Thursday, May 17, 2007

APEX TAC Monthly Meeting Minutes - May 2007

The APEX TAC held it's monthly Virtual Meeting on May 17, 2007. Here's what we did.

APEX TAC Monthly Virtual Meeting

Meeting Topic: APEX Virtual Meeting 5/17/07
Host: Rick Borry (Certain Software)
Meeting number: 484 360 851
Start Time: Thursday, May 17, 2007 07:57:17 PM
End Time: Thursday, May 17, 2007 09:09:26 PM
Meeting URL:

Attendee List:
Rick Borry (Certain)
EJ Siwek (CIC)
Jeremy Keller (Meeting Matrix)
Jane Melville, Julie Camp (Hilton)
Scott Rudberg & Andrea Campbell (Passkey)
Rob Wilson (Meeting Sites Resources)
Rick Fahnestock (MPI)
David Collins (Syllogy Design) - Joining the Rooming List Group
Michael Lu, David Quattrone (Cvent)
Charles Jeffers
Chip Meyer (Data App)


STRATEGY BACKGROUND (from the Ft. Lauderdale Spring meeting):


Jeremy Keller and Rob Wilson reviewed their progress on the RFP transformation tool. They are about 90% complete, but learned some lessons that we will adopt for the other groups:

  • Generally, it's better to use the Response XML (OTA_HotelRFP_MeetingRS3.xml) because the Request XML sample does not have as much data.

  • But even the Response XML document in the OTA standard is not complete - many fields don't have data or have duplicate data from other fields - this makes debugging very hard. We should modify the sample XML fiels so that all fields are complete and all data is unique (e.g. don't use the same name for Event Organizer and Key Contact)
  • Rick and Chip suggested a "best practice" that Response Messages should echo back the data from the Request Message in addition to adding response data. This way the sending application could validate that the data it sent was placed into the correct fields, e.g. the Last Name in the meeting planner's application was stored into the Last Name field of the hotel's application. Hilton pointed out that this could lead to a lot of extra work and is really only necesary during the initial validation phase. Once the translator routine has been validated in both partner's applications, there isn't as much of a need to echo data back-and forth every time. This will be a discussion point during the initial pilot implementations.
  • Jeremy added a CSS style tag to the XSLT so that he could color-code the font classes for "Labels" (from the APEX Template), "Data" (from the XML file), and "Comments" (his notes. We agreed to use this coloring standard during development.
  • Jeremy uses Visual Studio instead of Altova Stylevision, which produces a lot of "extra" code in the XSLT. He manually cleaned up the output from Rob's Stylevision copy in order to produce the final transform.
  • Rob noted that the data types used in the OTA standard are not always consistent, e.g. some dates are "Date-Time" type and others are "String". Chip noted that this may be intentional if the field can contain text such as "ASAP" or "3rd Quarter", but we need to review these issues and decide if they are mistakes or valid.
  • Hilton raised several issues about labels, e.g. "Key Contact" in Section 1 but "Primary Sales Contact" in Section 5. The labels and amount of information collected must be reviewed for clarity and completeness.
  • Hilton also asked about the location of the field definitions - since the RFP standard doesn't have an introduction (as the other standards do). For example, in Section 4, what is the difference between "RFP Published Date" and "RFP Distribution Date"?
  • After Jeremy and Rob finish their merge, everyone will be able to add comments (in Red) to the final output for review in the Orlando meeting in June.


  • We will focus on completing the RFP XSLT and resolving its issues before tackling the other two schemas

  • Jeremy, Rob, EJ, Chip will work on the RFP completion:

    • Complete merge

    • Update color scheme to match standard

    • Review merged document and add comments, errors, questions

    • Complete addition of data to all fields in RS.XML so that it is fully documented

  • Rest of team should review the completed RFP with Rob and Jeremy's comments and make recommendations for changes needed, especially from the Hotels' prespective of what data they need to receive from Planners and send in response to RFPs

  • Discuss common issues teams are facing and decide how to resolve them on the Forums at:

NEXT MEETING (Orlando, FL after HITEC, June 27-28)

  • Meeting calendar available at:

  • The next face to face follows HITEC in Orlando. The TAC meeting will be held on June 27th and 28th, starting at 3pm on th 27th and ending at 3pm on the 28th.

  • We have a room block of 5 for $149.99 each at Embassy Suites Orlando - Lake Buena Vista, 8100 Lake Ave., Orlando, Florida 32836. Attendees can call the main number 407-239-1144 and ask for the Reservations Dept. (Mon-Fri, 8-4pm). Please have mention "CIC/APEX".

  • Tentative Agenda:

  1. Powershop beta demonstration (Chip Meyer)
  2. XSLT Demonstrations by RFP team and review of work completed and recommendations
  3. Close out RFP, focus on Rooming List and Event Specification Guide

End Note

Yes, even Pre-Kindergarten has graduation. Congratulations, Izabella!

Even Pre-Kindergarten has graduation now...

