Confabb, taking the ‘con’ out of conference

Organising a conference well is tough… focused on the content, who has time to worry about the web site, uploading content, organising for participants to review speakers, organise additional activities, or plan local visits, in short how do we maximise their input?

Reality is that conference logistics are too often outsourced, or provide a poor experience to presenters and attendees, content is delivered late, registration lists out of date, additional side shows not added, presentations and speakers are not rated, assessments are after the fact… Confabb seeks to change all that providing a superficially simple interface to enable one to organise and publish a conference online with full flexibility to enable management of contacts, speakers, attendee registration by administrators, presenters and physical or virtual attendees.

Launched this month, the first iteration is designed to be useful to researchers, however over the next few months it will develop into a practical tool and interactive platform for all stakeholders… or if you like, a conference wiki!

For a fee, and fraction of the current cost to organisers, they will provide the full web site for the conference. Presenters will be able to manage their own sessions and post session content, everyone can critique, rate and review presentations, debate on discussion boards, post relevant articles, or add side shows as they are organised at the conference itself. With a Filckr link participants may upload their own photgraphs for sharing. Overtime speakers at more than one event could point people to their ‘Confabb page’, listing contributions over the years.

I suspect we have all had disappointing experiences of online tools for conferences (I tend to avoid them), however they should be intellectually stimulating, not administratively challenging. Confabb seeks to enable conference attendees and regular users to find events or people with similiar interests (oh dear, not online networking again!), and in theory at least support intellectual contacts and debate.

Unusually it has been set up over six months by four part-timers… at no cost! Like most tech start-ups it is currently very US centric, but that doesn’t need to remain the case (see Scoble blog and video demo). Confabb hopes to take online support to conferences to a new level, this is one US start-up that could potentially support our operations.

Humanitarian and development workers are criticised for not using simple, intuitive interfaces for software tools (see investing in the interface and why humanitarian end users suck, but we are renowned for interaction, comment and community. This tool appears to reduce one weakness and build on our strengths!

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