Online Information Conference – Interview with Knowledgespeak

online information 2010

The Online Information Conference is scheduled to run from 30th November to 2nd December. This is my first year as Conference Chairman, so mixed feeelings at present of anticipation and trepidation! The following is a pre-conference interview I gave to Knowledgespeak.

1. Can you briefly talk about the Online Information? Also, can you share with us any interesting events / trends for the 2010 Conference?

Online Information is the largest UK event dedicated to the information industry, providing an annual meeting place for more than 9,000 attendees from over 40 countries across the globe.  This unique free-to-attend event consists of an exhibition with more than 200 international exhibitors, an extensive educational show floor seminar programme, plus a range of exciting and stimulating show features.  Focusing on new technologies and key sectors, the show covers 6 different subject areas: Content Resources, ePublishing Solutions, Library Management, Content Management, Search Solutions and Social Media.

Online Information feature areas are set to be a major highlight of the 2010 event.  The XML Pavilion, launched in 2009, is back and the Library Management Zone is being introduced for the first time, adding a new dimension to the event.  The all new Library Management Zone plays host to exhibitors covering Library Systems, Library Security and RFID, and offers visitors the chance to view a wide range of library products.  The Library Management Zone has been introduced to give exhibition visitors the opportunity to get to grips with new systems and technologies designed specifically for library environments.  Other established and highly popular feature areas include, Global Business Information Forum and the European Librarians Theatre and International Forums. There will be a high percentage of new services and products for attendees to see with many regular high profile exhibitors showing new and evolved products plus we are delighted to welcome a high number of new exhibiting companies to Online this year.

2. The 2009 Online Information conference focused on innovation and emerging technologies. Briefly talk about this year’s theme – Discover new ways of working in the linked and social web.

I think most of us will agree that the velocity of change, both social and technological – has increased over the past 10 years and shows no sign of slowing down. The internet is giving us unprecedented access to information, and knowledge. New tools, applications and social networks are opening up opportunities for people to connect and collaborate far more effectively than ever before. Traditional red brick business models are gradually being replaced by lightweight “micro” businesses that use web services to provide scalability and agility.

Coupled with this we’re seeing a revolution in the use of open and linked data. Driven primarily by the public sector in response to the expectations of citizens for greater transparency in government, social innovators are using this data to create value-added applications, e.g. linking socio-demographic data with maps to show visual hot-spots.

All of this is driving rapid behaviour change in both society and the workplace. What can we discover from users and organisations that are in the midst of these changes? How are users and business adapting to this changing information and technology landscape. What innovative new products and working practices are emerging from the disruptive effects of these changes? This year’s conference will be looking at all of these issues, with presentations and an insight from some of the industry’s leading thinkers.

3. The 2010 conference features four tracks that will address important industry trends, technologies and other pressing issues. Can you briefly talk about these individual track sessions?

Of course I would be glad to, in no particular order:

Exploiting open and linked data
Introduced as a track in its own right in 2009 and of growing importance especially in the public sector; open and linked data is creating new opportunities for information professionals and the creation of new information services and products

Harnessing opportunity from the social web and the cloud

Although the use of social media is now mainstream in many organisations there are still barriers and limitations that are preventing the benefits of social media to be fully realised. This track gets to the heart of the issues with many real world experiences.

Information Professionals demonstrating value and impact

In economically straitened times when information services are under scrutiny information professionals need to be able to demonstrate value and impact to justify their existence, focus will be on challenges facing academic libraries and new projects that are using cutting edge technologies to deliver positive bottom line results.

New platforms and user behaviours for delivering content

Focusing on using mobile and the cloud to deliver information services, how are libraries and organisations using these technologies, what are the opportunities, how will these technologies change the future role of the information professional?

4. How, in your opinion, have the needs of information-consumers evolved in the recent few years? How is the Online Information Conference evolving accordingly?

As noted earlier, the internet is giving us unprecedented access to information, and knowledge. Over the past several years we’ve seen the barriers to publishing lowered, which has triggered enormous growth in non-curated information, e.g. from personal blogs and Twitter feeds. Consumers now expect information to be delivered in almost real-time, which continues to be a challenge for the traditional publishing models. We can perhaps recall that the first pictures and information from the 7/7/05 London bombings came from people at the scene, via blogs and tweets from mobile devices. Everyone is now a potential news reporter. Coupled with this we have the “Google effect”, where the perception is that information can be found within seconds of a search query being submitted. Accuracy and objectivity of the information has become secondary to speed and access.

Curated knowledge and information sources, e.g. media, information vendors, academic institutions, have come under increasing pressure to show their value. This is driving innovative ways of delivering information and new products (e.g. Library services) through digital channels, with many of these organisations tapping into the social web to connect with and get closer to potentially new consumers.

The Online Information Conference maintains links with people, experts and organisations across the whole spectrum of knowledge and information creation, curation and publication in order to identify emerging trends and innovations. This ensures that for each conference we have a blend of practice-based experience and thought leadership from recognized experts. In this way, we maintain an eye on the future whilst utilizing the vast experience of the present and past to provide context to where the industry is headed, and how information consumers will be affected.

5. Lately, we have seen that new leaders are emerging with the vision to adapt or change their business models to embrace the opportunities created by the social web and the cloud. What are the implications of these generational changes in technology and online networks and do you see the Online Conference as a venue for sharing information about these changes?

RogersAdoptionInnovationCurve

Take-up and adoption of social computing is following the standard Rogers Adoption/Innovation Curve (Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards). Cloud computing is probably still at the early adopters stage, though one could argue that the social web is now well within the bell curve of early and late majority. Some commentators have likened the disruptive effects of social computing to the industrial revolution of the early 19th century. The main difference now is that whereas large Enterprise used to lead technology innovation, it’s now being driven bottom-up by users and consumers. We’re now all connected and far more willing and able to share knowledge and co-create.

The technology we use at home is often far more advanced than what we use in the workplace. We’re using mobile devices (iPhones etc.) that give us instant access to the web, and have a choice of literally hundreds of thousands of applications that support our on-line activities and lifestyles. Some business leaders and organisations (e.g. Amazon) recognized this shift to consumerism long before we used the term “social web” or “Web 2.0” and developed or adapted business models that could leverage this increasing connectivity and scalability of the web. The phenomenon was adequately described in Chris Anderson’s book “The Long Tail”.

So, whether we’ve realized it or not, consumers are now driving the technology revolution and business is trying to keep up. Organisations and businesses that fail to grasp the opportunities of the social web will be at a disadvantage to those that do. We’re already seeing evidence of this in various research reports.[1]

We can therefore anticipate further and rapid “socio-technology” change going forward. One emerging trend is the increase in “micro-businesses”, i.e. those that can service large numbers of customers with limited resources, utilising web services to provide scalability (e.g. witness the number of businesses that have been created on the back of Twitter).

The Online Information Conference will continue to monitor and analyse the knowledge and information management landscape, and through our extensive network of industry practitioners, academics and thought leaders, will provide a place and time to share knowledge and facilitate honest debate about the impact of the social web.


[1] The Fortune 500 and Social Media: A Longitudinal Study of Blogging and Twitter Usage by America’s Largest Companies. http://www1.umassd.edu/cmr/studiesresearch/2009f500.cfm

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