aku-aku: v.. To move a tall, flat bottomed object (such as a bookshelf) by swiveling it alternatively on its corners in a "walking" fashion. [After the book by Thor Heyerdahl theorising the statues of Easter Island were moved in this fashion.] source: LangMaker.com. Aku Aku also has another meaning to the islanders: a spiritual guide.
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conference scheduler
Posted by dav at 2004 February 5 03:23 PM
File under: Geek

Boris talks about the effort to plan his schedule for the O'Reilly 2004 Emerging Technology Conference, reminding me of the 2002 Open Source Convention where there were big problems with the size of session rooms compared to popularity of the session. For instance Bruce Sterling's wonderful rant on Open Source was in one of the smallest rooms and seemed to have more people squeezed into the room than attended that morning's keynote in the big hall. It was so crowded that the organizers interrupted Sterling halfway through and moved everyone into another room! Other sessions in cavernous rooms were sparsely attended.

I emailed Rael, O'Reilly's conference tech monkey, about creating a schedule application that would help attendees plan their schedule and also help avoid such room scheduling mishaps. Here's what I sent:

1) Allow the regstrants to create and change their planned session schedule on your web site, even after the conference starts.

2) Allow the registrants to see the relative numbers of planned attendees at each session. I say relative because I guess you probably don't want to let out the real numbers (just a guess). The important thing here is to allow the registrants to be aware of a building buzz about a session before they get there. Otherwise when they find out about the buzz they are more likely to not follow their planned schedule (defeating the purpose). I think this is an important part of making this useful to you, and needs to be implemented with a smart UI.

3) Encourage use of this system by printing the daily schedules a user has chosen when they check in at registration. Print them out on the same size paper you use for the badges, one per day, so they can be slipped in behind the badge (facing out, this way the attendees can always check their schedule quickly by looking at the back of their badge). If you do this, they will use it. I'm sure of it.

4) Encourage people to change their schedules online after the conference starts by allowing them to print out the new versions on site. This will let you continue to have up-to-date attendance information. Honestly I'm not sure how well this would work out, I'm not even sure I'd bother, but I know that I wouldn't if I didn't get a new printout. However, steps 1-3 are probably enough to ease most of your room scheduling woes. Throw a little prolog in there and the system could even assign the rooms for you.

I never heard back from Rael, so being the hacker monkey (hey, it's Year of the Monkey) that I am, I started coding it myself. But also, being the ADD Dilletante Hacker Monkey that I am, I decided to implement it using this new data storage technique I was reading about at the time called Prevayler and promptly got distracted by the intricacies of Prevayler and never finished the Scheduler App once I got the storage part working.

I'm still toying with the idea of finishing this. It's mixed in amid a few dozen other hobby projects in various stages of development right now. Maybe I'll have some free time after the conference!


This sounds exactly like what I had in mind. :)
See ya on Monday!

Posted by: Boris on February 5, 2004 03:31 PM

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