How to make Lib Dem conference better, greener and cheaper

Voting at Liberal Democrat conference. Photo courtesy of the Liberal Democrats. Some rights reserved http://www.flickr.com/photos/libdems/9783764414/sizes/m/in/photostream/If you thought the paperwork at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow was harder to find your way round than usual, you weren’t imagining things, for an experiment was being tried. The idea was to save on paper and time by not repeating the relevant extracts from Conference Extra in each day’s Conference Daily. As a result, if you were sat in the hall trying to work out what was going on, you often had to shuffle the Agenda, Conference Extra and Conference Daily.

Not good, even though the intentions were. Repeating the relevant contents of Conference Extra in each Conference Daily adds greatly to its size, taking more time to produce, costing more and leaving a larger environmental footprint behind. Hence the paper shuffle inducing experiment in Glasgow.

The answer to cutting the time and money required to produce piece of paper, of course, is to get more people using the Liberal Democrat conference app and so reduce the paperwork that way.

However, the app suffers from a very common flaw – it simply digitises the pre-existing formats for paper-based publications rather than reinventing them for the digital format.

After all, why do we end up with information about what is happening when at conference split across four different documents – Conference Agenda, Conference Directory, Conference Extra and Conference Daily? It is to do with the history of paper-based production, with different documents being collated by different teams to different timescales.

In the digital world it should be possible to have just the one Conference Diary, which gets updated with agenda news, fringe information, amendment updates and even the results of votes all in one place.

That will require more time and effort to get right first time round, but if it is done and we can start looking in just the one place for what is happening on a particular day, people will be amazed that it was ever thought sensible to split it into multiple different overlapping documents.

Do that, too, and usage of the conference app will leap upwards as it becomes so much better than the paper-based alternative – ending the current common sight of people both clutching their tablets and smartphones in one hand and a bundle of paperwork in the other.

That way conference will become better, greener and cheaper.

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