Web Developers in New Zealand

Today’s the day!!! The Web Developers Association of New Zealand is officially launched.

The NZ industry has had informal networking groups such as the PHPUG and Meetup.com organised gatherings but has no national identity. Something which is sorely needed.

Dennis Smith has taken the bull by the horns and started up the WDANZ. There are three levels of membership and it’s primarily aimed as a training and marketing tool for local developers.

I spoke with Dennis last month about the need to improve the credibility of the people already in the market, supporting both the small and large operations. Personally I’ll find it useful to be able to say to suppliers “I’m a member” – even though I’m not touting for business.

I haven’t been visible locally for lack of a forum, and the networking groups always fell on BMX night, and my kids have to come first. It’ll be great to have more options. Ofcourse the other coding platforms may have a more established base and it’ll be interesting to see if the PHP’ers dominate or if there is an even spread.

The people who may fall through the cracks are the web developers in IT departments, where the company has no need to join, but the developer wants access to the training and networking facility. I’m guessing the affiliate option will be perfect there.

I’ll be missing their first Conference which is a shame and their first seminar is on SEO: The three secrets on how to get higher on Search Engines. I’ll be very interested to see who is presenting that and just what they’re espousing. Three secrets – bah!

Web Developers Association of New Zealand

Read the press release at ComputerWorld: National web developer organisation launched today

Read my comments below for the full picture… including why I have this big stop sign on my blog.


Recent Comments



  1. July 4, 2006

    Here are some of the comments I’ve had from other sources… I’ve removed the authors names (bar one)

    Nah, they just want my money.



    I don’t think I’ll be joining: the association is actually a standard limited liability company, not, as I’d expect, an incorporated society or trust. Their FAQ and About page are pretty clear about this – the association is commercial venture – but I think the name, the .org.nz and the use of the terms ‘organisation’ and ‘membership’ are all still pretty misleading.

    Basically, I’m uncomfortable with the level of accountability this gives the leaders (strike that: owners) of the association to their members – an incorporated society requires the appointment of a committee by and for the members whereas a company only gives voting rights to its shareholders.

    I don’t mean to be paranoid, but at the basic level the goal of a company is to make money for its shareholders, not to give the maximum level of service back to the people who provide its income. For an ‘association’ to be making money from the people it claims to serve just seems at best a tad unfair – especially when there’s a type of fair, democratic and open organisational structure specifically for this type of group (http://www.societies.govt.nz/).

    I’d be interested to hear what other people think.

    Hi there,

    If it was built on the MasterBuilder/MasterPlumber model then maybe it could provide some real benefits, but as stated on the website

    “WDANZ does not certify Members’ quality of performance”

    So, what *does* it do?

    Well I’m looking purely from the perspective not as a web designer, but as a web design customer. If I choose a web designer that is a member of WDANZ, what does that mean?

    Well it means that they paid $25/month-$1k+/year… and that they are ‘professional’ in business. Well we all know what professional means :

    – One who earns a living in a given or implied occupation

    So you won’t be getting any free websites from WDANZ members.

    Other than that, I don’t see any real benifits for *consumers*. You have to pay to use the mediation service as far as I can see. There is the upcoming green tick and I’ll be interested to see how that works.

    But looks like PHPUG is well represented!

    “Some of the key advisors are Dan Khan (NetProfess), Michael Brandon (SearchMasters), Harvey Kane (RagePank).”

    Enjoy your sitewide’s boys.

    I’m involved for the SEO side of things, and with Michael Brandon driving this side of the organisation, I think there is a lot of potential here. End users will be able to have their site “SEO Certified” which means it’s had a good checkover by someone who knows what they are doing. This will be a paid service, but to be honest I don’t see this as a problem – if you are quoting 2k for SEO work on a project, what’s another 100 bucks to have your work independently checked?

    For developers, there will be the opportunity to be trained in the fine art of SEO – once again, a paid service, but I could say well worth the cost. We invested some good coin in SEO training earlier this year and watched our rankings go through the roof. That training money has come back easily in extra SEO work that we couldn’t do before.

