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Peter Murray's picture

Suggested Improvements to the Conference Scheduler

Kudos to ITTS and the ALA Connect team.  The Conference Scheduler performed admirably -- no, superbly -- during this year's annual conference.  Whether it was the intention of ALA or not, I very comfortably declined to pick up the program book at the registration desk and I didn't miss it one bit.  Hot-linking to the venues -- with a map -- from the event page? Extremely useful.  A bonus link on the venue page to the Gale-sponsored bus schedule? Unexpected and helpful.  I found just four bothersome things that I would like to submit for consideration to the development roadmap.

  1. Add the URL back to the Connect node as a note in iCal-exported entries.  I often found that I wanted to get back to the event node to check a program description or see if information had been added, so I had to manually copy and paste the URLs into the iCal-exported entries in my work calendar.
  2. Ability to export single events as an iCal file.  About two weeks before the meeting, I used the (awesome) recommendation engine to build a schedule in Connect and then export that schedule as an iCal file to add to my work calendar.  After that entire-schedule export, though, I found other meetings that I wanted to attend but not a way to get them into my work calendar without re-exporting the entire schedule.  (That would be a bummer because I modified the work calendar entries -- see above.)
  3. Sorting 'my exhibitors' by booth number doesn't work.  That would have been handy so I could go through them in numerical row order.  There is a UI hint that clicking on the row column header would sort by booth number, but the order seemed to be random.
  4. Create a mobile theme.  I looked at the planner a lot from a smartphone and tablet device.  Having a theme tuned to those screen sizes would be very nice.

These issues aside, the Conference Scheduler is the best meeting planning tool I can remember using.  Congratulations!

Andromeda Yelton's picture

Agreed that the conference scheduler makes my life way easier (and oh my goodness gracious was I overscheduled this time -- I needed that tool).


The two features I found myself missing were:

1) Also, mobile theme.

2) Searching on the speakers field.  (A couple of friends told me "you should meet X at ALA!", and in both cases they were speakers, but I couldn't find their events by searching on their names.)


I am also really hoping that the fabulous event attendance/interest data you are generating will be used in future to make better choices about the sizes of rooms that events will need.  Clearly this would not have been possible pre-Connect & I'm excited about the possibilities opened up by data.

LITA Board of Directors, 2013-2016



Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Thanks, Andromeda. I'm glad to hear the Scheduler worked better for you this time around. Sorry it can't help with the "being overscheduled" piece. :p

As I noted, a mobile theme is coming, so great minds think alike. Regarding speakers, we're actually going to try to revamp that piece before Midwinter. Right now, each speaker has to be manually added, along with all of their contact information, every time they're attached to a session.

My goal is to get their ID from our member database instead so that we can just pull all of their existing data. Then we'll try to add searching on those fields, as well.

Ultimately, our goal is to open the Scheduler much sooner in the process, even before the sessions are placed, so that room size can be adjusted before the conference starts. For example, there was a AASL session where we watched the potential attendance numbers climb but there was nothing we could do because there were no 700-seat rooms available that late in the process.

So yeah, it may take a couple of cycles for us to make all of the necessary changes to the process and figure out an accurate algorithm for actual attendance vs stated intention, but that's where we want to end up.


Michael Golrick's picture

I agree with everything that Peter says above and that Andromeda says below. (Well...it was below, what I really wanted to do was add my comment after both of them.) Being able to add just the NEW events would be a totally cool feature for those of us who build our calendars incrementally. (I already know what some of my meetings for Midwinter are, but there are others that are flexible.)

The sorting feature is really important for vendors, if it doesn't sort numerically, it makes that not a useful feature. (And I had already poked Jenny about it!)

The more searchable points the better. I also want to commend the better "authority control" of presenting units, but there is still work to do.

Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Thanks, Michael. I'm happy that we all seem to be on the same page about the major issues and even more so that they're (for the most part) fixable. I'm looking forward to starting on round three of enhancements in August.


Jenny Levine (staff)'s picture

Thanks, Peter - your kind words about the Scheduler are very welcome. :)

These are great suggestions, so let me add a few notes for each one.

  1. Add the URL back to the Connect node as a note in iCal-exported entries - I'll add this to the list for Midwinter.
  2. Ability to export single events as an iCal file - I'll add this to the list for Midwinter.
  3. Sorting 'my exhibitors' by booth number - The problem here is that we get that field as plain text from the company that handles the exhibitor info. They can't make it a number field that we could allow sorting on because they assign some booth numbers with letters in them. So even though we were aware of this problem ahead of time, there wasn't anything we could do in the short timeframe we had for Annual. We're going to try to work with the company to find a solution for Midwinter.
  4. Create a mobile theme - This is already on the list for Midwinter for the Scheduler and is in the roadmap for the rest of Connect for FY12.

Keep the ideas coming. :)Jenny