The emerging Australian Web community

8 November 2006

21 comments

A Blue Perspective: The emerging Australian Web community

One of the things I've always envied about the United States is the sense of community amongst Web developers there. It seems like you could duck out for some coffee on the streets of San Francisco and see about 27 successful startup founders while you're deciding whether you want cream or milk, then hold a conversation about the usefulness of microformats with the person in line behind you. America's always had that aura of cutting-edge Web technology about it, like every person there is tapped into the latest ideas and trends.

Whether it's just a fiction concocted by outsiders, or a divine reality – certainly a large proportion of startups come out of the States – I feel that such perceptions are driven in large part by the vocal real-world networking that goes on over there. Foo camps, Barcamps, Hack days, workshops, and conferences galore. You could probably keep up on all that's new on the Web without actually going online.

The Internet is all about connecting people regardless of where they are in the World, but the most profound effect it can have is helping you connect with people in the real world. It's hard to do that with someone living in a timezone that's 17 hours removed. But I'm beginning to feel that we're not so unlucky here in Australia.

This last year it's felt like the Web scene in Oz has been in fast forward. We've always had the technological expertise to match it with anyone in the World (the greatest JavaScript developers have always come from the Southern hemisphere), but there's never been that great sense of community, the feeling that untapped connections were lying in wait around every corner. Until now.

We did have one of the first Web Standards conferences which has now morphed into an all round Web spectacular, but the biggest change has been in grassroots support. It's the little, community-run events that really make you feel like you've got a home; the free flow of information between community participants is what it's all about.

The Web Standards Group has been soldiering on for almost four years and the last Sydney meeting pulled an amazing 120 people, but there's a whole spate of funky new gatherings starting up. Forget bad karaoke at Snow Web, there's actually useful stuff going on at Sydney's Webjam, run by locals Anson Parker and Lachlan Hardy*. Or for a great celebration of every facet of Web development there's Melbourne Massive the next day, 1000 kilometres south. We've even got BarCampAustralia coming up in early 2007 (there are venues confirmed for Melbourne and Sydney).

If those aren't professional enough for you, the Web Industry Professionals Association has just been founded and will be providing Web professionals with a range of services and events to hone their skills.

Hopefully all of this "real-time" interaction will be the foundation of a genuine local Web community in Australia, one that fosters the kind of innovation which we jealously look to the States for. Let's see if we can make the list of top Australian web apps five times longer, same time next year. Or just drop "Australian" from that title altogether, and show off our skills on the World stage.

*It feels so lame to link to someone when their only online presence is at Flickr :P

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Comments

  1. 1/21

    Kevin Yank commented on 8 November 2006 @ 17:23

    Nice one, Cam. I agree it's starting to feel more active around these parts, but the skeptic in me wonders if this isn't just proportional to the VC-powered frenzy that is building stateside.

    If nothing else, the Australian web development community certainly has a better signal-to-noise ratio.

  2. 2/21

    Student Groups Guy commented on 8 November 2006 @ 18:30

    The projection you envy may be accurate on select coastal cities, but most places in between the coasts are nothing special in terms of startup fever. Being in the central US, you would feel much more lonely where many University's push the idea of working for a fortune 500 company as your crowning ambition.

    I feel as though I'm missing out on great community in many of the European cities, but that emotion may just be fueled by the blogs I read.

  3. 3/21

    Lasse commented on 8 November 2006 @ 18:31

    Seems like WA is left behind. Anyone know of great stuff happening in and around Perth?

  4. 4/21

    Dylan FM commented on 8 November 2006 @ 18:53

    Here here Blue-Man!
    Well, we have some beautiful beaches around I am sure everyone else envies!

    Lasse: http://www.port80.asn.au/ seems to be full of Perth-people.

    Also, www.australianinfront.com.au is a valuable place, the forums are active too.

  5. 5/21

    Scott G commented on 8 November 2006 @ 19:05

    Looking forward to the WebJam coming up in Sydney. I figure it's a great place to hear new people get in front of the crowd and hear some really different ideas. Great idea Lauchy and Anson!

    3 minutes in the spotlight doesn't seem so daunting so hopefully we will see a great turnout.

    @lauchy - ha ha.. I thought that today, you need a blog if you are going high profile man :-)

  6. 6/21

    Myles Eftos commented on 8 November 2006 @ 20:58

    Lasse,

    Port80 (Soon to be the Australian Web Industry Association) has been running in Perth since 2002. Check it out - http://www.port80.asn.au

  7. 7/21

    PortlandHead commented on 9 November 2006 @ 00:55

    I agree with Student Groups Guy: it's more like San Franciso is well connected, but not the entire USA. I run a small Web design shop in Portland, Maine and sometimes I feel like I mights as well be in Australia, or Mozambique... or the Falkland Islands...

    Microformats? I think there are probably 2 other people (of the Web developers!) in the state who would even know what they are. And Clients? Forget about it.

  8. 8/21

    Ben Buchanan commented on 9 November 2006 @ 09:45

    I think the industry as a whole has a good community feel; but Australia's general "cringe" does still come into play. Basically as a culture we still think and act like everything from overseas is automatically/intrinsically "better" than what we produce ourselves.

