The simple question in the title can be reframed as “Do we want to exclude paying participants or distinguished speakers from accessing the conference program?”. Of course the answer is NO.
Although the percentage of smartphone users exceeding 50% of total mobile phone users in the United States, the number is much less in Japan. As of 2012, only about 30% of Japanese mobile phone users use a smartphone. Furthermore, demographics suggest that while younger to middle-aged people are more likely to own a smartphone, elder people, the people who tend to be distinguished professors, are not. Moreover young students are often admitted without charge. Therefore, if we were to calculate the total attendance fees from smartphone owning participants and to compare it with non-smartphone owners, we would probably find non-owners paying more.
Despite this, there is a tendency for conferences to provide native smartphone applications, which will not run on feature phones. Even when there is a website for PCs, it tends to be a very simple and rudimentary search system.
We think that this is a ridiculous situation. Our goal with MBSJ2012 and with the current Ponzu system is to support as many devices as possible, including the millenniums-old but always reliable medium; paper.
Our support strategy is as follows;
- PCs: The most ubiquitous digital device among conference participants is the PC. Every researcher has a PC to write presentations and journal articles. They will use their PCs to find out which presentations interest them, and which ones they will want to see.
- Smartphones: Smartphones are gaining in popularity and provide a huge amount of functionally. Many researchers will want to use smartphones to check the conference program.
- Feature phones: Although not as powerful as smartphones, feature phones are nonetheless capable of browsing websites. If an appropriate website is provided, feature phone users too can easily check the conference program.
- Tablets (iPad): Tablets are the ideal device for viewing conference programs on-site. They provide a wide screen while being totally usable standing. However, their popularity is still limited. The people who own tablets are a minority.
- Paper (PDF): PDFs are great for downloading and printing onto paper. If you do your homework and narrow down the presentations that you want to attend, then the amount of paper you have to bring is actually quite manageable.
Our commitment is to support all of the above media with the highest quality possible. Supporting five different media is a huge challenge, but was made possible by integrating all the platforms within Ponzu and Kamishibai.