Updates to Lanyrd

Back in May 2012 I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event? On 23 July the Lanyrd blog announced new developments to the Lanyrd social event directory service which means the service is getting even better:

We’re now inviting event organisers to claim their event listings on Lanyrd. Claiming an event is free and claimed events gain access to useful additional features including event descriptions, advanced schedule editing and the ability to embed schedule and speaker information on another website.

Once you have claimed an event you will be able to:

  • Add a description of events. As illustrated, the Lanyrd entry for the IWMW 2012 event has been updated to include brief details of the event together with hypertext links to related resources.
  • Display of grid view of events with multiple sessions, including parallel sessions, as we have done for the timetable for the IWMW 2012 event.
  • Provide access control for editors of the content.
  • Embed ticket sales using Eventbrite.
  • Syndicate content hosted in Lanyrd to other web sites. An example of such syndication can be seen on the page listing the speakers at the IWMW 2012 event.

When I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event? I was conscious that one potential barrier to use of the service was the Wikipedia-style approach the service had taken to creating content, which meant that any registered user could update the content. As illustrated below once an event has been claimed you can now restrict edits to approved users.

I have now claimed over 20 events which I set up on Lanyrd and have changed access permissions so that only a number of colleagues at UKOLN can change the content for event which have already taken place although, as shown below, speakers still have the rights to update session information in case there were changes to the sessions which I was unaware of.

Reflections on Lanyrd

Back in May 2012 when I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event? I suggested that creating Lanyrd entries for previous events could be useful for several reasons including:

  • Providing a better understanding of the speakers and facilitators who have contributed to the event over the years.
  • Helping to raise the profile of the speakers and facilitators.
  • Enhancing participants’ memories of the events.
  • Decoupling the content from the host Web site (which provides primarily a HTML view of the content).
  • Avoiding the need for local development.

In light of the recent developments I am now wondering whether Lanyrd could be used to provide the prime entry point for new events. In August 2010 I asked Should Event Web Sites Be The First To Be Outsourced? This post reflected on the decision to host the FAM10 (Federated Access Management) event web site using Google Sites. Nicole Harris, the event organiser, had decided to outsource the IT infrastructure for the event: “we will do all the event management in-house … using Google for booking forms, document management, presentation publication and event information“.

The blog post generated interesting discussions. In response to concerns that use of such third party services meant a loss of control of branding and visual identity for an event web site Martin Hawksey commented that:

Google sites do allow you to create your own custom template so it is easy to add logos change colours. The biggest cost in this area is probably staff time and whilst you might be saving money on hosting, you loose it in time required to set the site up.

Chris Gutteridge highlighted another concern:

Conference websites are part of the academic record and it is very important to maintain at least some of the content. Most conference webmasters don’t even shift the front page to be past-tense once it’s over but part of the design should be how it’s left long term.

Chris is right to raise this concern. Back in 2005 I spoke at the Accessible Design in the Digital World conference. But if I visit the ADDW05 web site I now get a parking domain, as illustrated.

I suspect there will be many conference web sites which are now difficult to find. For example looking at the IW3C2’s list of the international WWW conferences although the web site for the First International Conference on the World-Wide Web still exists, the web site for The Second International WWW Conference is only available via the Internet Archive whilst The Third International WWW Conference no longer appears to exist.

Although there are clearly risks in reliance on third party services for providing web sites it also needs to be recognised that there are also risks in attempting to simply use in-house services.

Many high profile conferences will wish to have their own domain name, so there will be a need to manage ownership of the domain for an extended period – as Chris Gutteridge suggested ten years might be regarded as the minimum period for a registering a conference domain.

But in addition to the management of an event’s domain, there is also the need to consider the risks associated with failing to exploit developments which may not be available if only in-house resources are used.

A compromise approach would be to continue to host content locally but to make use of services, such as Lanyrd to provide value-added functionality which may not be appropriate to provide in-house. This has been the approach taken to support recent IWMW events.

However such considerations do not necessarily mean that an external service can never be used to deliver an event web site. The FAM10 web site continues to be available on Google Site. In this case the issues related to the long-term sustainability of the event web site would be (a) is the service likely to be sustainable; (b) is provider of the service likely to change the terms and conditions; (c) can the content be easily exported; (d) is there a need for the content to be accessible and (e) can the costs in migrating the content be justified?

We can reasonably expect Google to continue and might reasonably expect any changes to the availability and terms and conditions for Google Sites to be notified to users of the service, as they have done for the iGoogle and Google Video services. But what of Lanyrd?

From the Lanyrd entry on Crunchbase we learn that Lanryd was launched on 31 August 2010 and received $1.4M funding. There appear to be only two people listed as being involved with the company: the co-founders Simon Willison and Natalie Downe (both of whom, incidentally, are from the UK and Natalie obtained her degree in Computer Science here at the University of Bath).

Using Lanyrd you can find out about other events speakers have spoken at and their forthcoming events.

Although I am a fan of the service, in light of the apparent lack of additional funding and uncertainty of the service’s business model I do not feel that Lanyrd can currently be used to provide the master source of content for a large-scale event, especially if access to the content for several years after the event is needed.

However I do feel that Lanyrd does have a valuable role to play in providing additional access to the content for an event as well as providing a social dimension to an event though use of the Twitter IDs for speakers and participants at events listed on Lanyrd, as illustrated in the accompanying image.

This social dimension is the Lanyrd’s key feature and this is the reason why I felt useful to create Lanyrd entries for previous IWMW events. But will Lanyrd not only continue to develop additional features which can support the needs of event organisers and participants and, perhaps more importantly, be able to demonstrate that the service will continue to be available for a period of 5 to 10 years?

I’d be interested in others’ views on the role which people feel Lanyrd can play in supporting events.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]