Open Source Days Conference Guide App
for Android , iOS , Sailfish OS , Firefox OS , Windows Phone
Mikstura.IT is a foundation which grew out of a web and mobile community aiming to provide an interactive forum for IT people interested in the unique mixture of networking, knowledge-building as well as practical and productive skills development.
As the host of one of the biggest admittance-free Open Source events in Europe – the Open Source Days, the Mikstura.IT foundation was looking for a solution to mobilize and socialize the conference. The conference organizers needed a dedicated event mobile app which could help a few hundred participants to navigate through the agenda with multiple lectures and workshop, supply the attendees with information about presentations and speakers as well as to encourage participation and elicit feedback for improvements in the future.
An event management platform consists of a Ruby on Rails web application which is used by the organizers to enter event data, gather and analyse statistics and/or feedback. The web service is combined with a suite of Xamarin based mobile apps which can run on device with Android, iOS, Sailfish OS, FirefoxOS and Windows Phone; the apps enable conference participants to access and share information about the event.
The Mikstura.IT foundation provides an interactive forum for web and mobile programmers, graphic designers, entrepreneurs and NGO innovators. They organize meetups and events focused on the practical side of technology, civic engagement and business innovation. The organization supports people in their efforts to hone as well as share both hard and soft skills with which to build pragmatic, down-to-earth and innovative software solutions. Once a year, the foundation partners with regional universities and industry-focused publishing houses to host the Open Source Days conference for the enthusiasts of open source software as well as for those interested in the practical application of open source software in business and non-profits / NGOs.
Organizing a big conference is quite a challenge in terms of logistics, sharing up-to-date information, engaging participants and ensuring appropriate sponsor visibility. Additionally, the organizers of a technology event strive to deliver something new and innovative, for example, to foster eco-friendliness with the proposed solutions.
The foundation decided to enrich the overall conference experience by developing an event management solution consisting of a content management system and a suite of cross-platform mobile applications with wich to prepare and publish information to participants, gather feedback and generate social buzz – easily, effectively and cheaply.
To reach these goals, the foundation needed a tool which would support an overall experience of all the stakeholders (participants, speakers and sponsors) from the first moment they hear about the conference to the moment they make a positive reference to a friend months after the event.
Approach and Process
The idea of developing a mobile event management system was conceived of during a service design workshop we conducted for the Mikstura.IT foundation; the collaborative activity of the event stakeholders became a driver for planning and designing the web and mobile platform.
The system was designed and developed in very close collaboration between the client and Selleo. Knowing that the right process produces the right results, we decided to use Scrum to minimise waste and maximise value delivered. As time was a crucial factor to bear in mind, we worked in short sprints and were very strict about quality assurance.
Together with the client we decided to craft mobile applications which would be easily accessible and simple – regardless of the mobile device used, the user should find the data needed in no more than three clicks, without any instructions to follow. The apps were also meant to be easy to update – it should be possible to instantaneously submit schedule changes and conference information to the system.
The Open Source Days conference application is an event management platform which consists of a Ruby on Rails web service and a suite of Xamarin based mobile applications for different platforms / OSs.
The Web service was equipped with a CMS and analytic features which enable event organizers to publish event information with ease as well as to track participant feedback, ratings submitted, page views and thus to get a deep understanding of user bahaviour and preferences.
The mobile applications enable users to find information about the event, provide feedback, share information with their friends and organize the information so that it matches their personal preferences (“my agenda”). In particular, they can share information about the event as a whole and about specific presentations / workshops. Importantly, the content published is available to users anytime and anywhere on their mobile devices (offline access).
The mobile applications for Android, iOS, Sailfish OS and Firefox OS were built using Xamarin, which – according to Gartner – provides native-like UIs / UEx and better performance than other cross-platform technologies. A Windows Phone mobile app was developed as a native application with some critical portions of the code, such as networking, the data layer and business logic shared with other platforms, which significantly reduced implementation time. All the applications have platform specific interfaces, with native look & feel.
The back-end of those apps was developed with Ruby on Rails; the admin panel was fitted up with features enabling to enter data about location, available presentations, workshops, speakers and sponsors, as well as to gather and analyse statistics and feedback.
Modules and Features
The platform – at its core – consists of a web service which combines CMS and analytical features providing insights into user behaviour and service performance as well as a few mobile applications which display information about the event in general, its location, specific presentations, workshops, event sponsors and partners.
Some Key Features / Functionalities:
- tracking and measuring user behavior in the app
- sharing information via social media
- geotargeting and navigating with google maps
- working in offline mode
- commenting on presentations and workshops
- submitting feedback referring to the whole event
- rating individual presentations and workshops
- building a customized / personalized agenda
- updating data in real time
- accessing various event information
- presenting sponsors, partners and supporting media
The Open Source Days software system enabled the conference organizers to effectively manage their event. Additionally, beautiful, responsive apps allowed the more-than-300 event participants to learn about the event, find the content that was of most interest to them and share their opinions with others.
The use of the Xamarin technology enabled fast and cost effective development and deployment of the mobile apps on most popular mobile platforms and allows the client to expand its reach to Windows 8 devices and Smart TVs in the future.
The use of this solution also creates a chance to host an eco-friendly – 100% paper-free – event by replacing paper agenda and schedules with mobile apps.
A wide selection of supported devices and operating systems provided new exposure opportunities for sponsors; the Open Source Days have gained the support of such companies as Microsoft, RedHat, Google, Travis CI, Akamai, Oracle and MySQL to name a few prominent examples.