How Green is my Conference?

One of the aspects of INFORMS conferences that I’ve been following eagerly over the last several years is the development of the mobile conference app and the effort to move to paperless programs. I’ve been a holdout for all this time, but I think I’m about to take the green plunge.

The paper program has had advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, it has contained complete abstracts of all talks, and the paper format is still the handiest one for browsing. On the negative side, it’s become heavy as Sisyphus’s rock. Also, it’s not searchable. Meanwhile, the various incarnations of the mobile app have been various levels of unreliable, inaccurate, difficult to navigate, and feature poor. Also, trying to read significant amounts of material on a phone is inconvenient and unpleasant, with the small screen and lots of backing and forthing.

Several things have changed this year. First, I have a tablet now. The online version of the complete program is browsable in a new Web app called FlipBook, which (in a browser) allows one to “stick a finger in” and flip to an approximate page. (It’s not quite so friendly on the tablet or phone, but it’s better than simple PDFs.) The mobile app is much more reliable and the navigation improved over previous years. There’s still a lot of too-ing and fro-ing, but it’s more pleasant to read. The app also has several useful features, including “my schedule”, the conference twitter feed and photos, the badge scanner, and more. Finally, abstracts have been dropped from the printed program. That makes it lighter and easier to carry, but it pretty much ruins it as a browsing tool. As a result of these changes, I think the functionality curves have now crossed. Next year, I plan to “go green.”

There are still lots of improvements possible in the mobile app. I have my list, but if you have ideas you’d like to get to the developers, leave comments below or drop me a note. I think I speak for the IT Committee when I say we want the mobile app to be a useful and pleasant, full-service tool for navigating the conference.

(Note that my devices run Android.  Experience with iOS might be different.)