tl;dr: speakers.io is an app to connect speakers and conferences. It’s going to be awesome.
I’ve been a conference organizer for almost 6 years now (and a speaker for slightly longer), and year after year I’ve hit the same points of friction in my work. Seeing someone encounter the same thing with BritRuby made me realize that we could fix it! Partially, at least.
I had a long diatribe written about how everyone should stop forcing their priorities on event organizers and likewise organizers should find ways to include more people and people shouldn’t whine about people being passionate about diversity, but really it can just boil down to this: stop being a jerk.
If you think that statement could be about you, then it probably is. So, stop it. And let’s get back to organizing mindblowing Ruby events that include everyone.
So, how does speakers.io help that happen?
So watching this whole BritRuby thing, I kept thinking, “couldn’t we solve part of this with software?” When I sit down to consider who to invite to speak at my events (the keynote, typically), it would be really nice to not only get information about a presenter, but be able to know if they’re interested in speaking, available to come, and then reach out to them easily. If we had this utility with a lot of speakers on it (including men, women, children, alien, golden retrievers, and anyone else who could operate a mouse) that was easily navigable, searchable, and so on, it’d make it way easier for organizers to hunt down some great, diverse speakers?
Likewise, when I’m looking to apply to some conferences, it’s difficult to get a definitive list of what’s available, what I’d be interested in, and where my talks might fit. What if there was a list of conferences that made it super easy to submit talks to?
As a speaker and organizer, I look at services like Speaker Rate and Lanyrd and see the value somewhat. There’s a lot of information available on there and it’s a pretty neat way for a speaker to build a profile. I think if I attended more conferences rather than speaking or organizing them, I’d probably derive more value from it. But I’ve always felt that they weren’t serving the right audience (or that the right audience in my mind wasn’t intended to be served but should be).
These apps represent some great tools for attendees to schedule things, get the scoop on a speaker, rate them and give feedback and so on, but they’ve historically not been very helpful in terms of creating a community for conference organizers and speakers to work. I’d like to change that.
The first sort of “arm” of speakers.io is the organizer-speaker. First, obviously, we’ll let speakers build profiles of talks with links and such to videos/slides/whatever so an organizer can review their past work. The profile will also contain information like topics the person is interested in discussing and their schedule (always frustrating to ping a speaker, wait a week, and then find out they’re not available!). Organizers will be able to search for speakers and get results that only include speakers available on your event date and boosted by diversity index (if a speaker has provided that information), topic expertise (judged by tags and number of presentations on a topic), and so on. Then organizers can issue “talk requests” for a speaker or even a specific talk. Did you see a great talk by Zach Holman at TrollConf? You can request that he give that talk at your event next month, or you can request he come speak with some notes about what you’d like to see. You and Zach can work together then to put together an awesome talk description to work from.
We’ll also be exposing some simple CFP functionality for organizers. Speakers will then be able to search events by topic, location, dates, and so on, then submit a talk to multiple CFP’s at once (or submit a previously presented talk in one click). Organizers can then filter and transform their submissions on axes like “only show first run talks,” “sort by numebr of presentations,” and so on.
The second arm is the speaker-speaker functionality. I really like the concept of SpeakerConf, in that it’s a number of speakers getting together to present, hone their ideas, and practice their craft. Why not re-create that in software?
Speakers will be able to create a talk on speakers.io that isn’t published to the public, and then invite other speakers to come and collaborate on it with them. The vision here is still a bit ethereal, but basically, I want speakers to be able to help other speakers create better presentations through sharing slides, video, code, etc. Like I said, I’m still hammering out the vision here, but it will end up in there!
OK, there is no and. That’s it. I want to keep the tool simple and focused. I’m fine with farming out slide sharing to Speaker Deck and selling tickets to one of the many fine ticket sellers. It doesn’t need to be a universal tool. The point is to connect organizers to a wider array of speakers than they may have encountered otherwise and to connect speakers to events they may not even be aware of.
“Is this a business or whatever?” No, I’m over the moon with working at GitHub. It’s just something I’m doing on the side to make things easier: it’s free and always will be. I don’t know about going open source or not (that’s because I don’t want to manage it, not because I necessarily want to keep it secret), but I’m going to push this out soon and see what happens beyond that.
So, head over to speakers.io and sign up. I had hoped to have an alpha version out to start getting speakers into and such, but I got bogged down a bit this week, so no such luck. I should hopefully have a basic version done by next Monday so we can start playing with it! Hit me on Twitter at @jm if you have any other cool ideas (or want to do a UI design for it…I can send wireframe ideas!).
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