Information Online 2003
By Ray Lewis
This conference, held Jan. 2123, saw my fourth consecutive visit to
the "Land Down Under." Of the many such events I've attended down the years,
this continues to be my favorite. Not only was the Sydney Convention andExhibition
Centre Southat Darling Harbour stunning, but there was a genuine buzz of interest
pervading the exhibit floor.
My previous three events had involved the occasionally arduous task of manning
a booth, but this trip gave me the opportunity to spend some serious time circling
the floor. Most of the usual suspects were present, such as BIOSIS, CISTI,
CSA, Dialog (in fact, there was a big Thomson contingent), EBSCO, Elsevier
Science, Factiva, ISI, LexisNexis Butterworth, Ovid, ProQuest, Wiley Interscience,
and Information Today, Inc.
Information Online is promoted as the "Premier Conference and Exhibition
for the Online Information Industry in the Asia Pacific Region" and is commonly
touted as the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. I haven't seen any evidence
to refute either claim. In an interview with Elizabeth Swan, the chief organizer
of the conference and representative from the convening Australian Library
and Information Association's Information Specialists Group, I discovered some
details about the conference and its history.
Information Online Background
I learned that the conference began in 1986, initially as an annual event.
It switched to a biannual schedule in 1989. The conference started in a local
Hilton Hotel before outgrowing it and moving to a more specialized venue, somewhat
mirroring the London Online Information conference and its original Novotel
Unlike the majority of its counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere, this
event has seen steady growth over recent years against most of the usual metrics.
Again this year, general attendance was up, both in the exhibit hall and in
the conference sessions. Approximate final figureslist 1,200 delegatesplus
another 1,000 visiting the exhibit hall and its 79 exhibiting companies. A
big plus to the venue, aside from the stunning skyline, is that it is able
to house all aspects of the event in very close proximity. This was particularly
well-received by the exhibitors as it reduces the delegate "walkabout effect" between
sessions, at coffee breaks, and during any allocated exhibit time.
While the majority of the attendees were from Australia and New Zealand,
there was also some considerable representation from other Pacific Rim countries
as well as a sizable contingent from both the U.S. and U.K. My question to
those who are reading this in the Northern Hemisphere and considering making
such a long journey for the 2005 event (which apparently already has more than
30 companies that have booked exhibit space) is: Does a break from the January
chill to Sydney's glorious midsummer climate warrant the inevitable cynicism
of your boss?
My opinion is that if you can find the funds, it really is worth the effort.
From an exhibitor's point of view, the customer satisfaction you'll receive
will be tangible and the growth potential for this burgeoning sector of the
globe makes it a positive, cost-effective move. From a delegate's point of
view, the sessions were also extremely valuable.
Swan pointed out the high quality of the attendee audience and stated that
the exhibitor feedback was very positive. She said: "The caliber of the keynotes
from both within Australia and overseas was excellent. Some of the 'Super Searchers'
are special favorites. Mary Ellen Bates, Anne Caputo, Amelia Kassel, Carol
Tenopir, Coralee Christou, and Steve Coffman were very well-received also,
and everyone was thrilled to welcome Roger Summit back."
A personal highlight of the show came during the Dialog cocktail event when
Summit was invited to speak about his personal view of the information industry's
history and, specifically, Dialog's role in it. Because he is commonly recognized
as the founding pioneer of the industry as we know it from the work he did
at Lockheed in the late 1960s/early '70s, he's well-qualified to give such
I was familiar with Summit's presentation style, having seen his keynote
speechat a recent ASIDIC conference. Once again his dry humor regaled the audience,
and I found one particular anecdote especially interesting. Apparently, Summit
was initially contemplating some sort of relevance ranking as the core machinery
of the developing search engine (or whatever necessarily prescient terminology
was in use at the time) before persuadinghimself that Boolean logic was the
way to go. Now there's a decision that impacted so many of our working
All in all, I enjoyed the Sydney event more than ever, and I would recommend
it to anyone who's thinking about attending the 2005 conference. As Bruce Heterick,
JSTOR's director for library relations, put it, after taking an audience photo, "I
just wanted to prove to my boss that I did come here to work." I'm sure that
the several hundred smiling librarians and information specialists in the audience
will attest to that.
Ray Lewis is an independent information consultant. His e-mail
address is email@example.com.