Upstart Aucklander targets Wellington's Webstock
Some traditional tech conferences might be in a recession-hit rut, and laying people off, but the online generation is looking for people to attend real-life events in unprecidented numbers.
If web development is the new rock and roll (work with me here), then Wellington’s $1100-a-head Webstock gathering is the local industry’s Woodstock. Now it has some competition in the form of Auckland’s $745-a-head Web09, whose promoter hopes to attract 1000 punters.
The man behind Web09 is rising tech star John Ballinger.
Your correspondent first met Mr Ballinger when he bustled into his office claiming, correctly, to be the first person in New Zealand to unlock a first-generation iPhone, months before Vodafone officially launched Apple's handset here.
His exploits since include building a piece of software that turns an iPhone’s built-in mic into a heart rate monitor – a program he developed after becoming concerned about his own wife’s heartbeat (it was fine, incidentally), but which went on to crack the iTunes AppStore global Top 100.
And, riffing off his day job as a web developer, Mr Ballinger has lately become an event impresario, organising the Auckland Web Meetup, which has 500 registered members, and sees around 150 attend its monthly meetings.
Now, with Web09, Mr Ballinger is thinking bigger, hoping to get 1000 big-paying customers through the door. To be held in Auckland during April next year, the event will feature US speakers from Twitter, the white-hot mobile social networking site, Adobe (discussing Flash), Microsoft (on Silverlight, its Flash competitor) and Google (talking about AppEngine, Google’s web hosting service).
While Web09’s agenda isn’t finalised, Mr Ballinger says mobile development will be one of its biggest themes, pointing to how the Mumbai terrorist attacks showed Twitter’s power to share information.
While his previous sponsorships have been about covering pizza and beer money, Mr Ballinger is now tilting at the A-list, and says Web09 will turn a profit. Adobe, Google, and Microsoft are all sponsors of the inaugural two-day gathering.
The more established Webstock has a history of attracting tech headline-grabbing speakers like Google’s Kiwi wunderkind Ben Goodger, and a loyal following. But Mr Ballinger says even though Webstock has a calendar advantage (it will run in February), his Web09 has an early booking special of $595, versus Webstock’s $745.
For its part, Webstock has so far named a much longer list of speakers for its February 2009 pow-wow. Some, like a returning Goodger, are development-focussed in the Web09 mold. Others, like American sci-fi author William Sterling, play more to the crowd.