Info Today 2002: Context and Convergence Were Popular Topics at This New York Information Industry Event. (Report from the Field)

By Hane, Paula J. | Information Today, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

Info Today 2002: Context and Convergence Were Popular Topics at This New York Information Industry Event. (Report from the Field)


Hane, Paula J., Information Today


Info Today 2002, the conference on electronic information and knowledge management (KM) held in New York on May 14-16, featured a completely revamped program. Transformed from the single National Online Meeting, which had been held for 22 years, Info Today debuted last year in an augmented, multi-conference format. This year, the event evidenced close coordination among the conference planners to work around the theme of "Nearing Nirvana--Digital Content at the Turning Point." The three concurrent conferences really hit the mark with opening keynote speakers each day and plenary sessions in the morning for each of the conferences plus closing keynotes on the last day, on target session tracks, high-quality presenters, and free mini-presentations in the exhibit hall theater.

While the exhibit hall seemed smaller than in previous years, it was likely a reflection of both the tough economic conditions and the inevitable consolidation within the industry. One exhibitor, WhizBang!, pulled out at the last minute and a week later closed its doors-an unfortunate victim of the times. [Seep. 13.] A few high-profile vendors were conspicuous in their absence from the hall, including Factiva, Hoover's, ebrary, and LexisNexis. Overall attendance at the event was also down somewhat, perhaps reflecting some reluctance to attend an event in New York. Despite the disappointing numbers, the information quality was high, the networking possibilities abounded, and there were many opportunities for learning and sharing.

The three conferences each offered two solid tracks of programming every day. Attendees could buy a pass for one of the conferences or buy a pass that provided access to all three. My report focuses on the National Online conference and the three opening keynote sessions, while Hugh McKellar reports on KnowledgeNets (p. 36) and Elisabeth Winter and Gail Dykstra cover E-Libraries (p. 38).

The Conference

National Online continued its focus on information content and information delivery technologies. There were tracks covering practical searching, search engines, public policy issues (copyright and licensing), competitive intelligence, preparing content for electronic publication (XML, DOI, linking, and aggregation), and Web design for info pros--more than enough to pack the 3 days with meaty choices. I enjoyed many of the presentations and managed to come away with a number of insights and useful resources.

KnowledgeNets provided coverage of knowledge management and its enterprise applications. Tracks addressed interesting topics like e-learning, e-government initiatives, and content management (including knowledge architecture to add context).

E-Libraries covered the latest developments in library systems and services and included tracks on Web portals, database creation, electronic reference services, and public policy issues. I wish I could have cloned myself because a number of the tracks and presentations in the other two conferences were of definite interest to me.

As Dick Kaser, vice president of content for Information Today, Inc., said in his introductory remarks, the conferences were meant to highlight and leverage the common interests of people involved in the three fields. With the programming rightly reflecting the convergence of technologies and interests, he noted that it was even a bit hard to tell where one conference stopped and the other began. Attendees were encouraged to take advantage of cross-tracking opportunities.

A Keynote in Context

Stephen Abram, vice president of corporate development at Micromedia ProQuest, brought his usual lively and insightful comments to the opening keynote, entitled "Content is Dead Long Live Context!" As a librarian and publishing executive, Abram posited that we do not "do information delivery." He said: "We aren't delivering things to desktops. Desktops don't know anything. People interactions are the key. …

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