    That said I think the Australian industry has had a big kick up the arse in the last couple of years and is now responding with more activity. Turnout to WSG is higher, we have a flagship conference event and as you point out there are local events springing up all over the place.

    It's a great time to be in this industry. Anyone who listens to the podcast of my WD06 talk might notice that I'm a bit excited about it ;)

  9. 9/21

    Lachlan Hardy commented on 9 November 2006 @ 17:27

    Thanks for the mention of Webjam, Cam.

    We're already getting some great responses. We're really excited about how this is taking shape so far

    I'm very excited about where the Australian web development community is headed. There is so much great stuff happening

    As for Flickr, thanks for pointing that out (again! And publicly). I really do need to pull that work out of mothballs and get it done. Maybe I'll present it at the Jam!

  10. 10/21

    mattymcg commented on 9 November 2006 @ 20:39

    Ack, I thought you might let me test the <a href="http://melbournemassive.com/">Melbourne Massive site</a> in a few more browsers and get registration up and running before announcing it to the world! :-P

    The fact that there are so many user groups involved (and possibly a few more jumping on board) only reinforces your point. It's going to be a great party!

  11. 11/21

    James Edwards commented on 10 November 2006 @ 08:29

    @Ben - is that really a pervading feeling? That's a shame, and I don't feel like that at all (as a pom). I have an intrinsically higher respect for things australian than things american.

    Maybe it's just cultural resonance, or cultural prejudice, or personal attachment .. or maybe all three ... but still it's as it is - suits in silly-valley may not appreciate you guys, but we do ;)

  12. 12/21

    Nat commented on 10 November 2006 @ 22:13

    @PortlandHead

    What - no one's heard of clients in your area?? :-)

  13. 13/21

    Dustin Diaz commented on 11 November 2006 @ 13:01

    Aussies Rule!!!

    Sincerely,
    Anonymous Aussie groupie.

  14. 14/21

    Isofarro commented on 12 November 2006 @ 08:03

    Its a great pity the Web Standards Group seem to take no public notice of WSG events outside of Australia. Particularly Stuart Colville's generous contribution in organising two WSG events in London, with a third on the way ( http://muffinresearch.co.uk/wsg/ ) . The first two brought together 100+ people each, and probably got more coverage than all the WSG events this year - not to mention Drew Mclellan's presentation on Microformats from the second London-based event was absolutely stunning.

    Disclaimer: I work alongside both Stuart and Drew at Yahoo!. But that hardly justifies the complete silence from WSG on Stuart's efforts. If the WSG is solely an Australian-only group, perhaps it would have the decency to tell its members unequivocally.

  15. 15/21

    Ricky Onsman commented on 12 November 2006 @ 23:10

    I identify with Ben's cringe comments. I don't understand why I'm still surprised that entities like SitePoint, SWiSH and Mambo and individuals like John Allsopp and Russ Weakley are so good at what they do 'despite' being Australian.

    Population, distance - the old values that put us on the fringe - are less relevant in web-land. So maybe it's just my mindset.

    I wonder if there's also something in the fact that Lasse can feel that WA is left behind while my impression was that Port 80 was about the most organised bunch of web developers and designers in the land. How did Lasse miss it?

    It's a good topic for discussion and reflection.

  16. 16/21

    Dmitry Baranovskiy commented on 14 November 2006 @ 11:00

    @Isofarro, I donít know what notice you talking about, but I found information about London WSG meetings from WSG mailing list. And noices were as full as for australian meetings. So, donít try to find black cat in a dark room.

  17. 17/21

    Ajay Ranipeta commented on 17 November 2006 @ 09:53

    I'd like to point out that Web-Blast (http://webblast.org/) wasn't mentioned. It's a sold-out end of the year event. Think the tix were snapped up in just a few days that it has been advertised.

    Yet another way for aussies to network with each other. IMHO, there should be either a quaterly or bi-annual event rather than just an "end of the year" event, along with the regular, say WSG meetings, where people just hang out and discuss some really interesting stuff.

  18. 18/21

    Geoff Bowers commented on 21 November 2006 @ 06:37

    You've missed the fabulous webDU Conference (formally MXDU) that's coming up on its 5th year.
    http://www.webdu.com.au/

  19. 19/21

    Ajay Ranipeta commented on 21 November 2006 @ 09:58

    Confirmed with Russ, tix to the webblast sold out in 2 days.

  20. 20/21

    Ajay Ranipeta commented on 23 November 2006 @ 14:17

    webblast-canberra is on tuesday 12 Dec. check out: http://webblast.org/canberra/ and register a.s.a.p as numbers are limited.

  21. 21/21

    Keukens commented on 12 December 2006 @ 01:25

    I can only speak for the Netherlands (one of the most dense populated countries in the world), because thatís simply where Iím from. Just since last year web designers and internet marketers really start to connect and share, face to face, due to some great workshops.

    And hopes are high, because as the Internet is taken more serious, we are getting organized in a more serious way.

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