Otakon 2011: The Guidebook AppAugust 10, 2011
Anyone who has seen my pre-con schedule, then my con report, will note that my preliminary schedule is filled with nothing but dirty lies and broken promises. That is because I always change my plans at the con. Panel times change, events are canceled, I notice new things, an empty stomach calls, or sexy cosplay ladies need to converse with me (that last one has never happened, and probably never will, but it theoretically could happen). So I usually sit in any room of a con looking over the schedule trying to decide what to do next. This year since I recently obtained an iPod Touch, a new door was opened. I was able to enter the digital age with the Otakon Guidebook App. There was a decent amount of talk about the quality of this new app but the real question is did it live up to the buzz?
There was quite a bit to just love about this app. First and foremost, even if I don’t have a persistent internet connection on my iPod Touch, all the content of the app was downloaded to the iPod. I would not have been able to use the app without that feature. I did not get the super keen constant real-time updates that other people did, but the fact that I could update the app anytime I was near a wi-fi hotspot was great. The ability to see what was going on and what was upcoming was invaluable and mostly replaced my physical schedule. Plus, the ability to set an itinerary you could instantly refer to and then set alarms in advance was equally helpful. The maps of the convention center, dealers room, and artist alley with a directory of all the sellers was very convenient, too. I know I told people when things opened and closed at least three times a day with the listed hours of operation as well. It is nicely set up and instantly intuitive.
Despite all my praise, they are some improvements that could be made to make a great app even better. If you were setting up a schedule or just looking at what to do at a certain time the app was great. But if you were looking for a specific event but did not know when it was it was less helpful. They really need to add a search feature and the ability to view the full schedule like it is presented in the physical booklet. Also a desktop version of the app would be very helpful. I know several people who don’t have a device that can run Guidebook but would want a copy to do some planing on their computer. I would have even downloaded one copy for my desktop and one on my iPod Touch had I the option. I would have also like the ability to set multiple alarms or custom length alarms if possible. Lastly the software was slightly buggy. It would occasionally crash me after prolonged use. I never lost anything important because of it but it was less than convenient.
Overall, even with all my suggestions for improvement, I still feel the app was invaluable. I used it all the time during the con and it often made my life a dozen times simpler. Even if none of the suggestions I mentioned were implemented I think Guidebook was amazing. I really hope more cons start using it. It is a handy tool for a panel hopper like me.