    Most developers have skills in a couple of areas – design, programming, css, content etc, but there aren’t that many on this list that have properly SEO’d sites. So, I think the SEO side of WDANZ is certainly something to keep a watch on for this list anyway.

    And yeah, I’ll take the sitewide where I can – it beats link begging or comment spam 🙂


    Just to be clear – I don’t think this is a ‘con’, as such. The need for something like this is pretty clear. I think web development and design as an industry would definitely benefit from an independent, standardised measure of skill and credibily. The question is really whether a private company is the best organisation to provide this, and if they really *can* be independent when the organisation’s purpose is to profit from such certification.

  2. July 4, 2006

    And some comments from later today

    I see a lot of networking opportunities in this organisation, especially
    in the area of finding staff of any skill level. Also, it will be good
    to have awareness raised for the move of desktop based software to the web.

    I also don’t consider everything commercial to be a con, but then again
    I run a business.

    P.S.: This weeks PHP UG meetup is a good chance to fire these comments
    at Dennis. Please RSVP.

    For anyone who’s interested, the name of the company is Web Developers Association of New Zealand Limited – I’d resist any urge to give it a definite article: it’s *not* The Web Developers Association of New Zealand.

    Dennis is the only shareholder and director and the company doesn’t use a non-standard constitution, so any actions WDANZ Limited make are solely by his authority: working groups or committees that the company create don’t have law-enshrined influence in the running of the company: only Dennis has that.

    I know I kinda sound bitter. Full credit to Dennis: there is a gap, and he’s seen that and tried to fill it – that’s what being an entrepreneur and running a business is all about. It’s just the more I read about this the more disappointed I am that there isn’t an actual non-profit incorporated-society association of web developers – for something that takes $100, 15 willing people, and a few meetings it’s just a bit strange/sad it hasn’t happened.

    I’m not convinced … SEO is a fickle beast at best.
    Training to pay for to learn that pages should be coded cleanly, etc etc …
    when http://www.google.com, http://www.webmasterworld.com and a myriad of other sites give us this content for FREE?

    Yes your hits/rankings went through the roof, but did your sales increase by a similarly huge percentage?
    SEO Certified … for how long? And what guarantee does this carry? Another $100 bucks … well it’s another $100, that’s a lot – just to say it’s certified

    We’ve had web developer associations in NZ before … like Dominic I’m sceptical as this is being set up as a BUSINESS … if you are going to set one up, do it as a Non-Profit Organisation … or a Profit based Organisation … lets have an organisation that helps guide our government & other bodies on issues in the web development community. How many of us played any part in the current Email Marketing & Communication bill before the government?? How many of us played any part in the shaping of the guidelines & recommendations the government has for GOVT sites in nz?

    I don’t know…is the EMA or Chamber of Commerce a business??

    It’s a funny one .. on one hand … it sounds great, on the other … there are red flags flying …

    Not to mention DigitalPoint

  3. July 4, 2006

    And from Dennis Smith himself:

    Good morning all and thanks for your feedback so far. As Jochen has said, I’ll be presenting at Thursday’s Meetup in Auckland this week and I am happy to answer any of your questions in person rather than busy your inbox with list e-mail. For those of you not able to be there on Thursday, feel free to discuss your issues with me any time off-list.

    Just briefly, addressing some of the comments from this morning . . .

    1. CSS/Validation
    Our technical people are acutely aware of all these issues and we will be addressing them all over the coming weeks. Media & promotional deadlines for today meant that more effort was put into completing the website content rather than validating from day one. Not our ideal situation of course, but just the realities of a truckload of work and tight deadlines with a new venture. Thanks also to the guys who have offered to help!

