Thursday, 22 November 2012

Welcome to the University of Google - Online Information 2012 Conference Presentation

This Tuesday I was lucky to present to a very full room at this year's excellent Online Information 2012 Conference. Moving from what I regarded as the conference's spiritual home of Earl's Court and Olympia to the Victoria Park Plaza there were a wealth of topics covered from my own on the Cloud to Social Media, ebooks and mobile devices.

Even though I only attended the first day, it was jam-packed with brilliant, educating and entertaining sessions - possibly the best day's conference schedule I'd been part of.

Sadly I missed Cory Doctorow, Editor of the popular weblog boing boing, Contributor to The Guardian, The NY Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired Magazine and his plenary - There is no copyright policy; there is only Internet policy. There is no Internet policy; there is only policy.

I did however get there in time to see the insightful presentation by The Guardian's Technology Editor Charles Arthur and his session Platform Wars: After the Digital Wars which looked at the on-going mammoth battle between Microsoft, Google and the biggest of them all Apple. Arthur is a superb speaker who moved across the platform landscape with a collection of statistics and figures that showed the technology arms race and the war is going to continue on a global scale. He was followed by Lucia Adams, Digital Development Editor, The Times, UK. Adams gave a brilliant talk about how the famous news company has tackled the problem every newspaper is facing - how to remain as a viable business. Since dipping its toe into the tablet and Apps market, The Times has now no less than 12 apps and is making a real fist of staying relevant in the era of more content, social media and less advertising revenue. As an ex-journalist, I found these two sessions really interesting, and I couldn't help but note my ex-employer, The Press Association’s London Office as I walked back to Victoria Tube Station at the end of the day, I gave a nod as I passed by
I have to say that I was impressed with the venue, despite looking grubby on the outside, the inside was very sleek and welcoming - the presenter’s green room felt more like a boardroom with several people doing some last minute cramming ahead of their sessions, I was sat next to Charle's Arthur who you'll be keen to know was using a Mac.
After a brief break it was my turn in track 3 - ‘Making sense of big data and working in the cloud’ alongside the co-founder of the excellent Altmetric site Figshare, Mark Hahnel
I hadn't been feeling the pressure as I'm usually OK speaking at large events, but felt a sudden wave of anxiety on the way down when I checked the #online12 Twitter feed to see a post by the Director of our computing services department, Dr. Christine Sexton. Christine had Tweeted: “Two fire alarms and hotel evacuations later, I'm up. Looking forward to talks from @doctorow, @charlesarthur and our own@Andy_Tattersall
Considering I was giving a talk on a topic that Christine had been instrumental in, by getting Google for the University, I was worried that I’d say something that wasn't factual, I did say that I used to be a journalist didn't I? Luckily my concerns were unfounded as I met with Chris beforehand and was reassured that there was nothing I could wrong. The room I was speaking in held 140 I was informed and it was evident that the word Google in my title was a crowd puller as the room filled up with just a few spare seats with many others stood to the side and back of the room (although they all could have been there so see Mark of course). I talked about how my own experiences of using Google Apps since 2006 and how that had aided myself and my department in adapting to the University transition to the Google Apps Suite. I covered why the University had taken the decision to not only move students, but staff on wholesale and what it meant logistically and culturally. I received lots of questions, more than I could have imagined and did the best to deal with them, but in the end as I’d already primed Chris - the Director of CICS eventually had to step in to answer questions on security, legacy and stability. Chris had been live blogging throughout the day, and a review of my session, which was written as I presented - it takes a real skill to do that - can be read here:

My slides can be viewed here:

Lunch was lovely, but isn't that one of the high points of a conference? Beef Bourguignon with a variety of sides, followed up by some kind of vanilla mousse - I know people usually rate events by the food, this was fine dining, for me anyway.
After lunch I attended a really entertaining and very popular debate titled : “Staying Safe Online: The Dark Side of Apps and Social Networks” with Mathias Klang, Researcher and Senior Lecturer, University of Goteborg, Sweden and Cory Doctorow again. Both argued the pros and cons of social media, the issue of how we protect our children and how to ensure their privacy. They discussed how do we manage the problem of giving away our data for free products and that we are giving away much more than we are aware of. Again the session was captured live on Chris Sexton’s blog and can be read here.

Finally after more snacks and a fly by of the trade stands to get a multi-colour highlighter from Emerald (thank you Emerald) for my little girl.
I finished the day with the session that featured 3 talks on the use of tablets in libraries. First up was Jan Magnusson, Librarian, Chalmers Technical University, Sweden and his presentation Surf Tablets in University Libraries. This was followed by an excellent talk by Guus van den Brekel, Medical Information Specialist, Coordinator Electronic Services, Central Medical Library, University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands. I first met Guus at EAHIL 2009 when he moderated a presentation I gave in Dublin with Andrew Booth. Guus’ presentation was excellent and showcased their project to lend iPads to medical staff. There were many benefits from this project, one being a better personal relationship between librarians and users, and more importantly gave users a new and improved insight into the library and its services. In Guus’ own words: “It proved to be the best PR & marketing activity for libraries since the invention of "sliced bread"!
Finally, the solar powered library from Denmark, this was an inspiring talk and from a man wearing shorts, in London in November. Rasmus Fange Vestergaard, Librarian, Tingbjerg bibliotek, Denmark gave a new slant to the mobile library, by actually taking one to the beach and running with power from the sun. His talk focused on their initiative to lend users tablet devices as well as books. A nice way to end the conference. I would certainly recommend this conference to anyone from the library and information world, and with an interest in technology. I'm sorry I could not attend both days, but certainly felt I got the better day for my own area of work.

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