2007 SGMP National Education Conference

On May 3rd I presented an educational seminar titled "Online Registration for Government Meetings: Compliance, Security, and APEX Standards for the Group Travel Industry" at the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) 2007 National Education Conference in Atlantic City. You can wait to learn about the session in the next issue of Advantage magazine, or read about it below.

Session Summary

This session discussed the past, present, and future of online registration. Event registration in the past made meeting planners the bottleneck in a cumbersome process as paper, phone, and fax registrations came in and were typed into a computer, while attendees waited for their confirmation letters to arrive via mail. We demonstrated features of modern online registration tools that provide a cost-effective path to attractive web sites, custom registration forms, integrated credit card processing, and instant email communication. Online registration is governed by many regulations and best practices, including data encryption using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance for credit card processing, American Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 508 compliance for equal opportunity, Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) regulations for privacy concerns, and the CAN-SPAM law for e-mail communication.

Lastly, we discussed the APEX initiative to produce open standards for electronic data transfer of event RFPs, rooming lists, and Event Specification Guides between meeting professionals and hotel suppliers. During the Q&A period, we discussed an analogy for the future world of instant and easy data exchange between hotels and meeting planners; APEX will be the un-seen plumbing in your housing, while software tools will be the faucet handle in your sink – offering a simple and intuitive way to get water. I encourage participants who wish to remain informed about the topics discussed in this session to subscribe to the speaker’s blog at

Friday, May 11, 2007

Listen to Your Customers and You Might Learn Something

Sclerochronology is the study of physical and chemical variations in the accretionary hard tissues of organisms, and the temporal context in which they formed. Familiar examples include annual bandings in reef coral skeletons or daily growth increments in mollusk shells.

I learned this from our customer Beth Miller-Tipton of the University of Florida during a conversation at the Society of Government Meeting Professionals in Atlantic City last week. Beth also taught me that she is using our product to manage abstract submission for their upcoming Sclerochronology conference. This was news to me; I didn't know that we had an abstract management tool.

Behind the Curtains at Scientific Conferences

In my graduate school days at Berkeley I had the opportunity to help organize a few conferences for the California Catalysis Society. Scientific conferences typically have a higher ratio of speakers to attendees than other educational events. Let's say you're an expert in a particular area of science (such as Catalysis or Sclerochronology) and you find yourself appointed to be the host of a conference on the subject. When you begin to put the program schedule together, the first step is to issue a "Call for Papers", which you send to everyone in your field. Scientists, professors, and students who want to present their work at the event submit abstracts describing the content of their proposed presentation or poster. A conference usually has multiple sessions, each focussed on a particular topic. The session chair is an expert on that topic and has the job of selecting speakers, moving the presentations along (often only 15-20 minutes are allotted per speaker), and managing the discussion.

Presenters submit these abstracts for many reasons - their budget might not allow them to travel to the conference unless they are speaking, they may have recent results that they are about to publish and want to generate additional attention for their research, or they may be rehashing previous research in order to get another line on their Curriculum Vitae (the scientist term for resume and list of publications). Success in science, like most fields, is a combination of quantity and quality. Quantity of research is demonstrated by the length of your list of publications and presentations, while quality often depends on the number of citations that your research has, i.e. the number of other people whose work references yours. (Where do you think those guys at Google got their "page rank" idea?) These two factors combine to help determine your funding levels from grant applications, your promotion to tenure, your movement up the academic ladder into the elite universities of highest prestige - you get the idea. So getting your abstract selected is a big deal at some conferences.

Abstract Management Process

As the meeting planner, you have to collect the abstracts from prospective presenters, force the session chairs to review the abstracts and select their posters and presentations, and keep the presenters informed of their status (since many presenters cannot register or make travel plans until they know that their abstract will be accepted). Fortunately software is available to facilitate this process, although dedicated "Abstract Management" solutions can be expensive and are over-kill for many conferences.

Certain Registration Extended

Enter our clever customer Beth Miller-Tipton. She devised a process with her IT department and Certain Registration to use her existing registration system to collect both abstracts and registration and housing reservations. They first upload the abstract file (usually as a Word document or PDF) onto their internal servers, then link to a registration form in Certain Registration, where they collect the presenter's contact information, abstract title, presentation preferences, and so on. They use data integration to pass the web address of the abstract file into the registration form, so that they can produce a single report from Certain Registration with the contact information for all submitters, with hyperlinks to their abstracts. Beth and the session chairs sit down one day, run through this list on a projection screen, and click on each link to view the abstract. The chair (or committee) quickly decides which abstracts to accept for presentations, or which for posters, or which to decline if space is limited.

Without having to learn a new system or spend a bundle, Beth created an online abstract management process that works conveniently for everyone - the meeting planners, the session chairs, and the prospective presenters. I liked it so much that we decided to add a new custom question type ("File") into Certain Registration, so that she can manage even the file upload portion of the process within one system. Hopefully, many other customers and prospective customers will find this to be equally valuable.