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Magazines > Information Today > April 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 4 — April 2004

On the Road
Working the Workshops
By Nancy Garman

You've been there. You're packed into a conference room with 500 people and straining to see the PowerPoint slides on the huge screen at the front (there are no handouts). You're reluctant to break into the speaker's presentation with a raised hand, and then you're stuck in a mass of people at the podium after the session waiting to ask your question.

Conferences are a valuable way to get updated on a range of topics or to find out who's doing what in other organizations. However, the format offers attendees limited opportunities to interact with the speakers. And no matter how fast a speaker talks or how well-planned his or her remarks, the length and structure of the sessions often preclude in-depth coverage or how-to instruction. Of course, some smaller events are an exception, such as WebSearch University and Enterprise Search Summit, which are carefully planned with a tiered curriculum of courses.

Personalize Your Conference

Workshops offer a completely different type of learning environment. They are a great way to get small-group time and attention from some of the speakers. Usually 3- or 6-hour mini-conferences on specialized topics, pre-conference workshops allow attendees to learn directly from some of the industry's top professionals and to get in-depth, valuable advice and information.

At the next event you attend, consider customizing your experience by registering for one or more of its pre- or post-conference workshops. Did you realize that before and after the recent Computers in Libraries conference, you could have attended up to four half-day workshops? Some conferences even offer special gold- or platinum-pass pricing that includes one or more of the workshops at a reduced rate.

Create Your Own Conference

You can only spend 1 day out of the office? Or the main conference topic is not part of your job description? Next time a preliminary program arrives in the mail, take a good look at the workshop schedule in addition to checking out the keynotes and sessions. One well-kept secret is that you can register to attend only a workshop, even if you do not choose to attend the conference itself.

As I worked on the planning for WebSearch University, Enterprise Search Summit, and Streaming Media East, the three co-located events that Information Today, Inc. is hosting May 11­12 in New York, I was impressed by the broad appeal of the workshops. I realized that each one has the potential to be a stand-alone event of interest to anyone who wants a quick course on one of these topics.

New York Workshop Day

WebSearch University, Enterprise Search Summit, and Streaming Media East offer pre-conference workshops on May 10. These seminars are all taught by well-known industry figures and are open to anyone who's interested. If you live or work in the New York area, these half-day workshops are worth a close look. The following is a peek at what's happening that day at the Hilton New York.

Quality Business Research (WebSearch University): Learn key business research techniques, hone your skills for finding accurate and comprehensive company and industry information, and discover innovative strategies for locating financial, market, and economic data with Marydee Ojala, editor of ONLINE magazine. In addition, explore the key differentiators among free, fee-based, and hybrid business search engines.

Teaching Web Search Skills (WebSearch University): In this practical seminar, you'll learn how to instruct Web searching newcomers and how to teach those who think they know everything about the Web. Greg Notess covers the advantages, disadvantages, and techniques of hands-on training, demonstration sessions, and online self-paced guides for teaching others about Web search skills and strategies.

Starting and Running a Successful Research Business (WebSearch University): Learn how to plan for, set up, market, and run your own independent research business. What do you really need to know to go it on your own? In this seminar, Mary Ellen Bates covers all aspects of launching a business, including developing products or services that your clients will value, marketing yourself and your company, managing and cultivating clients, and running your operation.

Hold the Presses! News Research Revisited (WebSearch University): This workshop covers newsgroups, traditional news outlets, news feeds, RSS, blogs, daily events, specialized newsletters, and more. Ran Hock, author of The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook, will help you learn how to determine which news sources are credible, how to handle news that affects your individual environment, and when and how to set up a news-alerting service that meets your needs.

Metadata & Taxonomy Strategies (Enterprise Search Summit): Learn what a taxonomy is, how to get one, and how it really makes a difference. How do you organize user tests and apply the results in a search-and-retrieval implementation? This tutorial by Joe Busch covers the basics of metadata and taxonomies, how metadata drives search functions, what taxonomies are, and how taxonomies show up in site search.

Building Taxonomies (Enterprise Search Summit): What does every content manager need to know about taxonomies, metadata, and required fields? How can a taxonomy and metadata model drive successful search, work flow, content reuse, and automation of content-production processes? What are the critical elements of a business case for a content architecture? What are the essential do's and don'ts of designing a metadata and taxonomy model? This session, a companion to Metadata & Taxonomy Strategies, is also taught by Busch.

Enterprise Search Primer (Enterprise Search Summit): Learn how enterprise search engines differ from public Web search engines and how they're the same. Avi Rappoport will give you a solid grounding on how search engines work, from indexing to the actual search to the results display. This workshop will cover robot spiders, general index structures, simple query parsing, retrieval, relevance ranking, and designing usable search interfaces.

Streaming Media: Best Practices (Streaming Media East): Taught by Steve Mack, author of The Streaming Media Bible, this workshop walks you through the entire streaming media process from creation to distribution. Designed for attendees who want a better understanding of the technical implications and requirements for developing and delivering streaming media, Best Practices is suitable for novices but assumes familiarity with streaming media and standard Internet technologies.

Understanding Flash Video: A Beginner's Workshop (Streaming Media East): Learn how to use Macromedia Flash to deliver on-demand and live video to the widest possible audience via the Macromedia Flash Player. This workshop covers all facets of Flash video, getting you up to speed on encoding, authoring, and delivering compelling on-demand and live video experiences. Learn the entire process and see what you can do with Flash video by watching real examples.

See You in New York

Take a look at these half-day workshops and choose one or two, even if you can't attend the full conference it's affiliated with. Go to a half or full day of tutorials on taxonomies or dip into the how-to of streaming media. (Mack is very practical and makes the technology easy to understand.) Or get a taste of WebSearch University at a half-day workshop led by one of your favorite super searchers.

To register for a workshop, go to the ITI Web site (, choose the event, and select the appropriate workshop or pre-conference option. Remember, you do not need to register for the full conference to attend a workshop. More details about all the workshops and instructors are on the conference Web sites.

Nancy Garman is Information Today, Inc.'s director of conference program planning. Her e-mail address is
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