Is it possible to curate the content of an app in just two days, solely with the contribution of attendees at a conference? This is the question we set out to answer when we recently attended the Internet Librarian International (ILI) conference in London.

The idea started several months ago with the ambition to curate the knowledge and learning of a conference. We all know that the value of a conference is not only what happens in the talks, what is spoken about outside in the breaks over coffee. The organisers of ILI asked whether we could collate the reflections, learnings, conversations of ILI 2014 and we decided to do this within an app.

We built a basic app, powered by our own ‘content management system’ which we have used on other projects such as the Library of Birmingham’s Dozens and Trails, and Imperial War Museum North’s Centenary Connections. Both are apps that take content from the library/museum and create trails and interesting discovery tools. We wanted to see if we could use this same approach to discover content from a conference.

On the morning of the conference, the app was completely empty and we invited people to send us content throughout the two days. We tried not to be too prescriptive, but invited them to comment on what they enjoyed from a speaker, or to share an image, video or project their organisation is working on. Speakers gave us summaries of their talk or shared more about what they were working on. We received a fair bit of interest at our stand, with people interested to see the premise of the app, and we received several emails from people who had exciting content to share.

When encouraging people to share their content and thoughts with us, the reactions were mixed, some were reluctant or shy, and others who began by shying away ended up speaking to us for 10 minutes about the innovative ideas they were hearing at the conference.

About 6% of conference attendees contributed to the app, representing 11 different countries. Content including slides from speakers, a short video clip from moderator and speaker Jan Holquist on libraries as a learning institution, thoughts from Richard Hulser (Natural History Museum of California) on his talk (included an image with him and his impossible brain), a project by Kent Libraries to help housebound readers and lots of general reflections on the conference.

We also had a lot of feedback on the app itself, all of it constructive and most of it very positive. Delegates suggested how the app could improve, with ideas such as including more information about the conference programme and links to speaker profiles. One of the ideas for the future app is that users can contribute content directly to the app themselves, without having to go through us to upload their content.

Whether we had received any content or not, we were intrigued to learn about the process of creating this sort of app, and after the two days of receiving much content, the process was a success and has been a great learning curve for the future of this, and similar, apps.

The app will be live for another month, and we invite everyone who attended to share more content with us, especially any blog posts written in the next few weeks, by emailing ili@nymbol.co.uk. If you’d like to download the app, click on this link and add to the homepage of your tablet or smartphone: http://ili.nymbol.co.uk/.

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