Conference Software Recommendations Needed Please

I mentioned a few days ago that we’re going to be doing a conference on legal and policy issues relating to robotics, scheduled for April 21 & 22. As the ringleader of this plan, I need to set up systems for accepting receipt of paper proposals, sharing them out to the Program Committee, and ultimately notifying speakers of the fate of their proposals.

One can do it by hand — but software would be better. Can any of the readers here suggest something? You might think a big law school like ours would have something in hand, but legal conferences are usually by invitation so there is much less call for this sort of program (or web software) than you would find in other departments.

(I try not to bleg much here, but this time I need the advice.)

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15 Responses to Conference Software Recommendations Needed Please

  1. nedu says:

    Abstracting your problem a little bit, it sounds to me like you need (a subset of) the capabilities of a “document management system”.
    There’s one big problem with specializing a more general solution to your application: The amount of learning required to make a full-featured product do what you want it to do may be cost-prohibitive for a single-event use. You probably need a consultant–that is, a graduate student.
    Given your field, you might want to think about DMS software used in a transactional law setting: Your conference is probably a lot less complicated than a corporate merger. Although, if your grad student is more comfortable with software used for managing discovery….

    • I need something web-based that can be accessed by paper submitters and the program committee. I’ve been on a few program committees run by social scientists that have used such systems, but none was that wonderful; I’ve also attended conferences that managed registration, but have no idea what the back ends are like. I was hoping there was a killer app out there somewhere (but definitely something pre-built, there isn’t time to build and test).

      • nedu says:

        You didn’t mention your deadline for choosing an academic conference management package. But it’s getting towards the middle of the week now….
        You do know, of course, that these days you can purchase a hosted, managed, turnkey solution for academic conference managment—if your budget will stretch that far.

        • I’m prepared to consider that, especially if someone I trust recommends something based on their user experience. Any specific suggestions?

          • nedu says:

            Speaking of user experience, let me tell you a little story….
            Several decades ago, the senior partner in our consulting business tasked me to research LAN technologies for our largest client, a mid-size law firm.
            That was back in the days of stand-alone PCs running WordPerfect on MS-DOS. Before Ethernet took off as the LAN category-killer. Our bread-and-butter back then was database applications.
            Anyhow, I researched it down at the library. We submitted a proposal, got it approved, installed the NICs, pulled the cable, got the software running, and made it all work. Then, not too many years later, as we provided support and maintainance, it became clear that I should have recommended Ethernet.
            I guess the point of this little story is that you never forget your bad recommendations.
            So it’s Thursday already, this morning.
            You’re friendly with Ed Felten, aren’t you? Why don’t you drop him an email, and see if he’s used any conference management packages or services.

            • Great suggestion, except that Ed is in government now, and I hope he has better things to do. But the underlying theory seems sound: I guess it’s time to start emailing friends for advice.

              • nedu says:

                Well, it’s the weekend again. I hope you’ve made a little bit of progress?
                Meanwhile, I just noticed that that the “werobot2012” domain name appears up for grabs in .org, .com, .and .net. I think you ought to grab one of those domains asap. Like two or three weeks ago.

  2. MM says:

    A couple of pre-built options come to mind.
    MS Office Live ( )
    HyperOffice (although not free)

    I’ll keep brainstorming…

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  4. A listserv with a web-visible archive? WordPress or wiki w/ a mailer plugin? These aren’t exact matches for what you want, but they’re not square-peg/round-hole either…

  5. Mike says:

    I helped to build a system like this when I was at the med school. Talk to their IT/Web group. It’s a bit dated, but might serve your purposes if anyone’s still around who knows it’s there.

    • David says:

      The CMS? I thought that was based off ingenuix? I’ll ping Liz and ask, I think everyone I knew in web services has gone to greener pastures.

  6. jeremy says:

    you want open conference systems, or one of the other standard conference management apps.

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