    2. Commercial Structure/WDANZ Name
    In May and June, I developed a Discussion Document and travelled the country talking to dozens of Web Developers (mainly the mid to larger sized), and sought your feedback. Some of the PHP boys have been part of this process. There was virtually unanimous feedback that WDANZ should be the name of the organisation and that it should be a fully commercial operation. If I was to summarise industry feedback into one sentence, it would be: “We want an organisation that actually does something preactical for us and if it does, then we’ll be happy to pay for it”. WDANZ has been established as a direct result of this type of feedback. As John alludes to, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I’m very pleased so far with all aspects of the WDANZ launch – the market research, basic concept & structure, pricing & membership models and general industry response.

    The “Report to Industry 6 June” addresses some of your questions of this morning. You can also link to this from the http://www.wdanz.org.nz website. I recommend reading this document if you want a fuller background on the creation and objectives of WDANZ.

    3. Accountability
    WDANZ is a limited liability company, and is a commercial operation. A business makes a profit because it provides goods or services that consumers want. The commercial viability of WDANZ rests totally on its ability to provide what our customers (the Web Development community) want, at a price that they deem acceptable. This is the ultimate in accountabillty. The people who will influence WDANZ the most are WDANZ members, by nature of the fact that they are our “customers”. Our objective of course is to give them what they want, and we look forward to doing this over the coming months/years.

    I believe that the almost unanimous support from the industry for a commercially based organisation is your recognition that our industry has moved beyond talk-fests, voting and feel-good organisations that don’t actually do anything much for their members. I actually expected to be establishing a not-for-profit organisation and was quite pleasantly surprised at the widespread support for a commercial operation.

    4. SEO and other future services
    Discussion of SEO matters, certification and so on is a premature, however I look forward to hearing your opinions off-list. If you have an area of expertise or interest and wish to partner with or participate in any discussions, please give me a call. WDANZ is currently in discussions with industry leaders in many disciplines of which SEO is only one. Over the coming months, we will be launching several initiatives all designed to help the Web Development industry in different ways. Watch this space!

    Regards . . .

    Dennis Smith
    Web Developers Association of New Zealand

  4. July 4, 2006

    and more…

    I get the impression the purpose of WDANZ is very different to something like Master Builders.

    It is less about providing assurance to the customer and more about providing services, on-going training opportunities, business networking events, etc, etc to the members.

    Indeed, I think there’s room and potential for this sort of company and, as others have noted, the success of it will depend on whether those services are worth the cost. That’s all fine and fair. But, equally, I think there’s room for a web development association that’s more focused on objective advice to clients, on professional ethics and public awareness.

    And that difference is why I’m annoyed by WDANZ Ltd – because they’re borrowing the nomenclature of something that they’re not. If they’re a networking, training and certification company why borrow the ‘association’ connotations?

    Perhaps it’s just different expectations of what such a group does. My expectations? Check out the constitution of the NZ Open Source Society (http://www.nzoss.org.nz/nzoss/constitution) and mentally replace ‘open source software’ with ‘web development’. The fact that WDANZ doesn’t even have a constitution is what really shows the difference between their model and the one I was expecting.

    Quote – “I suppose it would be something similar to PHPUG, but more general in nature – not just PHP, but ASP, JSP, Javascript, web design, the SEO curse word, flash, optimisation, etc… I can definitely see that this would be a good thing.”

    Quote “peer guarantee of quality”

    This is what WDANZ is wanting to be – a public face for Web Developers of NZ. Including all the different aspects as you mention.

    The ultimate test of whether something is going to work is if it is successful – if a business does not listen to its customers, then it will not be successful. It does not need to be a “non profit organisation” for it to be able to include the wishes of its members. If it is “for profit” then there is a very real driving force for it to be successful. It becomes well worth it to put time into it and do it professionally. As with anything, there is a start, and a journey, doesn’t have to be right all at one moment.

    The SearchMasters / Green Tick SEO business will be a training and sales organisation joint venturing with WDANZ. Training/certifying web developers, then going to the public to feed work into those developers. It does not take much surfing to find real bad SEO. The basics are not hard. If we can lift the standard then everyone are winners – the surfing public see better quality on the search engines, the business public get search engine placings for the phrases that people are looking for, everyone’s quality lifts.

