Magazine article Information Today

Online Information 2004 in London

Magazine article Information Today

Online Information 2004 in London

Article excerpt

Most large, general online information conferences seem to have been supplanted, especially in the U.S., by smaller conferences on more specialized topics. But the Online Information meeting held in London each December continues to attract large numbers of conference attendees, exhibit visitors, and exhibitors. The 2004 meeting saw attendees from more than 40 countries, with sizeable contingents from the U.K., most European countries, and the U.S. Not only does a wide variety of activities occur, but the conference also offers considerable exposure to the European marketplace.

I have often remarked that the annual London conferences are a place to see and be seen, and this one (held Nov. 30 to Dec. 2) was no exception. The full meeting rooms and busy exhibit hall provided conclusive evidence that, after several lean years, the industry is again on the upswing. Online Information 2004 was an excellent venue to learn about new technologies, hear experts in the field, attend receptions, try out new products, and, especially, network with colleagues. According to conference chair Martin White, approximately 800 delegates and speakers attended the 2004 conference--the best attendance in the last several years. In addition, more than 10,000 visitors came to the exhibition to view the products and services of about 250 exhibitors.

There is truly something for everyone at this conference:

* Four pre-conference workshops provided in-depth tutorials on several topics.

* Conference attendees enjoyed a full program of presentations, beginning with a keynote on Web usability by Jakob Nielsen, the "king of usability" and "one of the Web's smartest persons," according to a number of publications.

* Forums in several languages met the needs of attendees from non-English-speaking countries.

* More than 100 free seminars were available to both attendees and visitors. They were organized by subject in tracks on information skills and career development, content management, enterprise document and records management, information content, electronic publishing, and technology and content case studies. Some of the tracks formed the program for two co-located conferences: Content Management Europe and Enterprise Document and Records Management (EDRM) Europe.

* Several associations and user groups took advantage of the conference to hold events for their members.

Then there was the exhibition--a major attraction for attendees and visitors alike. As companies in the industry have merged and grown, the size and complexity of their exhibits have also increased. Many of the exhibits were very large and included dedicated meeting spaces and refreshment areas--a continuing sign of the maturation of the industry. Several new products were announced; see for a representative selection of them.

The Program

Following the opening keynote address, the conference program was divided into nine separate tracks (three each day), each with its own keynote. Most of these are available in a proceedings volume available from the organizers. Some of the topics attracting particular attention were blogs, taxonomies, open access, and the announcement of Google Scholar. Information Today, Inc. organized a blog (http:// written by several editors that attracted considerable interest.

Jakob Nielsen's opening keynote focused on Web site usability. He noted that Web usability has improved significantly in recent years; in tests where users were asked to perform tasks on a sample of sites, 60 percent of them were successful, up from 40 percent in 1997. Some of the problems users encountered were in the areas of page design, searching and finding information, navigating the site, and the site's content. Nielsen's studies also found that people are now typing two words on average into a search engine box, which he said is "an immense change in behavior. …

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