Editor’s note: Michelle Johnson is the Associate Professor of the Practice, Multimedia Journalism at Boston University’s Department of Journalism. She’s also the co-chair of the Online News Association’s (ONA) 2011 convention in Boston Sept. 22-25. Below, she writes about the ubercool app that was created in conjunction with Guidebook to keep NABJ members in the know about all the events at last week’s convention in Philadelphia. Not a bad word was said about the final project.
This all started at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. I heard that NAHJ didn’t have a conference app and wondered if we could whip one up. I knew about a company called Guidebook because we’re using them to do the ONA conference app.
Their prices are pretty reasonable, but we had zero budget, so I contacted them to ask if they might be willing to comp us an account in exchange for a sponsor logo. They said yes, and I had some students painstakingly enter the schedule into a spreadsheet which we uploaded to get the app up and running.
A week later, I heard that NABJ wouldn’t have a convention app this year because it was cost-prohibitive. So, once again I got on the phone with the CEO of Guidebook and we agreed on a reduced fee and sponsorship link. We didn’t have much time to turn this around, just a couple of days. And NABJ, unlike NAHJ, didn’t have the schedule in a spreadsheet already. In fact, it was worse this time because it was in a pdf and there were sooo many sessions.
So me and the other student mentors — Ingrid Sturgis, Allison Davis and Jennifer Dronkers — did a cut-and-paste relay. I started by cutting and pasting from the pdf into the spreadsheet. Then I send it to Jen Dronkers at the Poynter Institute. She did a couple of hours then passed it on to Ingrid Sturgis in Washington, D.C. Ingrid worked on it and passed to Allison Davis in New York. Allison then sent the completed spreadsheet back to me in Boston around 11 p.m. We had started in the morning! I’m not sure how many sessions it was in total, but we got the entire schedule copied over in a day, uploaded it and, bam — instant app.
I’m very impressed with Guidebook. It’s economical and offers lots of bells and whistles in the premium version. One chief advantage is that you download it to your phone. No need to be online to access it. Whenever we update it on the back end, it pushed out a notice to users that there’s a new version and offers them a download. So, that’s the story of the very first NABJ convention app.