Web 2.0: Confabb Provides Directory And Ratings For ConferencesWeb 2.0: Confabb Provides Directory And Ratings For Conferences
Most Web sites for conferences are pretty poorly designed. Simple tasks, like scrutinizing the schedule or finding the show hotel, take too long and are too painful to accomplish. That's one of the problems that Confabb, a directory, rating service, and social network for conferences, is looking to solve. I met with <a href="http://www.confabb.com">Confabb</a> at Web 2.0 Expo, and got the lowdown from the company chairman.
April 25, 2008
Most Web sites for conferences are pretty poorly designed. Simple tasks, like scrutinizing the schedule or finding the show hotel, take too long and are too painful to accomplish. That's one of the problems that Confabb, a directory, rating service, and social network for conferences, is looking to solve. I met with Confabb at Web 2.0 Expo, and got the lowdown from the company chairman.To see what Confabb is about, take a look at a listing -- for example, this one for Web 2.0 Expo. You can browse the location, map the location, find out where to register, view a listing of sessions (blank for the Web 2.0 Expo page, unfortunately), write a review of the conference, discuss, upload media, and more.
The service has 10,000 users, 30,000 speakers, and 70,00 conferences listed. Anyone can enter information about any conference. Conferences and users come from all industries; company chairman Salim Ismail showed me pages for technology conferences, of course, and also for conferences for the construction industry and political science. The service is targeted at medium-sized conferences: Not a monster show like the Consumer Electronics Show, and not your local Meetup for pug owners, either. The service has proven more popular outside Silicon Valley than it is inside it, Ismail said. When Confabb launched, the founders assumed that Silicon Valley would love it. But they thought the mainstream world would hate it, because of the user control and ratings (mainstream businesses have historically been resistant to losing control of their brand on the Internet, and letting just anybody say anything about their products and services). Instead, said Ismail, the opposite happened: Silicon Valley yawned at the service -- "it was just another company on TechCrunch," Ismail said -- but mainstream conferences loved it. And the thing they loved about it was the user involvement and the rating: Conference organizers spend a lot of time nagging attendees to fill out evaluation cards, and they liked the idea of making the process more convenient, on the Web. Other features of Confabb: Individual people can join, and let the site know which conferences you plan to attend, who else plans to attend those conferences, and participate in uploading media, posting comments, and other activities. And people who speak at conferences can build profile pages, with links to where they plan to speak. Ismail headed up Yahoo Brickhouse from February 2007 to February of this year. He described Brickhouse as sort of an internal venture capital firm, which would sift through ideas for new products and services developed by the Yahoo team, and select a few to develop. Projects from Brickhouse included the Yahoo Pipes graphical tool for building Web apps, Yahoo Live for streaming user-generated live video, and the FireEagle geolocation service. Confabb was built for no money by six people working part-time for four months, Ismail said. After that, the company received a quarter-million-dollar seed money from angel investors. For future development, Confabb is working on integrating a note-taking application from RippleRap.com, a subsidiary of BT. RippleRap is based on TiddlyWiki, an innovative single-user open source note-taking application that runs entirely inside a Web browser. RippleRap is like a massively multiuser Web-based version of TiddlyWiki. Conference attendees will be able to take notes of sessions, and share those notes through Confabb. The note-taking feature will launch at the Personal Democracy Forum in two months. Confabb has two revenue models: First, it will host official Web sites for conferences; conference managers can use their own domains and skin the sites to fit their brand. Confabb will charge $2,000 to $3,000 per conference; most conferences now pay $15,000 to $30,000 or more to have a local Web design company design their site. The second revenue plan: Host value-add services for conferences on Confabb, like the note-taking application and discussion forums, and share revenue on advertising. Confabb's mission fills a need. Web sites are an afterthought for most conferences; they're just a means to an end of getting people to come to the conference. And yet conference organizers also would like to be able to use the Internet to help keep the community formed by conferences together throughout the year. It remains to be seen whether conference organizers will look to Confabb to achieve those goals.
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