    SEO is only one part of Web Developers, there are all the other aspects as you mention. No one part will mean that businesses get success with their website business. However, having an organisation that gives a focal point for doing things better is an idea come of age = WDANZ.

    Kind Regards


    Michael, I guess we’re going to have to disagree here. The point as I see it is that limited liability companies do not have members in the sense of the word that the term association implies. Companies have shareholders and directors – the people who run the show – and they have customers. In this case, the customers are being referred to as members, in the same way I might be a ‘member’ of the local gym.

    In fact, that’s a great analogy. A gym’s ability to make money depends on the services it supplies to its customers (‘members’), sure. But that one-way dependant relationship is in no way (as Dennis says) ‘the ultimate in accountability’ – an association must be accountable to more than its bottom line: it must be accountable to the truth. And *that’s* where the problem is: WDANZ Ltd promoting its customers is no better than a gym promoting its latest alternative healthcare treatment – a business cannot be an independent judge of the things it relies on for its profit.

    This is why we don’t rely on the claims of people selling things – we realise they have a profit to make and we usually seek independent verification. With WDANZ it’s excatly the same thing, but the claims are dressed up in pretenses of independence. The name of the company relies on the fact that people don’t expect an ‘association’ to be pushing a monetary agenda.

    So, there’s more than one issue: can WDANZ Ltd “include the wishes of its members” better than a incorporated society? Maybe, maybe not. Is profit an indication or assurance that the advice WDANZ Ltd is giving is good? Certainly not! There’s very, very little in the way of accountability to anyone who isn’t paying for WDANZ’s services.

  5. July 8, 2006

    I’ve taken a few days to digest alot of the information and chatter about this. I met Dennis Smith on Thursday at the PHP UG meeting and later had the opportunity to sit down and have a beer with him.

    The meeting was heated and I aired the following objections:

    1. Dennis refers to WDANZ as being “commercial” rather than “a private company”. Nobody expects it not to be commercial with paid staff and resources. However the word commercial masks the true meaning.
    2. By including the word Association in the name there is an expectation of impartiality, and that WDANZ is, infact, a registered association. There is no reason WDANZ couldn’t have been called something else and avoided the taint of deception. Should I ever refer to WDANZ to the uninitiated I would feel obliged to point out that the A shouldn’t be there. This tarnishes the first impression in the persons mind – unnecessarily.

    On Thursday Dennis was eagerly awaiting today’s edition of ComputerWorld and the flood of interest it would elicit. Now I’m not so sure. ComputerWorld aired some dirty laundry by pointing out that Dennis Smith has employed a known spammer to help promote WDANZ. That article isn’t online yet but the last expose was only in March this year: Brendan Battles of Auckland denies he is the Brendan Battles who sent 50 million spam a day and TVNZ.

    Dennis has the gift of the gab and is a likeable fella, you’d have thought he could have found someone else capable of doing the job?

  6. July 10, 2006

    Here’s an excerpt ComputerWorld article:

    Web Developers Association hires spammer

    A number of web developers concerned over WDANZ’s employment of the spammer
    By Paul Brislen, Auckland | Monday, 10 July, 2006

    The Web Developers Association of New Zealand (WDANZ) is off to a shaky start after CEO Dennis Smith revealed he has employed notorious US spammer Brendan Battles to help sell the service.

    Smith says he is standing by Battles, who at one point is reported to have sent as many as 50 million unsolicited emails per day.

    Many untruths have been told about Brendan and Ive had the opportunity to hear the other side of it all.

    He says Battles is trying to put his past behind him.

    Battles arrived in New Zealand around 18 months ago and worked for fixed-wireless network operator Wired Country. A Computerworld investigation (March 13) revealed he had been sending unsolicited email in New Zealand and, after Wired Country was purchased by Auckland-based ISP Compass Communications, his contract was not renewed. Battles and Smith claim Compass managing director Karim Hussona lied about Battles role at Compass, claiming he was simply doing what was asked of him. Hussona flatly refutes this.

