Two years ago this month here on the blog I introduced skeptics to Lanyrd – a website that compiles information about multiple speaker events like conferences, symposia and workshops. It can compile all the info about an event in one place for easy reference by attendees and others. Since I’ve been promoting the site, it has been adopted by many skeptic organizations. It has become the official scheduling application for The Amazing Meeting, several Center for Inquiry events, Skepticamp, Germany’s SkepKon, Skeptics of Oz and more.
As a convenience to skeptics and skeptic event organizers, I and others have been curating what Lanyrd calls a “guide” – a special list of just the skeptic conferences that are upcoming and listed on the site. The guide acts as an entry point to Lanyrd for skeptics. It has other uses too, for instance an RSS feed from this guide automatically populates the list of upcoming skeptic conferences that is visible on the right here at the blog.
Of course, numerous skeptics cannot attend these events in person due to cost or travel involved or for many other reasons. Some skeptics only attend them rarely. If you fall in this category, you might wonder why I mention Lanyrd repeatedly here, on my blog and on the Virtual Skeptics webcast.
Last week I launched social media feeds associated with the guide, to promote its value better. Let me explain why I think this is a useful thing for all skeptics, not just those who regularly attend these events.
Ever wonder why big brands and major websites often have an array of icons somewhere on their homepage, leading to popular sites like YouTube and Twitter? Follow us on Twitter! Like us on Facebook! It all seems so needy and desperate, as if the business or site has a self-esteem problem.
And why try to lure you off to another site? They’ve got you there on their site looking at their stuff, which is usually a big part of the battle in promoting anything on the Internet. Wouldn’t getting people to go elsewhere be entirely counter-productive? Well, maybe. But there is a method to their madness.
You may be inclined to say, “Well social media is the thing these days, that’s all it is.” But there’s more to it than that.
If you are trying to promote anything – be it a charity, or a good idea, or a product – a key technique on the modern web is to maintain a presence on as many popular sites as you can manage. In this post, I will attempt to explain the rationale behind that, and how you can take advantage of it in your own efforts.
I’ve written about Lanyrd here before, it’s an interesting take on organizing data for conferences that I recommend for skeptics. Perhaps I recommend it a bit too often, because at least one person has accused me of being a “shill for Big Lanyrd” on occasion. I certainly don’t get paid by them, but I like the way the site works and especially how they crowdsource data entry like Wikipedia. In fact, you really should think of Lanyrd as a very specialized wiki that is optimized around posting information about conferences and meetings.
The crowdsourcing is what differentiates Lanyrd from conference management software like Sched, Cvent or others. Just like Lanyrd, those sites let you enter speakers, schedule, locations and such about your event, and provide services like smartphone apps for attendees and more. Some of them even do things that Lanyrd does not yet support, like email your attendees or run your entire website. But in general they all keep your event data separate from everyone else’s data, in classic software-as-a-service fashion.
Lanyrd takes a different approach. On Lanyrd, if I spend the time attaching videos or published books to a speaker’s profile, to help support their appearance at my event, that data benefits any future event at which that same speaker appears. From a pure business standpoint I can see how other conference software might not want to do that – why should one customer’s data efforts benefit a different customer? They might be competitors.
But Lanyrd is born out of the world of tech conferences where things like crowdsourcing and open source are familiar, accepted concepts. So this sort of data sharing comes naturally. And it should come naturally to the skeptic, atheist, humanist and secular communities too, because so many of our events are run by non-profit entities.
Well now Lanyrd has added a new feature to their site that repurposes the speaker data we’ve all entered and the result is pretty cool…
Skeptics love to throw events. Today the Reason Rally in Washington, DC is kicking off a big year of events in the US, and there are two other big events next month. We love our events for good reason – they help build the community and foster interaction and discussion between skeptics. Indeed, it was attending TAM 5 in 2007 that led directly to my creation of What’s the Harm and this blog.
As any event organizer knows, you must relentlessly promote your event for it to be successful. If you listen to a selection of skeptic podcasts like I do, over the last few months you probably heard an ad or plug for QEDcon which was held in Manchester earlier this month. The Merseyside Skeptics who organized it did a terrific job of getting the word out.
I noticed one of the things they did was list their event in a London-based online service called Lanyrd. This web-based service, launched in 2010, is a social conference directory. That means it uses your social media connections to identify the speakers, attendees and staff at conferences. They are primarily oriented toward Twitter, which is appealing since there are several thousand skeptics who actively use that service. This month Lanyrd got some good coverage at South by Southwest (SXSW) where they provided some fantastic tools to attendees.
I think Lanyrd could be a great new tool for skeptics. Some more details on how to use Lanyrd to your advantage in the rest of this post.