No More Raising Hands

by Jack Sommer

Pigeonhole Live is a handy service platform for events, which enables Q+A, opinion polling, and remote access agenda complete with speaker profile's. It has been around for around five years now, devised by students from The National University of Singapore. To use it, an organization drives people to the Pigeonhole URL (optimized for mobile) and provides a unique event code for its audience members to log in. Once there, they can anonymously post questions and vote on polls. The Pigeonhole website states that they've done more than 4000 events in over 40 countries, with over a million votes cast across them. 

Last Thursday, we saw the Pigeonhole service in use at the American Institute Of Graphic Arts (AIGA) event for In The House with Tumblr and Pinterest at The New School in Manhattan. The event was part of an ongoing NY/SF HYPERLINKED initiative "that explores the unique ways New York and San Francisco are shaping design and technology as told by the people who build it." Representing New York was a Creative Director from Tumblr, Zack Sultan. From San Francisco was a Lead Designer from Pinterest, Scott Tong. 

Jonathan Lee, a design lead on the Material Design team at Google, was the moderator. He had questions written down on his own - but he also leaned on the crowd for more questions via the Pigeonhole web app. AIGA opted for the Q+A option this event, so after going to the Pigeonhole site, you were able to ask a question and were also able to vote on questions from other people that you wanted to see answered. No app is required to use Pigeonhole, you just go to the URL, which is a lot easier and more welcoming to participate in. And it's no wonder AIGA selected this tool to use this for their event - the UI and branding of the site is both thoughtfully presented and beautifully designed.

With his phone out, the moderator smoothly checked and asked the top questions voted up by the audience. The system of voting helps the service standout from people just asking questions using hashtags on Twitter or being chosen at random from the moderator. We see this as an improved way for everyone to get involved. It opens the door for a more democratic way of picking out what the most relevant or interesting questions are.

Being that the questions are anonymous, it also allows users to ask more bold questions than they might out loud in-person or with digitally their Twitter handle. For example, at this event, a question was raised about Tumblr's relationship and perspective on the porn on their site. That may have been something that someone may have otherwise not asked - but someone did, and it turned out to be one of the most voted questions. There's also an option for an Admin to sort through the anonymous questions and screen for inappropriate questions (or, not).

One advantage of Twitter hashtags are that they spread the word to those who aren't already there (which, of course, is valuable too). Pigeonhole is more inclusive, which could also be beneficial if you want the contents of the event to be more exclusive or private. The service uses technology in a way that is helpful and interactive, without being too distracting from the event itself. People are likely to drift away to their phones briefly anyway, so it might as well be something that keeps them in the event and perhaps even makes them more excited about it. Seems like a win-win to us.