    He was sending out unsolicited email, something we challenged him on, and he told us hed never done it before, that he was just being overzealous. When the truth about his past came out we declined to renew his contract.

    Read the full story

  7. Peter
    July 10, 2006

    SEO “certified”? Hmmm…..they probably mean crawlable. Search engine rankings are based mostly on the quality of inbound linking from external sites.

  8. July 10, 2006

    I just had a call from Brendan, complaining not about the comments I’ve made here or the articles I’ve referenced but that I had defaced the WDANZ logo – oh no!

    I’ve taken it down and got a second call thanking me for that. He asked and so I took the time to reiterate the comments I made on Thursday about the use of a limited liability company.

    It’s unfortunate that the taint of deception is clouding what might otherwise have been a glorious launch.

  9. Rob
    August 9, 2006

    I got the following email spam from the WDANZ company. Below is spam what I received.


    By now I’m sure you will have heard about WDANZ and our launch on 4th July.
    Please feel free to browse http://www.wdanz.org.nz for more information about us and check out the latest developments.

    I will be travelling throughout the country in early August to meet with new members, and any Web Developers who may wish to meet me or ask any questions of us in person.

    My meeting & travelling schedule is:
    a.. Napier/Hastings – Monday morning – 7th August – Alakebabs ,CBD 88 Dickens Street, Napier – 10am-12pm
    b.. Palmerston North – Monday afternoon – 7th August – Pavilion Motel Cnr Fitzherbert Avenue & Manawaroa Street – 3pm-5pm
    c.. Wellington – Tuesday – 8th August – Sharella Motor Inn, 20 Glenmore Street (Opposite Botanic Gardens) – 10am / 12pm / 2pm / 4pm (Four meetings)
    d.. Dunedin – Wednesday – 9th August – Otago Chamber of Commerce, Burns House ground floor, 10 George Street, Dunedin – 12pm-2pm
    e.. Christchurch – Thursday – 10th August – Commerce Club Func Room, 277 Kilmore St – 10am / 12pm / 2pm / 4pm (Four meetings)
    f.. Nelson – Friday – 11th August – Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce, 54 Montgomery Square, Bridge St. Entrance (Upstairs beside Emporium) – 2pm
    g.. Auckland – Wednesday – 16th August – Grey Lynn Community Centre – (Meeting times TBC)
    Even if you are only semi-interested in WDANZ, I encourage you to take the opportunity to come along, ask any questions you wish and hear of the many developments and upcoming initiatives that WDANZ is already involved with.

    Should you wish to meet with me, please let Brendan or me know and we will try to arrange a meeting time and place. I look forward to meeting you.

    Prior to the meeting it will help you enormously to read the Report to Industry (http://www.wdanz.org.nz/WDANZ-Report-to-industry-6June2006.pdf)
    which gives good background to the creation and purpose of WDANZ.

    Once again, should we have your contact details incorrect, or if you do not want to receive e-mail or hard copy communications from WDANZ, please advise us. Thank you

    Regards . . .

    Dennis Smith, CEO

    Web Developers Association of New Zealand

    Ph +64 9 486-6410 ~ Fax +64 9 489-3077 ~ Mobile: 021 WEBSITES
    P O Box 101-470 ~ North Shore 0745 ~ http://www.wdanz.org.nz

  10. Dom
    August 11, 2006

    Hey…I recognize some of those comments from other sources 🙂

    Thanks for gathering together all the relevant bits and pieces about this issue – this page is an excellent resource. Haven’t got round to blogging it myself.

  11. August 15, 2006

    I just got the same email as Rob above and can’t remember ever giving my details to WDANZ which makes it spam.

    Not a good start for an organisation that has a Code of Ethics.

