I spent the better part of two days at the Web 09 conference in Auckland over a recent weekend and am pleased to report I was blown away by the talent on show and the opportunities emerging for Kiwi developers.
I’m told this was no real secret, but never having had the privilege of attended Wellington’s Webstock event it was an incredibly gratifying experience. And, as one who has been following the Tweets of the international contingent who came for the conference, it is one shared by many of the industry leaders who presented.
I must add it has also been a bit of a treasure trove of stories — I have a lot of following up to do and you will be reading more about great Kiwi developers over the next few weeks.
But talking to Philip Fierlinger I was also a bit concerned that maybe this talent spends a bit too much time working for services, rather than developing world-beating products that can help us maintain New Zealand as a great place to live and work.
Fierlinger has a point. But I cross-checked it with a few people at the conference and many of the developers and designers who earn their living by providing services also have side projects that you would nomally call “product development”.
I guess that raises another concern — that they are side projects, often underfunded or self-funded by the money earned from providing services. Either way, it is not an optimal way to take on the world.
As much as we love the Kiwi number 8 wire approach to innovation, an approach that arguably gives us some competitive advantages in innovation and flexibility, an injection of money can create the time and resources to speed products to market. In the internet space, speed to market can be vitally important.
That’s me with my business hat on. Taking it off you get another picture — a picture of a bunch of people who live and breathe technology and design and who, whether working for services or on products, relish their chances to produce, as developers say, “cool shit”.
In this model, earning money from your creations is less important. The satisfaction comes in seeing people using and enjoying them.
Perhaps these are not mutually exclusive, either. You could see the entire New Zealand web industry, or the entire web industry, as one big brainstorming machine, where the commercial and the non-commercial rub shoulders and exchange ideas and feed off each other in weird and unpredictable ways.
What comes out of that brainstorming is unpredictable and only some of it will have monetary value. From what I saw at Web 09, New Zealand has a strong presence in that mix.