Recently we held the very first edition of the “APEX Alpe Adria” conference in Graz, Austria (see this old post about how it started). This conference is meant for everyone in the Adriatic Region, and everyone willing to travel there.
With more than 180 attendees it was a huge success for the first edition. Today I want to share how we managed the conference, website, call for papers, selection, name tags, and so on.
Hint: With Oracle APEX you can do just about everything.
A brief disclaimer before diving into the making. We are not professional organizers, nor get we paid to set up the conference. Pure idealism led us to start the conference. A lean setup and an awesome RAD tool helped us to pull it off with a minimum of effort. Of course we cannot compete with all the amenities of professional organized conferences, and we didn’t aim to be like them. A great atmosphere where like-minded individuals can meet, learn, and become friends. This is what we where after, and hopefully also what we achieved (some think so).
Let’s start with the website
Having a good looking website is vital in order to be found. Everyone coming to the site should immediately see what it is about and feel confident in the way it is built. First impressions and so on. Unfortunately many traditional (Oracle) Usergroups run websites which are decades old, but we wanted to be different.
Of course we picked APEX for the website, but decided against the Universal Theme and went with Vincent’s fantastic Material APEX Theme. This was ideal to set up the website. Within minutes we had a great looking landing page.
Throughout the site we leveraged several templates for Pages, Regions, Reports, and Lists. There was no need to modify any of the existing templates or adding new templates, we simply used those templates and only had to pick some pictures and icons.
For better search results (and less troubles with robots) we decided to use friendly URLs provided through ORDS Webservices. Check out this old blogpost series to get an understanding of how it works.
Having a good looking, but static website wouldn’t cut it. Hence we needed a datamodel to hold all the dynamic website information like speakers, sponsors, sessions, agenda.
Some scribbling on a piece of paper helped to start the DM, then QuickSQL was used to generate the create table/view/index script. This is a very refreshing new approach to data modelling and we use it whenever possible. There is no faster way than this.
All together there are a bit more than 10 tables driving everything we needed: the conference definition itself (makes it easy to set up another edition of aaapeks next year), submissions, voters, votes, speaking slots, sponsors, speakers, attendees.
The website was completely based on this model and will be reused for next years edition of APEX Alpe Adria, of course with some visual tweaks and improvements, but most of the ground work was already done this year. INSERT INTO AAA_EVENT will start a new conference.
Everything can be controlled by a separate Maintenance application. As you can see it is regular APEX using Theme 42.
There isn’t a lot of extra functionality built in. Most pages are set up by wizards and merely improved with some select lists. Of course this isn’t bullet proof, but Aljaz, Dario, and me, are trusted APEX users and know where to click and don’t need extra validations and hand holding ;-)
Information about sold tickets was imported via CSV files created by Eventbrite. Thanks to APEX’s fabulous CSV Load facility we had that up and running in no time. Plus we were able to re-import as often as needed during the ticket sales phase.
This gave us almost real time access to attendee numbers and data.
Last bit was a CSV file created by the Attendee Interactive Report, which was used to feed our Badge Label Printer.
We loved the conference and the atmosphere created by all our attendees and speakers. Thank you all so much for being part. There is also a bunch of positive feedback and even more interest from people who didn’t manage to attend this year.
This makes us looking forward to a next years edition of APEX Alpe Adria! There is still a lot to be decided, but so far we already agreed on wanting another run.
Great to see that the event was fully powered by an APEX application and enthusiasm! Though I still have some suggestion what could be improved in the app:
– Start using it for attendees registration (I already mentioned it in my blog post) – indeed, the registration process would have taken much less time in this case (especially if there was a smart search box). Save the enthusiasm for other, more important things!
– Add a place for attendees and speakers to stay in touch (it could be a reworked version of your forum engine, hello, Stefan!)
– Improve your data model to make the statistics more informative (“no” is not equal to “not answered”).
With these changes the event organization could be made great again! I mean, the next year :-)