Web royalty arrive in capital

More than 400 writers and Internet gurus will gather in Wellington this week for the five-day Webstock conference, which begins today.

An eagerly anticipated event is a game of "PowerPoint karaoke idol", where contestants will have to give an ad lib presentation to a specially created PowerPoint that they will not previously have seen.

"PowerPoint presentations have a really bad reputation. We're going to try and surprise people a little bit," says Webstock organiser Mike Brown. The event's 24 speakers are "web royalty" from around the world. "We're like fans when they're here."

Guest speakers include software designer and Apple people manager Michael Lopp and Craig Nevill- Manning, director of engineering at Google's software centre in New York. Trade Me founder Sam Morgan will also stop in for a "fireside chat".

This is the second Webstock. The first was held in 2006.

Speaker and web content expert Rachel McAlpine says people perform phenomenal feats of communication every day despite many hidden traps.

New tools designed to make communication easier also make it harder. Many people are required to write for their jobs are not trained in communications, and it helps to know the tricks of the trade.

A template for creating a webpage, for example, might have a special field to enter a summary of the site's contents.

"If the person writing it doesn't understand why there has to be a summary, they might just go 'blah blah blah', and a search engine will pounce on that summary." The result is that relevant documents may not be found.

She says a styles and formatting option in Microsoft Word, where people can nominate heading numbers to titles in a text, is an example of a useful tool that few people writing documents know about.

"If you don't use styles and formatting then whoever is editing the document has to go through the entire thing and change each headline, whereas with styles you can fix the whole lot with one click.

"It's assumed that you know a lot. We all need a bit more help than we think we do."

The Dominion Post