Navigate conferences and festivals with an iPhone app

Free iPhone app for the Northwest Folklife Festival, designed by Hal Mueller

Remember the good old days at conferences, when you arrived clutching a marked-up schedule of “must-see” exhibits and “must-hear” talks — and spent the conference rooting around for it in your backpack or briefcase? Or, even better, you arrived at the conference to find your marked-up copy was still at home on your desk and you were back at square one?

When the Palm Pilot came on the scene, I tried to take control of conferences and festivals by entering key events and performances into the device’s calendar program. It spared me lugging around a crumpled program, but it was a chore.

Now, in the age of the iPhone, conference and festival organizers not only have their schedules online, they have apps that allow us to view their information and create our own customized schedules.

A great example of that is the Northwest Folklife Festival app, created in 2010 for the iPhone and available this year for iPhone and Android. Designed by Seattle developer Hank Mueller, it lists the hundreds of performances that take place during the four-day festival (by stage, by genre, and by schedule) and allows users, with a simple tap, to assign events to a Favorites screen, creating a customized schedule.

It also lists the hundreds of food and crafts vendors at the festival. See a vendor you like? Tap the vendor location and you can get a map that shows you the booth location on the festival grounds. (After the festival, you can use the app to look up a vendor and visit the vendor’s website.)

Sched is an organization that creates online and mobile schedule services for organizations ranging from anime conventions to medical conferences. Originally developed for South by Southwest, they’ve done Seattle’s Bumbershoot Music Festival and the massive San Diego Comic-Con. You can see how the web-based version of their system works for Northwest Folklife here. (Note the URL — this is accessed from the Folklife site, but hosted on the Sched servers.)

Full disclosure: I’m a volunteer and current board member for Northwest Folklife, a Seattle-based non-profit that produces a four-day free music, arts, and crafts festival at Seattle Center on Memorial Day weekend. Download the Northwest Folklife app and come join us this weekend!

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About Karen Anderson

To paraphrase Mark Morris, "I'm a writer; I write!"
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