Showdango is online with functionality to let visitors search, sort, and click through to upcoming webinars and webcasts. It's still in beta mode, and I usually try to wait on reviews until I know a site is completely stable and ready for prime time, but the site's creator gave me permission to write about it on my blog.
I figured it was a good time to give my impressions, since KillerStartups.com put up a mini review and I added a comment that spurred at least one angry response.
I'm all for the basic functionality offered by showdango (the branding is lowercase only). I have long been an outspoken proponent of the need for a centralized search portal for web seminars. I even created my own version as a side venture a few years ago, but it never blossomed and I let it expire with the hope that others would take up the concept and make a better go of it. Apparently CartoSoft had the same thought process and is trying the same technique of building the website as a "side project" (the comment on KillerStartups mentions this, so I don't think I'm giving away privileged information here).
Functionality is fairly basic at this stage. Event producers can register and then submit upcoming webinars to the listings database. Paid subscriptions are available that give providers a highlighted background and featured status in the listings. Visitors to the site don't have to log in... It works in the same way as most other specialized search engines. You can do a lookup based on keywords or you can choose to see listings in four labeled categories (Arts, Business & Marketing, Science, Technology) or the catch-all of "Other." You can also ask for events that have been posted recently or for events that are coming up within certain time periods (today, the next week, next month, next year).
Events are listed with a title, category, tags, short description text, date/time, and cost. Times are listed in whatever time zone the submitter used and there is no conversion function, so you need to do the math yourself. The title of the event links to whatever landing page the provider specifies... usually a registration page. There are also buttons to add the event as a calendar entry in Google Calendar or Outlook-compatible calendars with an ICAL entry. I am having a problem with version incompatibility on my computer... It won't open the ICAL appointment. This is apparently a known problem with certain implementations of Outlook and ICAL appointments, but I hadn't run across it before in my use of calendar appointments.
I'm a little disappointed by the cosmetics of the site. Hyperlinks lack visual cues to tell you what is clickable among the text items. For instance, it is not immediately apparent that you click on an event title to go to the event's landing page. And there are messages sprinkled throughout the site that say "click here to register" but only the word "here" is hyperlinked, even though it looks the same as the rest of the sentence. You end up moving your cursor around the screen, waiting to see when it changes from arrow to hand. I found the run-on nature of the listings a bit confusing at first -- Events are separated by a blank linefeed, which doesn't provide a lot of quick visual separation.
What got me in trouble in my comment on KillerStartups was my contention that the first thing your eye is drawn to on the site is big black boldface type at the upper left saying "The world's first webinar index." When I first corresponded with showdango's creator a little over a month ago, I pointed out that he was preceded by my attempt (a dead site, so not worth arguing about), EventSpan, Finervista, and Insight24. I have reported on each of those other indexing ventures in this blog. You will find recorded webcasts of mine on Insight24 (which concentrates on recorded content, usually in conjunction with paid services for client promotion and syndication). Finervista is primarily a web-crawler, looking for events automatically. I also do a lot of listings on EventSpan, which has the best set of features for my uses and interests. I mentioned some of them in my comment to show what showdango has to do to compete successfully in the space. For this, I was accused of selling out and writing a blatant sales pitch/PR blurb for EventSpan.
I'm going to veer off the subject of showdango for a moment to do a sidebar disclosure of my business relationship with EventSpan, just because it seems to be necessary and I have zero to hide. EventSpan is owned by Aperio Networks, which also owns Conferencing News and Webinar Wire. I edit and contribute to Webinar Wire. Should Webinar Wire ever turn into a profit center, I will make some money from it for my work. So far, it's a community service project. I sometimes get my stories or upcoming events featured on Conferencing News if they seem to be of value and interest to the conferencing community at large. That's a decision they make with no input from me. I have no association with, control over, or financial interest in EventSpan. I am a satisfied user and that's it.
That said, back to showdango. Just as there are many different generic web search engines, there is space for competing special-interest search engines. Each has to find its own niche and compete for business based on features, usefulness, attractiveness to its user base, and superiority over other offerings. Showdango is still in beta and may develop killer features that raise it above the crowd. But for now, that crowd needs to be acknowledged and I don't mind mentioning implementation comparisons and inaccurate marketing as I see them.
UPDATE, April 9: The fine folks at showdango responded quickly. They have changed the top of page tag line to "A pretty cool little webinar index". The prosecution withdraws its objections. Nice responsiveness and a fun sense of whimsy shown there!