It’s been said that the apps that break out at Austin’s South by Southwest festival are those that help festival-goers navigate and orient themselves within the sprawl of parties, panel sessions and gigs.
The 2007 edition of SXSW was Twitter’s big moment, the tipping point for the now iconic service. The following year, many thought that SCHED*, a web-based event calendar and agenda builder, would be the breakout service of 2008 — the “new Twitter.”
Though such expectations were inflated by the media, SCHED* provided useful personalized schedules that have endured through two editions of the festival. The latest edition of the app now includes mobile support, iPhone compatibility, and the ability to integrate with iCal and Google Calendar.
As the organizer of a “proto-SXSW” here in the U.K. — LSx 2009, the second Leeds Web Festival — I figured this was a great opportunity to put SCHED* through its paces with the somewhat smaller schedule of events for LSx. Also, it’d be a useful trial run for a fuller deployment in 2010, when LSx will likely merge with the Live At Leeds music festival.
Here’s how things work:
- Upon making an inquiry via the SCHED* web site, I was put in touch with the company’s business development people to collate our requirements and also to discuss which plans and pricing would be most appropriate for LSx. At this stage, SCHED* simply needs to understand the demographics, audience size and dates. The company offers Basic, Premium and Premium Plus plans, ranging from $399 to $850, depending on features rather than usage. The company was generous enough to let us experiment with the app using a nonprofit discounted plan.
- Once the invoice is settled, you need to provide a logo, official conference/festival name, URL of the official site, your chosen SCHED* subdomain (http://lsx.sched.org), event location and the beginning and end dates.
- Once your new site is live, it’s administered and updated in batches using a SCHED*-supplied offline Excel spreadsheet or online Google Spreadsheet. It initially seems an odd choice to utilize a spreadsheet interface to administer your SCHED* site, but the complexity of venues, events and categories would likely not work well at all in a web-based HTML form.
It’s unfair to compare SCHED* to Twitter as a SxSW breakout service — Twitter is a consumer app, whereas SCHED is really intended for festival and conference organizers. However, I found SCHED* to be competitively priced — compared with Crowdvine and Expectnation — and it certainly adds value to the audience of a conference or festival. What’s perhaps even more valuable for organizers is the level of direct support and account handling that the company provides, something that’s lacking in most of the self-service web services around today. Well done for great service, SCHED*.
If you are involved in organizing meetups, BarCamps, work events and other gatherings, SCHED*’s a powerful tool for organizers and attendees alike.
What tool do you use for scheduling your events?