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30 June 2009 / erikduval

Shazam for conferences?

Michael Nielsen has a pretty interesting blog pos on “Doing science online” (which I discovered through Bruce Sterling). I pretty much agree with him that

we are going to change the way scientists work; we are going to change the way scientists share information; we are going to change the way expert attention itself is allocated, developing new methods for connecting people, for organizing people, for leveraging peopleโ€™s skills. They will be redirected, organized, and amplified. The result will speed up the rate at which discoveries are made, not in one small corner of science, but across all of science.

(And if you want to share your ideas on how we are going to make this happen, then please do consider submitting to TELSci2.0!)

The reasons why science will change, IMHO, are very similar to the reasons why music has changed: as we’ve moved from scarcity to abundance, we need to change how we relate to our material. The solution to the explosion of publications is not going to be faster reading ๐Ÿ˜‰

One practical idea I’ve been contemplating lately is that of a ‘Shazam for conferences’. Many of you will be familiar with the Shazam application for music. Basically, it allows you to record 10-15 seconds of an arbitrary song. The application sends that sample to its server and back comes a response that identifies the song, the artist, the album it comes from, etc. Pretty neat, and I’ve discovered quite a few songs this way.

But the real beauty of Shazam, for me, is that it makes it effortless to buy the song (from iTunes), see the clip (on Youtube), tweet that you like it, discover other people in your physical neighborhood who love the song or send an email to your friends to let them know about the song. Effortless, yes, as in 1-click-away…

Picture 3

Now imagine that we would have a tool like that for conferences: you are sitting in the audience, record 10 seconds of the speaker (or, take a picture of a semacode displayed at the side). You then send this off and the reply identifies the speaker, includes a link to his home page, his twitter account, his blog, his publication list, his slideshare account (where you would find the slides he is presenting), a comments page to leave public comments on his presentation, a way to share information about the talk with your colleagues, a template message to blog your comments on his talk on your own blog, with the slides already embedded, etc. You could say – and you would be right – that we can do all of these things already today. But the point is that such an application would make this effortless, as in 1-click-away…

What do you think? Would you like such a tool? Do you know of a similar tool? Do you have a better idea?



Leave a Comment
  1. Toon Lenaerts / Jun 30 2009 10:28 pm

    A few months ago at Eurographics, I was thinking along the same lines. Just take a picture of a researcher at the conference and the Shazam-like app will tell you who’s who. This also saves you the embarrassment of looking to the name tag of a potential famous researcher during a conversation ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • erikduval / Jul 1 2009 12:23 am

      Indeed, that is a pretty straightforward way to do this. Let’s say that a typical conference has between a few dozen and a few hundred speakers. If you would ask all speakers to upload their picture when they submit their paper, then all you would need to do is to match the picture taken by someone from the audience with the set of uploaded pictures. Seems pretty easy?

      BTW, the semacode I mentioned would be an alternative approach: you could display such a code at the entrance to the room or somewhere in the front. In that case, the audience member could just take a picture with his iPhone or Android phone and that would identify the session and speaker…

      Someone has to go build this! Maybe we will ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Alan / Jun 30 2009 10:50 pm

    Love the concept; I am not nearly enough of an audio expert to know if the pattern matching that Shazam does (music has distinctive patterns of pitch, rhythm, instrumentation) that could be done as easily with human voices.

    On an equal plane, what if there was search like SnapTell where you take a photo of a person, and it does an image search to key to similar information?

    And where-ever it goes, tack on some Amazon like recommendations like, “People who like Eric Duval’s presentation on Open Content, also viewed ….”

    And then what is this destination that aggregates what people’s work is? FriendFeed? RSS aggregator? blog? user defined?

    • erikduval / Jul 1 2009 12:34 am

      I think that doing the voice matching would be a hard problem in general, but if you reduce it to matching the recorded voice with the set of voices pre-recorded from all the presenters, then it would not be so difficult, I think. And you could ask the presenters to do a short podcast to explain what their paper is about, which would give you the set of prerecorded voices to match with. Hmm, the more I think about this, the more feasible it looks ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Snaptell or other variations on MIT’s sixth sense approach would mesh well with this idea.

      I guess that FriendFeed would be a good destination page for now, but, of course, if we raise the bar a bit, we could “snowflake” this aspect and make the three destinations that the user will value most appear first, with the other options on a “more…” panel or available by scrolling down. Then, if you prefer to read blogs, the blog would be the first available reference, but if you care more about twitter, then “follow the presenter” would be the first option. Etc.

      I’m beginning to see more clearly what this could look like: many thanks for the feedback. Would love to hear more about what you would want this to do or how we could build this…

  3. Nona Muldoon / Jul 3 2009 4:44 pm

    I’m imagining ShazamDeck ala TwitterDeck type destination page with an organising feature so that as Shazam reports back on specific matches (blog, slideshare, twitter, facebook etc) each match type is sorted in the designated column. Would be great to have other Deck features such as Comment, Share, Favourite, Archive, etc


  1. links for 2009-07-02 « Breyten’s Dev Blog
  2. Getting Rid of Friction « Erik Duval’s Weblog

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