UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Shhmoozing at Metrics and Social Web Workshop

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Jul 2011

On Monday I facilitated a workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use & Impact ” which was held at the Open University. There were over 30 participants at the workshop with another 20 or so participants watching the live video stream and engaging in discussions on the video streaming channel or using the #ukolneim Twitter hashtag.

A report on the content of the workshop is currently being prepared. In addition the feedback from the remote participants will be analysed and a report published on this blog (the provision of the remote amplification of the workshop was carried out as part of the JISC-funded Greening Event II project which UKOLN together with ILRT, University of Bristol are providing.

The post will summarise one additional area of experimentation which took place at he workshop.  As described in a post on “Plans for “Metrics and Social Web Services” Workshop on Monday” in addition to the provision of the live streaming service we used the event as an opportunity to evaluate the potential of the Shhmooze app.

As described in the post the Shhmooze Web site states that:

Research by Shhmooze shows that 75% of conference delegates find networking to be hard work or ‘a nightmare’!

That’s because it’s really hard to find the right person to talk to within a crowd of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people. And, for many people, it’s even harder to strike a conversation out of nowhere with a complete stranger.

Since myself and colleagues at UKOLN organise many events we are always looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of our events.  The use of the event amplification provide a means of improving the effectiveness of an event by enabling people who are not present to learn from the talks and engage in the discussions, thus potentially enhancing the event for those who are physically present.  But how might a proximity-based application such as Shhmooze enhance an event for those who are present?

For an answer to that question you just have to see the first message I received from he small number of people who installed the Shhmooze app on the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch device and checked in when they arrived at the Open University in Milton Keynes.  The message read:

Help! Four of us stick downstairs – Jenni Lee building.

Yes, it seems that several of the participants had arrived at the venue early and found that they couldn’t get in to the building.  It would be nice to use this as an example of a success story illustrating one possibly benefit for the app – in reality, however, I failed to check posts to the app when I arrived at the building and the first notification I received actually arrived my an SMS text message from one of the four participants who had my mobile phone number. But on reflection I think this shows that if use of an app such as Shhmooze becomes embedded at an event it can have benefits from making contact with event organisers as well as its  stated purpose in supporting networking by event attendees.

I found that the app working in providing an opportunity to establish a useful contact – after Elena Villaespese sent me a ‘wave’ I noticed from her Shhmooze profile that she was a PhD student at the University of Leicester and also affiliated with the Tate Gallery. This provided me with an opportunity to discuss my previous interests in supporting the museum sector and shared contacts in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

It total, however, only size people seemed to have used the application, so it is difficult to get a feel for whether it will have a significant role to play at events. In part the low numbers may be due to the app only being available for mobile Apple devices and the relatively low numbers of users of mobile devices at the workshop in comparison with other events I have attended recently.

It does see to me that it will be worth carrying out further experimentation, with the IWMW 2011 event, which takes place on 26-27 July will provide an ideal opportunity to explore its potential further, and with over 150 participants we should be able to see how well use of the application scales with larger numbers of people checking in.

And whilst I appreciate that those participants who don’t have an Apple device might feel disenfranchised, it is worth noting that the Shhmooze blog has a post entitled We’re hiring, again. Android Developer Needed which indicates that there are plans to make the application available on a large number of platforms.

I previously commented that I felt the Shhmooze marketing material which suggested that the app can help you “find useful, interesting people” was rather cheesy.  From my initial experimentation I rather suggest that the app:

  • Allows you to contact event organisers without having to reveal mobile phones numbers
  • Enables you to chat with fellow participants without having to clutter up your Twitter stream with conference-specific discussions
  • Enables your event-specific engagement to fade away after the event is over

And as was posted to me in a final comment I received just as I ‘waved’ to a couple of Shhmooze users as the event was concluding: “It’s like being poked but more British“.  A very appropriate comment, I felt, especially, as described on their blog, Shhmooze was launched last November at Bizcamp Belfast – it does seem that schmoozing is an Irish thing and more friendly and without the double entendres to be found in Facebook.


12 Responses to “Shhmoozing at Metrics and Social Web Workshop”

  1. AJ Cann said

    Damn, I installed Shhmooze as per your request, but then completely forgot to use it yesterday!

  2. — Allows you to contact event organisers without having to reveal mobile phones numbers

    This ties in with something Dave Challis suggested to me yesterday– a tool where delegates register their mobile phone numbers and other delegates can use the tool to text each other without having to have their numbers revealed.

    Enables you to chat with fellow participants without having to clutter up your Twitter stream with conference-specific discussions.

    — meh.

    Enables your event-specific engagement to fade away after the event is over

    — again, meh.

    This tool should allow mobile web & WIFI users to use it or it’s just pretentious iPhonetastic wankery (to lift a phrasing from El Reg).

    On a related note, we had a nice little event/social network moment on Sunday night when we realised that someone else for our event was on the same train and met up & shared a taxi A trivial win, but was nice for us, and saved the tax payer £5.

  3. Hi Chris
    Your comment that “This tool should allow mobile web & WIFI users to use it or it’s just pretentious iPhonetastic wankery (to lift a phrasing from El Reg)” is closely aligned in sentiment (if not in the wording!) to my post on Beyond Policies For The Mobile Web. However although I agree with you that having a platform-specific app which is intended to foster connections with attendees at an event would seem to be counter-productive if you can only make contact with other iPhone users, there is also a need to understand whether there is a significant demand for such applications. I feel there is value in understanding how such applications could be used and whether, for example, they might be regarded as intrusive and therefore fail to take off. This is the reason why I will be evaluating the app further at the IWMW 2011 event – and whilst it’s pleasing to hear that the company is developing an Android app, it may be questionable as whether the platform-specific approach is scalable in the longer run (what about the Blackberry and Windows Mobile users, for example?)

