are now one of the greats. His talk was my favorite of the conference because it blended a deep knowledge of history intertwined with the things we do today and what is to come. I had no idea until I watched it, but it meshed well with my talk, covering some of the same concepts. Erin Kissane's talk was great as well. The first day ended with three spectacular talks back to back, with Lauren Beukes telling us about sci-fi, South Africa, and the world ahead. Amy Hoy gave an inspirational talk on how to bounce back from bad advice and worse feedback. Matthew Inman made everyone laugh their asses off for nearly an hour. The second day went well too with the brightest spots being Scott Hanselman's time management talk and Jessica Hische's stunningly beautiful work. Adam Lisagor gave tons of great advice to freelancers and Michael Johnson took us inside Pixar. The closing talk by Derek Handley ended the conference on a perfect note, asking us not just to strive to do well but also to do good (in the world).
The setting for the conference is New Zealand and I always heard it was one of the most beautiful places on Earth and my week there didn't disappoint. Given that technology conferences are an easy business write-off, a conference like Webstock allows you to mix a bit of tourism with your business travel. Warm, sunny weather in the dead of my winter wasn't bad either. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to attend events in San Francisco, New York City, and Austin, but I've long wanted to find design and technology conferences in more interesting places and Webstock more than fills the bill in that regard.
I had a good time speaking at the event (more on that when video of it comes out), meeting lots of wonderful people in the audience, and being treated like a king by the amazing staff that runs the entire conference impeccably. It was easily the best speaking gig I've ever had. I'm planning on making this conference a regular visit in the future (as an attendee) and I urge anyone else (especially in America) that has yearned for a top-quality, well-run technology conference in a place you've always wanted to visit to do the same.