A year ago, Joel Smith was struggling to decide which panel to attend at South By Southwest, an annual tech (and music) conference in Austin, Texas. “There were many moments where I wish I could be three people so I could sit in all the really interesting panels,” he recalled. Absent cloning, his workaround was to Google for any notes, slides and videos he could find. “Not much turned up.”
Born out of that experienceâ€”and iterated during a furious Startup Weekend session last November in Indianapolisâ€”is a new web tool to make it possible to experience multiple panels at once: through shared notetaking.
NoteSee is a conference note sharing application, helping attendees (and remote fans) get more value out of information events.
Most people take notes when theyâ€™re sitting in on the sessions and panels. With their laptops out, theyâ€™re making great use of their Evernote or Simplenote accounts, typing out their lightbulb moments as discussions and presentations are happening right in front of them. Sometimes you get so wrapped up that you forget to write, or your laptop dies. Sometimes, you canâ€™t even make the panels you want to attend.
source: “About NoteSee“
NoteSee (@notesee) helps stretch two scarce resourcesâ€”time and moneyâ€”by providing a feel for the content of a particular conference through a set of notes from audience members. That may help conferences with future registrations, or create fans of certain speakers who follow them to another conference.
Since 2007’s SXSW conference, many people have used Twitter to comment on events. Michael Jensen and Danny Sullivan once developed LiveTwitting, a tool to leverage Twitter’s direct messages to aggregate short-form comments into a live blog without flooding followers with tweets. That site went offline in 2008, however.
“Twitter is a phenomenal back channel tool for giving you a feel for a conference session,” explains Tim Skaggs, one of NoteSee’s two developers (Darby Frey being the other). “The problem lies in the fact that it is an uncoordinated stream of information that can seem incoherent when seen by someone who is not actually present or viewing.”
“Following just the hashtags makes me want to cry. I get very little value from that information,” says Smith, who is the lead designer for NoteSee and a familiar face in the Indiana startup scene.
The team feels their application fills a real need not addressed by the few other tools currently available. Neil Thomison, who oversees business development for the project, points to Lanyrd, another pioneer in this event support domain, as a tool attempting to scratch a similar itch. That site allows you to track favorite conferences and see who else is attending. “I think this is a great companion to NoteSee,” says Thomison, “but I know that good notes can provide really valuable information from the perspective of the audience member. Itâ€™s like getting a textbook in school with intelligent notes, smart questions and thoughtful answers in the gutter.”
The tool isn’t limited to helping people attending over-scheduled events. Sometimes, due to expense or conflicts, it isn’t possible to travel to every interesting conference on the calendar. “Just because we donâ€™t go doesnâ€™t mean we want to miss any valuable information,” says Thomison.
Right now, the team is focusing their efforts on providing support for tech conferencesâ€”next month’s SXSW in particular. All multi-track conferences could potentially benefit from promoting a NoteSee community, as could other shared experiences where note taking is important. “Weâ€™ve pondered focusing on universities and cataloging notes for college student courses,” says Thomison.
The initial Beta launch will include the core functionality, sufficient to make is useful to SXSW attendees. Future iterations might include the ability to merge or summarize notes, creating a single master document for a given panel or talk. A stronger sense of social connection among notetakers will likely be cultivated as the system evolves.
The project is currently recruiting initial members, perhaps even forming a “NoteSee Panel Junkies” team of power users to help populate the site. You can reserve your invitation by visiting their website. “Strong user engagement right out of the gate will be key for NoteSee,” says Smith. “Weâ€™re hoping the early adopters will be excited to seed our system with notes, and that way weâ€™re creating value for new users.”
The next Indianapolis Startup Weekend, by the way, is scheduled for April 8-10.