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Networking with Attendees at a RIPE Meeting? There's an App for That!

Adam Castle — 25 Sep 2017
Contributors: Oliver Payne, frantisek_holop, ihor_marhitych
The RIPE Networking App is an easy way to connect to fellow RIPE Meeting attendees.

One of the important reasons that people come to RIPE Meetings is to share best practices, meet new people and network. Coffee breaks and socials facilitate that, but it doesn't scale when there's 600+ people from 60 different countries attending. The feedback attendees gave us was clear: you want a tool to network (with people) better. 

We piloted a third-party, web-based tool at the RIPE 73 and RIPE 74 meetings as a starting point. It fulfilled the basic requirements, but the users told us that they wanted more:

  • Use RIPE NCC Access to log in to the app rather than creating a new account on a third-party platform
  • Integrate the application more with RIPE NCC services
  • The schedule for the meeting should show the attendee list
  • The app should work on more devices and provide a seamless experience between the browser and a mobile app
  • Have push notifications for mobile

Desktop vs. Mobile Apps

We used the feedback from users and considered our options. It was clear that a web-based tool wasn't enough and this was especially evident when we looked at how people used the tool before and during the RIPE Meetings:

 Figure 1: Before the meeting started, most users used the mobile desktop version of the app. After that many users switched to the mobile version.

Most people used the desktop version of the app until the meeting started on Monday and they switched to the mobile version of the app (see Figure 1 below).  

Using Open Source Software

Together with the feedback, usage stats and new requirements (like RIPE NCC Access), we began looking for a new solution. We looked at a lot of off-the-shelf tools but they either didn't meet our requirements, or if they did, they were extremely expensive. So we looked at what was on the open source market and found Ionic. Because it had a pre-existing conferencing app which we could build on, it was also resource and cost efficient. 

Keep it simple and clean, just allow people to meet and connect

Before we started developing, we critiqued the (many) networking apps already on the market. We saw there was a need for a clean, simple and easy-to-use app. The core usage of the app is to schedule meetings and to send messages to attendees. In the image below you can see the interface of the app.

Figure 2: RIPE Networking App user interface

Keeping the footprint low

Because the app isn't loaded down with bells and whistles, we were able to deliver on another important feature request: low battery usage. We had to retract some features to make this work, which is why we only support Android KitKat (and newer versions) and if the application is killed then we won't do a refresh check for this process, but this was all decided to make sure that we kept the resources required low.

Memory Usage

Figure 3: The RIPE Networking app shows very low battery usage

Privacy

All the content for the app is hosted on RIPE NCC servers. For push notifications to work we have to go through Apple and Google infrastructure. We only push the type of notification (i.e. there's a new message or new invite to review), not any private data to through these services.  

All data stays within the application for one month after the meeting the app was used for. The user will be able to download all of their messages and meetings during this time. After that, we will remove the secure content of these message elements from our servers and the app. The RIPE Networking App Terms and Conditions has more information about this.

 Figure 4: Example of a meeting invitation notification

The RIPE Networking App supports Android and iOS as well as a browser version for the desktop. The app is free to download from Google Play and the App Store. All you need is a RIPE NCC Access account to get going. 

We'll deploy the app before the RIPE 75 Meeting. Depending on how quickly the respective app stores release it, we will notify registered RIPE Meeting attendees with the download links when available.

Known issues

The badge notification number currently doesn't work on all devices. But we're looking into resolving this for RIPE 76.

Feedback appreciated

A small group of RIPE community testers helped us with the development of the app and we would like to say thank you to them for their feedback. Of course we're always after more feedback. If you have good or bad experiences using the app at RIPE 75, then please let us know via the RIPE Networking App Feedback Survey 

We'll gather feedback and work on the app some more for RIPE 76 with the intention of adapting the app for all future RIPE NCC events. 

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