Conference Dashboard: Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Jam - Scout Digital

Conference Dashboard: Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Jam

October 3, 2008 by Alex Cavender
Hillsong Conference 2007 Production Bump-in

Image by alliance1911 via Flickr

[Update: link to the dashboard itself is fixed. Click here to just go look at the dashboard.]

As mentioned earlier, I’ll be on a panel at the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Jam on Oct 25th at Champlain College here in Burlington, VT. I’m really psyched to be up there with David Gibson from Propeller Media Works and Frank Canovatchel (who, it turns out, was an advisor to USM developer Scott Nellé). Our topic is about building websites and I’m sure between the three of us we’ll be able to handle most any question that comes up. Read a little more about the conference and my fancy conference dashboard after the jump.

So… uh… 3.0?

Yeah, so the whole Web 2.0 thing is old as dirt and probably not helpful. And I won’t claim to have any special understanding into why this conference is called Vermont 3.0 but my guess is that it is tongue-in-cheek. What I do know is that everyone had a blast last year. And it was a great time for tech/geek pros to hang out, jobseekers of all ages to see what sort of tech and creative jobs were available in the Green Mountain State and for connections to be made. If you want some serious thinking about a “web 3.0” you’ll have to read cleverer minds than mine.

Conference Dashboard?

I got this idea from Chris Brogan who got it from Christopher Penn. Chris P. started out with a sort of mashed together dashboard in iGoogle to help him monitor social media, competitors etc for his business. Basically just take some feeds that are relevant to your business (some news, maybe some Twitter search feeds, etc) and put them on your iGoogle page. Pretty straight forward and smart.

Then Chris B. the idea to make his own personal dashboard for conferences he’s attending. He’s got maps and weather and all the things Chris P. had but with a focus on an event not a topic.

Now I’m hacking that idea to make it open and public. So we have the event feed items, plus the public discourse feeds and user generated content feeds. And then I’m just making it for the purpose of being a public, semi-curated space for gathering all content that is created around the tech jam.

As we all know, what happens in the hallways is often as or more valuable than what happens in the workshops and panels. By making it public and known to people, the intention is for participants to self-organize around the event and those who can’t make it to the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Jam can find a one-stop spot for getting a feel for it.

Take a look at the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Jam Dashboard.

Making the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Jam Dashboard

I chose Netvibes as my platform. Not for any particular reason. I don’t have a ton of experience in any of these personal start page services so I think I just went with Netvibes because I liked the layout. While making the dashboard I encountered a significant challenge:

There are tons of widgets for adding content, but they are horribly organized. Want to find a Twitter feed search tool so you can just show Tweets that are hashtagged for your conference? Try wading through the 1000 or so Twitter widgets, 10 at a time all named more or less the same thing, half of which work. Want a map for the event location? Again, four or five which are all named about the same and not all of them work.

I have a feeling the entire “app” and “widget” space is due for a significant UI overhaul because I have the same feeling when I’m getting apps for my iPod Touch (I am, in VT after all and we’re still iPhone-less). To make things simpler for next time here are the Netvibes widgets I used:

  • Twitter Search (search for “twitter” when making your page… I couldn’t find a reference to this from the Netvibes blog. I used this
  • The generic Feed widget. I used this to handle the blog search (for “Vermont 3.0”) and the blog feed of the official conference site.
  • The HTML “essential” widget for the logo and link to the official site.
  • The Weather “essential” widget to give the weather for the conference town.
  • The Maps Search (you’ll have to search again to find it) to give the location of the event. I found the Yahoo Maps to look nicer than the Google one so that’s how I defaulted it.
  • Then there was the media column with Flickr and Video search. Right now the Flickr is just set for VT until I can take some photos and tag them vt3 or something so there can be more specific images.

When you’re configuring your widgets, make sure there is a “save last search” checkbox and that you check it. Otherwise you’ll spend a bunch of time configuring your widgets only to have them default back to searching for something you don’t want.

As a first attempt at this, it’s a little bit of a mess. But I think it should work out alright. Anyone else doing this? Got some tips for using these dashboards?