shdlr.com

//shdlr at foss.in

I had wanted foss.in to be the first conference to be scheduled and completed on shdlr. The primary reason being that shdlr was born out of the pain we have experienced over the years in trying to have a system which allows flexible scheduling for conference and events. When you put out a service which you know is going to be useful to a lot of people you cannot make such assumptions. TIM 2012 conference thus became not just the first but also with 84 scheduled items larger than the foss.in schedule.

That said foss.in was still special because not only was I there taking notes and feedback, unknown to many Rakesh Temburne, our developer also was attending the conference as a delegate. The major end user pain points which became apparent were

  • The speaker name should be shown right away with the talk: We implemented the simple grid embedded view almost immediately to address this
  • Speakers need to have profiles: Currently this is being handled by linking to speaker’s website. This clearly is not enough, we are developing a feature which will not only allow speaker profiles but also multiple speakers per talk
  • Usability of the mobile version is good but not excellent: The mobile version will be completely rehauled
  • Availability of a printable version: This feature has already been coded and soon users will be able to download PDFs and PNGs of the schedule if the conference owner allows it

For the admins the most asked for features were

  • Drag and drop rescheduling: Currently there is a click and drag interface but to reschedule a talk you have to go through a two step process, this will be eliminated by the ability to drag and drop a scheduled talk to an empty slot – Being coded; coming soon! DONE!
  • Adjust schedule for delay in start: Tardy starts to events are not just an Indian phenomenon, Admins will be given a slider control to adjust timings for delayed start. We are not really sure as to how we will handle the time made up later in the day as yet…

Apart from outright requested features there were some insights which were gathered. Everyone wanted to know the commercial status of the project. It would be great to keep shdlr free for everyone and forever, sadly reality dictates otherwise. Shdlr will continue to be free at least till 19th September 2013. The pricing page will be live very soon. Instead of just 2 tiers Free and Paid it became apparent that there is a market for additional classes of users viz: Event Managers/Agencies and Enterprises asking for White-labeling, yes at some point they will be catered to….

A live event wall which displays the currently on going talks and upcoming talks along with tweets is being considered. A deep integration with the ticket vendor sites to allow the registered delegates to choose talks and create their own list of talks they would like to attend will definitely be there. The selected list of talks will also be available as a personal iCal file. This will not only be useful to delegates but also to the organizers in helping them decide which hall/room to put the talks in. There were several occasions when it was said “lets switch the halls….”

There was a lot of appreciation too but we are not getting carried away by that. There were some persistent talks about partnerships and some about getting shdlr funded – thanks but at this stage “No Thanks!”

If you were there at foss.in and have some suggestions – do comment, it would be very much appreciated.

//Add iCal file to Thunderbird Lightening calendar [HowTo]

Shdlr provides ical files to sync your An ICAL file is an iCalendar Calendar Data file. iCalendar is used  send meeting requests and tasks to other Internet users.

iCal supported by a large number of products, including Google Calendar, Apple Calendar (formerly iCal), GoDaddy Online Group Calendar, IBM Lotus Notes, Yahoo! Calendar, Evolution (software), eM Client and Lightning extension for Mozilla Thunderbird.

In this HowTo we will look at how to add an iCal file of an event of shdlr.com to Thunderbird Lightening calendar.

Ensure that you have the Lightening extension installed in your Thunderbird.

Once you have switched the calendar view the screen will appear similar to

From the menu choose Files > New > Calendar

This will pop up a Create new calendar wizard. Since we want the talks and events from shdlr to update automatically in our calendar we choose “On the network”

The Format of the file is iCalendar (we all knew that right?
As location paste the URL of the ical file – for the demo conference it is http://demo.shdlr.com/ical

When you click Next the name of the conference will automatically appear in the Calendar name. Select your favorite color and set reminders if you want to

That is it! When you navigate to the days on the conference the day screen should appear some what like the screenshot below.

Any changes to the schedule of the conference will be also in the iCal file on the server. Thus it will also be reflected in your Thunderbird Lightening

//Launching shdlr – The conference schedule creator !

Tech conferences have come of age with live streams and social media coverage. Gathering talk proposals, arranging venue logistics all can be done with online services. One area which has remained largely neglected and still a nightmare for the conference organizers is the Conference Scheduling.

Working for conferences we have had several iterations of hacked up scheduling systems over the years which worked with limitations but proved to be unfit for mass consumption. The benefits of flexible working are becoming clearer – but that doesn’t mean it comes without significant challenges. Advance Systems Inc : “Many managers are now adapting in order to better overcome these challenges and successfully head up flexible, remote teams. Here’s how you can handle the challenges of managing flexible workforces.” We have had horror stories like all talks being printed on sheets of several colored papers and them arranged on floor. A picture was taken of the acceptable arrangement and a HTML table crafted out of it.

Shdlr was born out of the pains of similar labors – a simple to use single purpose web app. A web app to create and distribute conference and event schedules.

Head over to http://shdlr.com to create your own conference schedule OR try the demo at http://demo.shdlr.com

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