So as I spend more time focussing on what I am going to fill my days with as a freelancer in the near future one topic keeps coming to the top of the list and that is events. This will almost certainly amuse many of my ex-JISC colleagues as I did little but moan about events during my time there but as time went on I started to get my head around them and began to identify opportunities to do interesting things around events and ways to improve some of the processes involved in running them.
For this years JISC Conference I had the perfect working relationship! I worked on the early planning stages identifying speakers, topics for sessions, ideas for the venue and some of the thinking around sponsorship. Then I left all the hard work to Grace and Greg! They have worked incredibly hard pulling together a brilliant looking conference that filled its 750 places in record time!
Anyway then I wandered back in a few months later and gave a presentation to the team about using the social web to build a community and a buzz around the event. Crazy bunch that they are they bought into it all and so this years conference will have a Crowdvine social network, live blogging, lots of twittering, a bit of Flickr-ing and also some uStreaming! All-in-all I think it should be good fun and add to the conference. I hope to do alot more of this kind of thing and think it suits a great deal of JISC-type of events and I think its exactly the sort of thing that makes the social web so interesting.
Anyway one of the pieces to the puzzle that I had been lacking was an easy way to aggregate all this online activity – not just from the JISC guys but from everyone else. I played around with Yahoo Pipes and various saved searches on Google Blog search and Technorati but could not quite get my head around what I wanted and how to display it. I was sure it was a good idea though and even bought a domain name (www.eventstreams.org but we’ll get back to that later!) for the eventual web app that would make me my fortune! Anyway I couldn’t work it out and couldn’t afford to eLance it so I gave up on the idea….then lo and behold via the power of Twitter Mike Ellis – (former Museum web maestro and now something important sounding at Eduserv) announces his new side project is called http://www.onetag.org and to quote
“the idea is to find a way of encapsulating the excitement, “liveness” and buzz of a conference or event – in real time – but also as a way of collecting as much of the discussion as is possible, for later browsing or archiving.”
Now that sounds just about perfect for what I had in mind so I got in touch with Mike and am now doing a bit of beta testing for him but also hoping to use the tool in my upcoming work (especially the very cool slideshow element that would look great on a big plasma on the JISC stand!)
Anyway in keeping with my event theme earlier today Ryan Carson tweeted about a new blog post over at Carsonified about their new internal app Event Stream – (see I told you my domain name would come up again!). As they run more and more conferences (including the new one to their portfolio Fuel – which sounds right up my street! ) Carsonified decided to build an event management system (EMS?) to simplify the booking process and back end processes. This might sound simple but believe me event booking forms are the devils work and few if any are much use and they all seem to ignore the strides in user experience taken everywhere else on the web! I think this could be a real winner and hope they make it a public app some time in the future especially if a) they added a way of managing parallel sessions at an event and b)it allowed custom CSS and domain mapping (for a price of course!) I can think of a number of people who would be interested off the top of my head.
The other thing I’d like to see – though this might just be me being a bit mental as it seems so obvious people must of thought of it – is to combine the booking process automatically with an event social network. The info you give when you sign up for an event is close to that of creating a profile anyway so why not combine them and offer a small focussed network that just enhances networking opps but doesn’t try to be a fully fledged Facebook clone. Maybe I’m missing something obvious – it happens alot!
Anyway one way or another I guess I am going to stick with this social web enabled events theme for a while and see where it goes – smarter people than me seem to think its a good idea!