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Designing a Conference/Camp/Hackathon/Institution App

Author: Ian Darwin
Published? true -- FormatLanguage: W

Problem:

You want to design an app for use at a Conference, BarCamp, or Hackathon.

Solution:

See the checklist below.

Discussion:

In addition to being a "good" native application on whatever platforms (not a web app), a good conference app needs probably most of the following functions:

  • Building Map, showing the rooms where meetings are held, food service, washrooms, emergency exits, and so on. Extra points if you provide a visual slider for moving up or down if your conference takes place on more than one floor or level in the building (think about a 3D fly-through of San Francisco's Moscone Center, including the huge escalators).
  • Exhibit Hall map (if there is a show floor, have a map and an easy way to find a given exhibitor). Ditto for poster papers if your conference features these.
  • Schedule view. Highlight changes in red as they happen; additions, last-minute cancellations, room changes.
  • Dynamic Calendar integration: let user mark an event, have it show up immediately in the device calendar view; ditto for removing it.
  • If your conference has open BOFs, you might want a signup button and maybe even a "Suggest a new BOF" activity.
  • Feedback - ability to rate/vote sessions, preferably just three categories (good/ok/bad or great/good/not good); a back-end mechanism to restrict this to one voter/person/session (latest one wins), and to feed this info to the conference organizers and the individual speakers.
  • Local Area Map. Something more detailed than the standard Map functions. Add folklore, points of interest, navigation shortcuts, etc. Limit it to a few blocks so you can get the details right. A University Campus is about the right size.
  • City Overview map - again, not the Google map, but an artistic, neighborhood/zone view with just the highlights.
  • Tourist Attractions within an hour of the site. Your mileage may vary.
  • Food Finder. People always get tired of convention food and set out on foot to find something greater to eat.
  • Friend Finder. If Latitude were open you could tie into it. If it's a security conference, implement this functionality yourself.
  • Private voice chat among friends? If it's a small security gathering, provide a SIP server on a well-connected host, with carefully controlled access; it should be possible to have almost walkie-talkie-like service.
  • Signups for impromptu group formation for trips to the tourist attractions or any other purpose.
  • Social Functionality to post comments to Twitter, Facebook, etc., and also to use any other private chat your attendees use.
  • Note-taking! Many people will have Android on large-screen tablets, so a "Notepad" equivalent, optionally linked to the session the notes are taken in, will be useful.
  • FastFood - a way of signalling your chosen friends that you want to eat (at a certain time, in so many minutes, RIGHT NOW), with (type of food, restaurant name), and seeing if they're also interested - interactive.

See Also:

Google Maps has started doing building maps; see [1]. The article shows who to contact to get your building mapped; if not already there, consider getting the venue operators to give Google their data.

The rest of the book shows how to implement most of these functions.

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