The two defining talks of Webstock

Now a few days later, I’ve realized there were two talks at Webstock that made it for me.

The first was Clay Johnson’s “Industrialized Ignorance,” a look at the current state of the media. Clay argues that, much like how industrial food production gives us food that tastes good, but isn’t necessarily good for us, industrial media focuses on producing content with entertainment value, instead of informational value. To combat this, we need to launch an equivalent “whole food movement” for information.

I like the metaphor, and maybe the solution can be reapplied too. For all that the government has done to improve diet (e.g. not much), I believe the greatest successes come at the individual, family, and community level. Food is very much tied to physicality.

On the web, geography matters less. We’re equally as influenced by the people around us, but we have choice in who we follow, friend and subscribe to. In this way we can, figuratively, pick out the fruits and vegetables we’ll be choosing from for our meals later in the week. The first step to take, though, is to start cooking for yourself.

Not checking email before writing 500 words is a simple hack I’d like to take to heart. Instinctively, I reached for my phone this morning as soon as I opened my eyes. The phone went into low battery mode before I made it to the mail app. I took that as a sign today was the day to start.

“Oh, I’m too busy to spend write 500 words every day,” one might think. Or, “I have nothing to write about.” As WordPress’ distraction-free writing says, just write. The words will come to you.

The second talk that really hit home was Karen McGrane’s “Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content.” Yes, it does sound like it’s about responsive design. Instead, she promoted producing content independent of platform. If your content is well structured, Karen argues, you’re in a much better position to reflow it into a variety of platforms.

This sounds familiar. In fact, it sounds like what many of us have been promoting as the future of journalism. Stijn wrote about it in 2010. Adrian wrote about it in 2006. In the last year, the conversation has all but died.

Personally, I’ve found enjoyment in more mundane projects, generally falling under the “improving administrative tasks in content management systems” category. Reinventing the entire content creation process is an unknown, nebulous challenge.

It was nice to be inspired to think big again. We need to bring some of that discussion back. And, while we’re at it, open standards too. Remember those?

434 words. I’ll take it.

Webstock: Karen McGrane, Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

Karen McGrane has made a career of dragging media companies kicking and screaming onto the internet. She’s helped with projects like a redesigned NYTimes.com, Atlantic Media’s web properties, and TIME’s new responsive redesign. “It’s tempting to think that mobile is a design and development problem,” but the real challenge of mobile is content.

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Webstock: John Gruber, In Praise of Pac-Man

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

John Gruber, well everyone knows who John Gruber is. If you don’t, please hand in your internet license.

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Webstock: Chris Coyier, The Modern Web Designer’s Workflow

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

Chris Coyier is a humorous man. He was also a designer at Wufoo and now does CSS Tricks and CodePen. Today he’s covering:

  1. Getting started designing.
  2. Local development environment.
  3. Working on a team.
  4. Preprocessing saves happiness.
  5. Testing, testing, testing.
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Webstock: Miranda Mulligan, Your Survival is Designed

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

Miranda Mulligan (hey, I know her!) helped take the Boston Globe through a responsive redesign, and now is Director at the Knight Media Lab at Northwestern. She’s the first in five generations of women to not make clothing for a living. Clothing matters; what you wear is an indicator of what you value.

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Webstock: Aza Raskin, Design is the Beauty of Turning Constraints Into Advantages

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

For the last couple of years, Aza Raskin (@aza) has been working on helping bring design to solving health challenges. Solving difficult problems happens by changing how you ask the question. The big meta problem of design is figuring out how to ask the right question.

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Webstock: Jason Kottke, I Built a Web App (And You Can Too)

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

Jason Kottke is a blogger and a web developer. Kottke.org is a blog he’s been publishing since 1998. Today he’s talking about something else.

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Webstock: Clay Johnson, Industrialized Ignorance

This week I’m at Webstock, a lovely conference in New Zealand. I’m doing my best to write little blog posts about the amazing presentations. Please forgive any typos, etc. If you’re here too, come write a haiku at Automattic’s booth.

Clay Johnson (@cjoh) started out with a comparison of knowledge. Most of the room knew the name of at least one Kardashian, but most didn’t know the child poverty rate in NZ. How can we build better communities if we don’t know these things?

In 2011, the obesity rates in America are so bad that they had to adjust the map for comparing states.

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Status

Travel this month: VIP meetup in Las Vegas starting today, New Zealand for Webstock at the end of next week, and then a combo Utah for skiing and Kentucky for NICAR at the end of the month. Wish me luck. And if you happen to be in any of those locations, hit me up.

Two highlights of this morning. One, waking up early enough to (mostly) finish painting the bedroom. Two, getting to the airport early enough to get a Velvet Hammer from Coffee People.