Lanyrd – a social conference tool. It rocks.

As an early adopter, I do spend a lot of time discovering new sites and online services, and giving them a try. If I’m honest, the number of those tools that actually stick is remarkably small.

One recent discovery that has stuck is a site called Lanyrd. That’s like, you know, lanyard – the cords you use to hang conference badges around your neck – without that second ‘a’ – cunning, huh? So this is a site for the social web that lets you track, mark and organise your attendance at conferences, and see what your friends and contacts are interested in, too. It was created by Natalie Downes and Simon Willison – I’ve known of Nat since the BBC/Yahoo! Hackday in 2007; I can’t remember whether I’ve met Simon. Lanyrd was something small and experimental, but they’ve recently been part of a Y Combinator funding round and bootcamp, which is terribly exciting!

So what’s so cool and useful about this, and why would you want to use Yet Another Social Site? I have absolutely no formal affiliation or connection to the service, I’m just a keen user, but here are my top tips and likes.

Firstly – low barrier to entry. If you’re on Twitter, you can quickly login and get your social graph pulled in. Once you’ve done that, simply start to search for events that you’re attending, or flip through to see what your friends and contacts are attending or “tracking” (have expressed an interest in watching), and click the button to register interest or attendance.

Once you’ve done that, you can go grab your ical feed from Lanyrd and throw it into Google Calendar or similar. There you go – nice way of marking out the conferences you want to track or attend. So it’s cool for discovery and for calendaring.

For conferences themselves, you get the opportunity to create an event with a unique URL, get a quick glance at who is attending, add a hashtag, location and timing information, and create lists of sessions. That’s great ahead of the event… but what about afterwards? Well, here’s what I think is a really cool feature. You can attach all kinds of “coverage” to an event, be it slides, audio, video, liveblogged information, blogged write-ups, etc etc. So your point-in-time event suddenly gains a social and historical footprint with an aggregation of all the content that grew up around it, which people can go back to. You don’t post the coverage directly into Lanyrd – they don’t own or keep anything – you just link everything together.

Finally, for me, is yet another killer feature. Once I say I’m a speaker at an event, Lanyrd will build me a speaker profile. So I get a single page calendar I can go back to that lists the events I’ve spoken at, and which probably has all my slides embedded (yes I know Slideshare can host the slides, but it doesn’t build this kind of profile for me). Oh, and there are nice widgets to make this kind of calendar embeddable on other sites, so you can have a record of where and when you spoke, and where and when you’ll be speaking next.

Nat and Simon have done a truly lovely job with Lanyrd and are constantly tweaking, improving and adding features. Saying that, I hope it won’t succumb to feature creep, or becoming a lightning rod for spam events as Upcoming and other sites seemed to in their later periods. If you’re running a conference or smaller social meeting which is going to have speakers and attendees then I think it makes a lot of sense.

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8 responses to “Lanyrd – a social conference tool. It rocks.

  1. Lanyrd does seem quite nice but I disagree that there’s a low barrier to entry: I don’t give anything access to my twitter id. Maybe I’m a tad suspicious but I’ve seen too many people I follow suddenly start spamming away and I’d rather not join in that game. Fortunately my web2.0 buttler takes care of Lanyrd for me!

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    • Fair enough. I’d point out that the oauth-based system Twitter uses is probably a lot more secure and private than FB Connect (which I assume you also don’t use, then) and that I don’t think it asks for post permission, but then I trust Nat and Simon so I’m not too concerned. Your point is well-made, though.

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  2. I must admit I didn’t even try to sign in since applications always seem to ask for more permission than they need/I want them to have. Would still be nice to have an alternative method for signing in however trustworthy Nat and Simon are. And what’s this FB you speak of?!

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