If you go to conferences often, you already know that there's nothing more hit-or-miss than the conference question-and-answer session. There are two major problems with conference Q-and-A's: the stupid question that gets asked, and the brilliant question that doesn't. Some fame-starved, pet-peeved microphone hog is tirading for 10 minutes without really ever arriving at a coherent thought. Meanwhile, the shy genius in the audience is too embarrassed to pose that exquisite question that would have clarified everything. It's a situation clearly in need of fixing.
A group of clever students from the National University of Singapore think they have the solution. Their idea, the nicely named Pigeonhole Live, transforms the insufferable analog Q-and-A into the next generation digital platform it needs to be. Using laptops, mobile phones, or iPads, audience members log on to Pigeonhole using a simple shared conference ID number (no account necessary). They then can post questions to Pigeonhole Live anonymously. Audience members can cull the list of questions and vote for the ones that interest them most, lending democracy and collective editorial intelligence to what is too often an anarchic, arbitrary, and stupid process. The idealistic young students behind the project don't even retain any of your private information. Imagine the potential uses: Apple or Google events! Conference calls! White House press conferences!
The students got their idea back in February, Pigeonhole's Hew Joon Yeng tells Fast Company, "after getting frustrated at not being able to voice our questions" at conferences. In the intervening months, a few conferences have already used a prototype version of Pigeonhole Live. Though Pigeonhole is still in private beta, you can register for updates at its adorable if slightly wonky website. You can also follow Pigeonhole on its Facebook page and learn more through this newly released video.
Hew Joon Yeng tells us to expect Pigeonhole to launch by the end of 2010; conference organizers can meanwhile reach out through its website for a private invitation. Keep up the good work, students of Singapore!
[via Kevin Lim]