    An Association is a good idea but it needs to be exemplary rather than exhibiting the worst traits of our already maligned industry.

    Sad really.

  12. Rob
    August 22, 2006

    HI Anna

    I would recommend making a complaint to their ISP Orcon, if the email was unsolicated. They however may have changed ISP, as companies that send out spam often jump from one ISP to another.



  13. December 20, 2006

    Good to see more organisation in the nz web dev sector!

  14. May 3, 2007

    Brendan Battles, Dennis Smith and WDANZ spam again – this time via the fax machine.

    The irony is that the fax spam promotes their upcoming courses including “Unmasked: SPAM”. Is that a how to guide, Dennis?

    Thanks, but no thanks guys.

  15. May 3, 2007

    I got a fast, personal, reply from Dennis which included

    Good morning Sarah. Relax, we are not targetting you! Just drop us a note with your fax number and we will put your fax number on our DO NOT FAX list.

    * Every business in the country will get at least one fax per year from WDANZ Sarah, sometimes more, basically whenever WDANZ runs events for the public in their region they will receive at the minimum one fax.

    * Since November 2006, fax bureaus have proven to be THE most cost effective advertising for WDANZ events by a factor of 5:1 over all other forms.

  16. August 31, 2007

    I got another fax from WDANZ the other day, Dennis told me he’d just bought a new list. Nonetheless he promptly removed me with a comment “Your fax number is certainly out there!”

    Well, perhaps I know the source of the new list… we received a fax today from NZData or imagemarketing.co.nz and I rang to have our number removed. Well, whadyaknow, the ever polite and obliging Brendan Battles answered the phone! He’s selling data packs (including email and fax numbers) for New Zealand and Australian businesses and consumers.

    So, email spam may be on the way out – he’s just changed the media!

  17. February 20, 2008

    I was working at Natcoll and closely associated with the PHPUG when WDANZ rolled out and some negative comments started rolling in. Like many, I had been keen on the concept of a web developers association but I too became a little sceptical in the early days. So how did I end up becoming its General Manager? It wasn’t because the criticisms were wholly unjustified, but more that I came to understand Dennis’s unique vision. Now, Dennis has boundless enthusiasm and creativity and does end up pushing the limits at times, so part of my job is to moderate his creativity while at the same time helping develop a lot of his really great ideas.

    Having reflected over time on the name, the main problem I have is that the word ‘association’ comes with a whole bunch of in-built expectations, not all of which match WDANZ’s stated intentions. In essence WDANZ seeks to create relationships and services that provide real value to WDANZ members and the general business and Not-For-Profit community. Value to members still varies depending on what their needs are, however we hope to continue to roll out new services and partnerships throughout 2008 so that hopefully everyone can look back and say that their membership was really worthwhile.

    While in some respects it’s part value club, WDANZ is actually functioning as an association in that it’s facilitating a lot of great interaction between people who later find that they can work with, help or teach each other. A major thrust this year is educating the general business public through seminars and books, so that the users of Web Developers services better understand how to work effectively with their web professional. The approach WDANZ has taken may not work for everybody, however if WDANZ can deliver value to our members I believe they’ll stick around. I’m not trying to answer all criticism; I just wanted to explain what WDANZ is actually trying to be.

  18. February 20, 2008

    Hi John

    I didn’t get to say “Hi” at the PHPUG recently – far too hot in that room to linger! I hope you do well in your new role and thank you for introducing yourself here 🙂


  19. john eggirt
    February 29, 2008

    Well luckly most web developers I have spoken to are smart enough not to have paid this con-artist a cent! Dennis has got ONE goal to fill his back pocket with money. Foolishly he must have thought we where a good target – ( maybe go back to taking candy from children denis? )

    BTW have you seen his work? – my 5 yr nephew is more creative and he obviously clearly lacks any programming skills at all.

    “Dennis has boundless enthusiasm and creativity and does end up pushing the limits at times” Hahaha please come on – can you say “sucker”?!!


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