Keeping up with all the panels, speakers, and parties at a big conference like South by Southwest can be overwhelming. But attendees to this year's SXSW have a clean, Ajax app called Sched.org to help them out. Coded in a 14-hour marathon session by two guys in their twenties, Chirag Mehta and Taylor McKnight, Sched.org lays out each event in easy-to-read, color-coded bars. (Orange is for a panel, pink is for a party).
Mouse over the title of a panel, and you get all the necessary details in a pop-up window-location, room number, summary, panelists, links, and tags. Sign in as a member, and indicate which events (official and unofficial) you are planning to attend. Then click to see which ones are the most popular. It is like Digg for events, except people vote with their feet.
To give you a sense of how early-adopter Sched.org is, the most popular event with 319 members is “South by Northwest 3rd Annual Geek Fest Party at SXSW,” followed by the “Vampire Weekend,” and a bunch of free-booze parties paid for by the conference sponsors. The R.E.M. concert on Thursday is No. 6 (maybe all the Sched.orgers would rather wait for the new album to be streamed on iLike than actually see the band live). And it is not just R.E.M. Yo La Tengo, My Morning Jacket, and Spoon are also less popular than the Geek Fest.
One of the Wired blogs is going gaga over Sched.org, declaring it to be this year's Twitter. Last year, everyone was using Twitter to figure out which parties to go to. But you know what? I think they still are. More people learned about the Mark Zuckerberg interview fiasco at SXSW through Twitter than Shed.org. And while mining the chatter at a big conference is a great way to use Twitter, it is a much bigger communications tool. (If you are going to be technical about it, Kyte is more Twitter-like than Sched.org). For Sched.org, keeping track of the goings-on at an event is the main thing it is designed for. In fact, it does that much better than Twitter. I just don't see it going beyond that.
And it doesn't need to. Sched.org does one thing really well-help you visualize and manage complex event schedules. Hyperbole aside, it is worth a look.