Thoughts on social software and events

It sounds like Ringside has some work brewing around events. I haven’t updated my Ringside source code in a while so I don’t know how much of this can be played with right now but I’m anxious to take a look and you can bet I’ll report back here when I do.

The problem with today’s event sites is that they are too focused (live music, social gatherings, etc.) and too isolated (people have to sign up to use them, they are really only used for RSVP-ing, etc.). I’ve also found that finding interesting events can be tough. I think Meetup.com is a particularly bad offender–they’ve got a weird taxonomy thing going with their events. Their search doesn’t appear to be full-text indexed across meetup names or descriptions. Try to search meetup for “Alfresco”, for example. Although I know there are multiple Alfresco meetup groups out there, you won’t turn up one with a keyword search even with your search scope set to “100 miles of USA”. And when you create an event, it seems like there is a limited taxonomy for categorization. You have to decide if your meetup is about “Software” or “Technology”. Why would I pay them to host an event no one can find attended by a set of people who’s profiles I can only leverage in the context of meetup.com?

This is a sticking point for me. We all belong to different communities with different interests. And sometimes those overlap. Our social graphs shouldn’t be in silos. Neither should the events we attend. Managing your connections across networks together and exposing events to sub-sections of your connections (or across your entire network, regardless of where it is hosted) is really powerful. After all, as Bob says, it is through these events by which we form and strengthen those connections in the first place. Hopefully, this is what you’ll be able to do with Ringside.

His post got me thinking about what I might like to do with events in my own community. So here’s a list off the top of my head. Maybe Bob will comment on how/if this maps to the Ringside roadmap.

Attend/host flag & security settings. An individual ought to be able to publish an event, make public/private settings about that event, and indicate whether they are attending or hosting the event.

Event matching/de-duplication. What would be great is if there was a way to match up events. If I say I’m going to a Wilco concert, and you say you’re going to a Wilco concert, there needs to be a way to figure out if those are the same event.

In-network/same-event notification. Once you figure out two events are the same, people in the same network can discover the fact they share similar interests. The system should facilitate this kind of thing.

Targeted event promo. You should also be able to publicize an event to particular cross-sections of your graph. I might want to host a Ringside meet-up that only goes to my open source/E2.0 friends without spamming my family about it.

Interest level indication. An individual ought to be able to specify whether they are thinking about attending an event or are definitely attending an event. For example, someone might post an event they would only go to if someone else from one of their networks is also going.

Events as tags. Obviously events integrate with the rest of the model. Activity feeds certainly have to know when someone attended an event. But you should also have the ability to tag any item with an event. A photo library app needs to be able to let users tag photos that pertain to certain events, for example.

Event discovery. Events should be easily discoverable by tag/topic, full-text keyword search, by geography, and by attendee. I’d like to see a mash-up between Dopplr and an event database, for example, that knows what kind of events I like to attend and then cross references that with my travel schedule so that if I am traveling to San Francisco, and one of my favorite bands happens to be playing, the site can let me know that, including which of my friends might also be planning to attend (or would attend if they knew I was going to be in town).

Slice-and-dice RSS subscriptions. I should be able to get an RSS feed for each of the following: All events happening in a particular cross-section of my social graph, all events happening in a particular tag/topic, all events in a geography, all events in a particular date range, all events attended by a particular individual in one of my networks, or any combination of these (Live music shows happening in Dallas that my friend Jim is going to).

RSVP options. People should have the option of whether or not to track attendance to an event. Even for an event they are not hosting, they may or may not care who else is attending.

Configurable reminders. People need to be able to choose whether or not to send reminders to attendees. Attendees need to be able to opt out of receiving reminders.

Event ratings, comments, and UGC. People should be able to rate, comment on, and upload content related to an event.

Flexible event types. Events don’t have to be of any particular type. An event is really just a span of time during which something that might be potentially interesting to others is happening. “I’m going to Taco Bell for lunch tomorrow” and “I’ll be spending an hour in the Ubuntu forums Saturday” are both legitimate events that people might want to publish.

Calendar view with the same filtering capability as the “slice-and-dice RSS feeds” requirement. And the calendar ought to be widget-able so that anyone can embed it on their own site.

Standard calendar options for events including start and end time, duration, “all day event”, recurring event. I guess if the event was (or could be exported as) an iCal compliant piece of data that might be enough?

Who’s bringing what. Obviously everyone is familiar with the concept in a social gathering (You aren’t the guy who always just brings the chips, are you? Come on, make an effort, man). But this is also relevant to professional events, particularly for “un-conference” or bar camp type events where attendees are expected to present.

What about an ecommerce component? Maybe you ought to be able to sell tickets for an event. This could open up a can of worms regarding capacity, tiered pricing and availability, ticket authenticity verification, etc., but it might be cool/fun to provide something that could loosen the stranglehold a small number of vendors have on the “live event” market. Just a thought. At the very least, if an event requires a charge, you should at least be able to link to a shopping cart somewhere.