Aperio Networks (publishers of the excellent Conferencing News website) have finally taken the wrapper off their long-announced EventSpan online events syndication platform. I'm really excited about the offering and I may do a few postings on the subject because of its richness. I got a chance to see some of the early work on the site and give them a little feedback, but I didn't want to talk about it here until it was available to the public.
The first challenge is summarizing the purpose of EventSpan. I started out with an assumption that it would be another pass-through listing service that lets webcast producers list their events and lets interested consumers search the listings and click through to landing pages for events of interest. EventSpan turns out to include that functionality, but a lot more as well, letting it go beyond my own defunct attempt at the same idea and recently introduced event search portals such as Finervista and Insight24. Their home page uses this descriptive sentence: "EventSpan is an on-demand publishing, social networking, search and syndication platform for webcasts, webinars, and various online events."
To get an idea of what is encompassed in that global statement, take a gander at the EventSpan Features page. It lists functionality targeted at event searchers, speakers, event producers/marketers, web publishers, service providers, and industry professionals.
One of the things I found fascinating about the site is that EventSpan is heavily invested in a "culture of celebrity" associated with online events. They don't just concentrate on events and technologies, but on the people involved. So an event producer can create profiles and biographies of their commonly used speakers and then pull those in from their library when listing a new event. You can keep track of hosts or sponsors as well and attach those to an event.
There are also categories for listing industry professionals associated with the web conferencing business and expert speakers who are available to present at online events. Right now you'll find me listed in the Speakers Bureau on the site (this is a busy month for me as a professional speaker... I have three free online presentations scheduled with various technology and service partners).
Visitors looking for information can set up watchlists that track events, individuals, or companies. They can use a button click to add an event date to any of several popular calendar programs. They can also use the service to create their own email or text message reminders separate from anything the event host might send out.
Event producers using the site have quite a bit of information they can enter. It may seem daunting at first, but many of the fields are optional and simply give searchers more information to search on and see in their listings. The other thing that makes life easier is some very fancy programming on the site that allows instantaneous drag and drop of items on data forms. The guys at Aperio proudly told me they were using an up and coming web application framework called Ruby on Rails, and the power of the functionality is obvious. This ain't your daddy's static HTML page!
One of the best features for event producers/promoters is that the site can create a promotional "widget" that is easy to embed on a web page (or even stick into an HTML format email). You can pick the size and shape of your widget and copy out the code to make it appear as a clickable item. For instance, here is a widget I took from the site that lets me promote a web event I'm doing with Bulldog Solutions on September 12.
Once I had put the event listing into EventSpan, I didn't have to do anything else to create a nicely formatted interactive advertisement.
As I feared, this entry is getting a bit long and unwieldy, so I'll save some features for discussion in a separate article. I should mention that as an alpha release, there is not much data in the system yet. Just a few sample events, industry professionals, and one heroic expert speaker :) I encourage you to try out the site and add yourself or your events. I'm sure you'll be impressed by the functionality.