Monday, November 11, 2013

Badge Sex at #solo13

Blendology badges Yes, that's got a "ge" on the end of it. And if your name is Badge, this post isn't what you think (I hope).

At #solo13, Blendology (rather than Bellendology which I originally typed) supplied interactive badges that you could tap to show who you had interacted with and which sessions you attended. In addition to uncertainty surrounding the protocol of staring at ladies chests while trying to read their name badges, since the lanyards were a little long, these badges introduced the additional element of trying to introduce a device into the groin area of someone you've never met before. Certainly an ice breaker. Stephen Curry came up with the idea of "badge sex", reminding me of the epidemiology practicals we run for students. (Before too many people apply to do degrees at this university, it should be noted that no actual sex is involved in these practicals, although cherries are.) The outcome of all this tapping is a digital record of of interactions - which someone else memorably referred to as Science Grindr. Here's mine:

Although better than cardboard business cards, I'm not sure my individual data is of much use - in the sense that it doesn't add a lot to knowing someone's Twitter handle. Some of the names I don't recognize are Blendology staff "pre-taps". Hmm, I understand why they want to do that but it doesn't do much for data integrity. The overall collected data is probably much more interesting - were strands distinctive or isolated, which sessions were the most/least popular, etc.

Inevitably there were concerns raised about privacy. As far as I'm concerned, I made no secret of the fact that I was at this event by blogging and tweeting about it, so I don't have a problem with the data being published. The badges were opt-in at this event, and since privacy has a lot to do with choices, I have no great concerns.

So is this the future of conferences? Nah, let's just RFID microchip everyone to see who eats the most cake.