Otakon 2011: The Guidebook App

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.


19 thoughts on “Otakon 2011: The Guidebook App

  1. Vince Averello (@VinceA) says:

    Great app. We (AnimeNEXT) started using it this year also and it worked out great for us. I know the company is continuing to update the software and have noticed more anime cons starting to use it. I’m hoping it helps more niche panels find their audience since it makes schedule scanning a bunch easier.

    • reversethieves says:

      I only JUST got the iPod touch as a hand me down so I did not have it when I was last at AnimeNEXT. If you use it next year I will surely use it as well. Hopefully some of the suggestion I made will work their way into the next iteration.

      – Hisui

  2. omo says:

    My sentiments echo yours. Basically custom events, and alarms on custom events would go a long way. And so are custom alarms for normal events!

  3. Anchen says:

    On my android at least the alerts that it would give wouldn’t actually buzz or make a noise (at least none loud enough that I could hear) but just pop up a notice on the phone. Not the most useful unfortunately for me. As you mentioned being able to search or see the whole guide mighta been useful and it was slightly annoying after midnight where it’d flip to the next day despite the late night events being on the “previous” days schedule. Overall though I loved the app and wished dearly it was available at Gen Con a week later although there were possibly way too many events there to use it!

    PS enjoyed the detective panel you guys did.

    • reversethieves says:

      I hope to see them implement some of the suggestions I made here. I think everyone really wants that search feature if nothing else.
      On Saturday at Otakon a gentleman asked me when the rave was. It took about 5 minutes for me to search the days activities to find when it started. If there was a search feature it would have only taken me a few seconds.

      Anything you would like to see in further iterations of the detective panel?

      • anchen says:

        Hmm in regards to the detective panel I need to watch some of the list first heh. I’m mostly just familiar with conan.

  4. Otaku no Podcast says:

    Yeah, Guidebook is a pretty slick app. We talked about it on our recent AX wrap-up podcast, as well as on the recent episode of Nigorimasen that we appeared on.

    They used to be called The Conventionist, and Anime Los Angeles used them for this years schedule. It worked quite well.

    Unfortunately Anime Expo decided this year to do a web app, which was dog slow, lacking in features (sorting! Searching! NOT rocket science guys!) and being a web app required a persistent Internet connection. Boo!

    One nice thing about Guisebook: they will put together a basic event guide for you for free! This is a real boon for smaller cons.

    • reversethieves says:

      The apps that require a constant Internet connection are basically useless to someone who is poor like me. Also convention locations almost always have dead zones unless you buy the on sight wifi (which is almost always ridiculously expensive) so it is not even fully useful for those with persistent connections. I know it was no end of agita for people who attended the NYCC/NYAF.

      – Hisui

  5. thedigitalbug says:

    The only problem I had with Otakon’s use of guidebook is that they would constantly update it and at the same time, some things like Atsuhiro’s Iwakami signing were still missing.

  6. thedigitalbug says:

    Also, I feel like Otakon didn’t take full advantage of the Guidebook. When there was a guest Q&A panel or signing, it would have been a good idea to put the description of the guest in the event. Especially since you still had to refer to the paper guide to remind yourself of all the guests and who they are. Basically anything in the guidebook that lacked a description should have had one.

    • reversethieves says:

      But Otakon does that with almost everything. Even the regular paper and standard online schedule does not give any description of who the guests are. I am not sure what that is but it might drum up some support for the Japanese guest if while thumbing through the schedule you see that person X is the person who worked on show Y that you loved.

      – Hisui

  7. Otaku no Podcast says:

    “But Otakon does that with almost everything. Even the regular paper and standard online schedule does not give any description of who the guests are. I am not sure what that is but it might drum up some support for the Japanese guest if while thumbing through the schedule you see that person X is the person who worked on show Y that you loved.”

    Unfortunately Otakon doesn’t have a lock on this – I’ve seen it at other conventions, both big and small: Anime Expo, Anime LA, FanimeCon, …

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