Gravity's Rainbow

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Annoying behavior of the Evol2012 schedule app

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I’m going to the big Evolution meeting in Ottawa in a few days. It’s going to be awesome!

I’ve been browsing the the schedule, choosing talks to see using the fancy app developed for the conference. I am pleased and impressed that they’ve got a system in place for setting up my conference schedule that doesn’t involve toting around a phonebook sized conference program. ESA lets you build your schedule online, too, but it isn’t as slick looking and (at least in years past) has been fairly unusable on a phone.

Unfortunately, even though the Evolution meeting app was ostensibly designed to be mobile, it has some serious flaws that make it really, really frustrating to use whether I’m on my phone or computer.

You can browse either by conference track or by time.

Browsing by track

Conference track isn’t quite what I expected. I thought there would be one “Life History Studies” track, for example, and then all the talks and/or sessions on life history studies. Actually, conference tracks are just session titles. Because you access the tracks by day and then by morning or afternoon, and it isn’t sortable, this is quite similar to reading a normal conference program. Definitely not taking advantage of the technology here, but (older) conference goers might like how familiar this seems.

Browsing by time

 

You can click on the little arrow on the side to find out who the authors are. It’s strange that presenters are the only real additional information you can access with the arrow – why isn’t the abstract there too? I also think it would be better if the authors were included in the main list with the title. I’d say authors are as – if not more – important than the title when most people are choosing talks.

To add a talk or session to your schedule, you just press the star. And this brings us to the terrible, horrible, hair-pulling flaw of the app. When you press the star, the entire page refreshes. This is really slow. It’s even slower since the app doesn’t even remember your place on the page and sends you back to the top of the page.

Getting sent back to the top of the app when browsing by time.

So now you have to remember what the last talk you starred was and scroll all the way back down the page. It’s even worse when you’re browsing by track, because the track also collapses.

Browse by conference track

Getting sent back to the top of the page when browsing by conference track.

Now you have to remember what track you were in, too.

The best workaround I’ve found is from Joel McGlothlin:

What I’ve been doing is opening the talk I want to star in a browser tab and starring it there. Then you don’t lose your place.

This makes using the app on my computer much easier, but it’s pretty useless on a phone.

Another major flaw is that once you put your schedule together, it’s hard to access. First you have to go to the app home screen (if you aren’t already there), then you have to choose the type of event you’re interested in,

My Settings page where you can access different types of events in your schedule.

There’s no information about schedule conflicts and you can’t see your entire schedule at once. There’s also no option to export your schedule to a calendar app that would make conflicts apparent.

In conclusion, it’s awesome that Evolution 2012 has an online, mobile oriented schedule, but there are some really important things to fix next time around. Or by Thursday if possible…

[Accidentally published before complete. Updated 10:00AM PDT with “My Settings” section.]

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