Q&A with Ludwig Wendzichby Corinne Smith on 07/05/2012
This week we talk to Ludwig Wendzich, web designer and developer behind Gather – Auckland’s annual barcamp, an un-conference that’s been running for the last six years supporting and encouraging the creative community of Auckland.
Tell us a little about your background and how you came to establish Gather?
I was about ten when I built my first website. My father gave me a website-building reference book in hopes that I would learn enough to build the Wendzich family website. I still haven’t built that family website (sorry, Dad) but I made a Pokémon one and subsequently fell in love with the web. In 2006 I read about Barcamps popping up all over the United States and soon the UK. These were un-conferences where people meet up to discuss the topics they were most passionate about. As student in high school, this excited me because although I was interested in what I was learning at school, I didn’t have a passion driving me nor did I see a future for myself in the classes that I was taking.
I announced the first Barcamp Auckland in early 2007, completely unaware of the great Auckland Web Meetup that was being run by John Ballinger. By then, it was too late. The ball had started rolling and the first Barcamp took place at the end of 2007, then the second six months later and we’ve had a Barcamp organised annually every July since.
When you are not designing and developing websites and organising Gather, you are… ?
Organising other things! I might have a problem with over-committing myself. I help run the English Evening Service at my Afrikaans Church in East Auckland. I also play the keyboards in my church youth band. When I’m not doing any of those things, I find myself helping friends who are also running great events: Creative Mornings, Webstock, Semi-Permanent and We Can Create. I also volunteered as a design mentor at the inaugural Startup Weekend. I really enjoy getting people together who share a passion for the same thing.
For those of us who haven’t attended a Barcamp event before – what can we expect at Gather?
A little bit of organised chaos. I’m only half-kidding! In the FAQs, I mentioned that I really want people to be able to focus on sharing the passion, their current fascination. In order to do that we take them far away from the city, to an awesome venue in East Auckland. We feed them all day, try to keep them all caffeinated and hope that they make use of the time to connect and share their passions with the other delegates. Sessions are proposed two weeks ahead of the event so delegates will have some idea of what they can expect to see but it really is up to them as to what sessions and conversations actually take place.
Who should attend Gather?
If you care about something a lot, you should come. If you’ve chosen your line of work for reasons other than a weekly paycheck, you should come. This is where you’ll meet like-minded people to scheme about pushing the industry into new and interesting directions.
Although the event is focused on creative professionals — and therefore find a lot of sessions catering to the interests of a working creative professional — we also have some great ‘out-there’ sessions. In the past, these have included a history of LPs, how to play the ukelele, an introduction to lomography, arduino hacker sessions and discussions about education. There was even an intense discussion about New Zealand politics juxtaposed with some remote control fun outside.
What initially inspired you to establish Gather? And what drives you to continue running this for the past six years?
Changing the brand was an extremely scary prospect and was something I’d been wrestling with for almost two years now. The name Barcamp meant very little to people who didn’t understand its origin as a programmer’s in-joke. Explaining the etymology became increasingly difficult as Barcamp grew from year to year — especially to the non-developers of the creative community. As a designer who’s also a developer, I saw the value in seeing the world from two different angles and knew that if I could get all of these different view points to collide in one room, something awesome might happen. With Gather I hope to better achieve this creative diversity.
The idea that when passionate people get together, great things happen. That drives me.
What has been your favourite discussion to date?
As someone who has to run around and put our fires (mainly fire alarms and metaphorical fires) I don’t have the chance to sit in on many sessions for the full duration. I did once try to make a point of hosting a session but am thankful that I organised a co-host because I had to run before it ended. But the time that I did get to spend in the room was very exciting. We were discussing Natural User Interfaces and where that could and should go and how that would impact the lives of ordinary people, and ourselves, as designers of those products.
I think it’s important to state that although the focus of the day, the sessions aren’t the only draw of something like Gather. The serendipitous encounters with interesting people and having conversations with them about what they’re doing right now is one of my favourite parts of Gather — and that’s not something you can pencil in on a schedule.
Gather: Saturday, 30th June
Botany Downs Secondary College, East Auckland
For more information and to purchase tickets: gathergather.co.nz