  4. Dan Wiggle said

    I’d be keen to see Shhmooze at IWMW and think it would be a useful addition.
    This will be my fourth IWMW and while I’ve managed to break into a few of the social circles now, it was tough going the first couple of times around. I rather like the idea of an app that could make that process easier and help me ‘find useful, interesting people’, however cheesy it might sound :)

  5. […] workshop, including Twitter, CoverItLive, Slideshare, Livestream and the iPhone app Shhmooze (as reviewed by Brian). Post-event we also used Vimeo and Storify. The unification strategy involved links to these […]

  6. Shhmooze said

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to do such a comprehensive write-up Brian – it’s great to read about all the ways you see Shhmooze working at events!

    I see you and Christopher both want to see Shhmooze on more platforms. We completely agree with you – it’s always been our plan to support every platform. We’re releasing our Android app soon (it’s in the works already) and more platforms will follow.

    We’re also working on a web-based version. We chose to focus on native apps first after careful consideration. Mobile websites just don’t work very well for this type of application – we’ve personally experienced this at several conferences that used mobile websites. Real-time messaging and push notifications are crucial to enable attendees to arrange meetings and find each other in crowded conference venues. Ability to work with slow and unreliable internet connections is equally important as, unfortunately, this is still all you get at many conferences.

    We’re glad to see that you noted that Shhmooze can be a useful direct channel of communication between the event organiser and delegate on the day – this is something we’ve found in practice. We’re currently developing our Organiser SOS channel further.

    You mentioned that not very many people checked-in to Shhmooze on the day. From our experience, Shhmooze usage is directly related to how well it’s promoted by the event organiser. We’ve got directions here on how you can promote uptake among delegates –

    The most effective driver of uptake we’ve experienced so far on the day is the rather old-fashioned approach of simple printed posters at the registration desk/entrance, followed by a shout-out at the opening remarks and on Twitter.

    Of course we hope to get to the point where the user’s awareness of Shhmooze and its usefulness will drive them to checkin automatically and early – but right now, we need to give some gentle reminders!

    Finally, we just wanted to note that ‘Schmooze’ comes from the Yiddish shmuesn ‘to talk, chat’ (used mainly in the USA). And we’re a British startup with French and Irish co-founders. So Shhmooze is all about bringing people together!

    Mehdi – co-founder

  7. Hi Mehdi, good to see you guys paying attention to the community (or at least the potential community).

    1) Sod mobile apps, or at least for me. I don’t use my phone at an event. I use my laptop. I have tweetdeck running, thunderbird, firefox and about 6 ssh connections back into work so I can look after my responsibilities while at an event. I’m a sysprog, so maybe not your main audience.

    2) I don’t understand your revenue stream (not installed app, as I’m on android). Is it user-pays, event-pays or adverts-pays or something clever I didn’t think of?

    3) Shhmooze isn’t a neutral term. In my experienced English “Shhmooze” is to entertain someone in the hope they’ll see some issue your way. To suck-up with a budget. However, I don’t get the impression that’s what your product is about.

  8. […] described in a post on the UK Web Focus blog this app was tested last week at a UKOLN workshop on on “Metrics and Social Web Services: […]

  9. Hey Christopher,

    We like to pay close attention to the needs of both the organiser and the delegate!

    1) The wide variation in devices people use now is the reason why we’re working hard to be on as many platforms as we can.

    Right now we’re focusing on being on being on as many mobile devices as we can as this fits our typical use case best:
    – user broadcasts their professional profile when they get to the event
    – user checks out who’s around them and who would be best for them to talk with
    – user sends quick messages to arrange a face-to-face chats.

    You can do that quickly and easily whenever you have some time off: when standing in the queue at the registration desk, queuing for coffee, listening to a keynote that’s not capturing your attention…

    That said, we’re also planning to have a deskop web version as there are as you’re far from being the only one who uses a laptop at events!

    2) Shhmooze has a freemium revenue model. The networking app will always be free to delegates or organisers at any conference or event. However, we’re working on our premium package, which enables a conference organiser to purchase features like a mobile schedule, branding and sponsorship slots, speaker profiles etc.

    3) Regarding the etymology and current meaning of ‘schmooze’ I would once have visited the OED for the academic perspective. However, it is behind a paywall, and instead I defer to, which allows users to vote on what they feel the most relevant definition of the term in question is – see I like the idea of our networking app bringing a bit more science to the ‘art’ of schmoozing!

    Thanks again for the comments!
    Michelle (Shhmooze co-founder)

  10. […] be the need to find resources to carry our usability testing on a variety of devices). In addition, as discussed on this blog in the context of the Shhmooze app for Apple’s mobile devices,  there may be business […]

  11. […] recent post described Shhmoozing at Metrics and Social Web Workshop. Following this initial pilot we encouraged participants at IWMW 2011 who had an iPhone, iPod Touch […]

  12. […] the other examples given so far, Shhmooze is not part of the Twitter infrastructure. Rather, as I described last year, Shhmooze  is designed to facilitate networking at an event. We have set up a Shhmooze entry for […]

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