Snow, Data and Blur at Online 2010

Extreme weather situations and international conferences don’t mix well. Alas snow, snow and more snow was the backdrop for this year’s Online Information Conference held at Olympia, London from Tuesday 30th November to Thursday 2nd November 2010. Quite a few speakers couldn’t make it and I just couldn’t stop myself from suggesting that they consider using elements of online conferencing as a backup, e.g. getting speakers to record and share their talks if travel was going to be a problem.

Blurred Boundaries

That said snow really set the scene for my presentation on Home, Work, Work, Home!? How Information Professionals Can Exploit Blurred Boundaries part of the evolving role of the information professional track. Every year when the snow falls people are suddenly up in arms about why we don’t have more remote working provision. I’ve published quite a few posts on it. This year I spotted the nicely titled Is ‘working from home’ a skive? on the BBC Web site just before I began my talk. Seems like those preconceptions are still there, I’ll have to just keep chipping away at it. My slides are available from Slideshare and are embedded below.

The track also included a really interesting talk by Sara Batts, Senior Research Librarian, Reed Smith LLP, and Olwen Walker, Information Services Manager, Kirkland & Ellis International LLP on Helping The Hybrid: Leveraging Personal Networks to Support Changing Roles. Sara and Olwen explained that we are responsible for our own Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and this can be achieved in many ways, from coffee with colleagues, to personal blogging, use of Twitter and more. This concept can then help us move into a hybrid role – a role that is made up of a number of discrete parts, but linked by a common thread. Basically we get better at doing lots of things which be very beneficial in these times where ‘transferable skills’ are key, although it can make us less specialist. The other talk in the track was New Roles for Information Professionals in Todays’s Fast Changing Environment by Henri Stiller, Chairman and Executive Officer, Histen Riller, France which looked at data collected from information professionals working in the 200 biggest French companies.

There was a lot to see and do (the exhibition runs in parallel) at Online. I only managed to get there for the last two days but here are some of my highlights:

Linked Data in Libraries

Martin Malmsten presenting

Martin Malmsten presenting

I really enjoyed the initial session in the Exploiting Open and Linked Data track entitled Linked Data in Libraries. Karen Coyle, a Consultant from the US kicked off with an introduction to the semantic Web. Karen argued that the basic concepts of the Semantic Web are simple, and are compatible with the building blocks of bibliographic metadata created by libraries but there are some changes necessary – “We’re in a terrible silo“. It seems this transition is already underway and Karen suggested we look at some services like the Open Metadata Registry, BIBO, FOAF and SWAP.

The second talk by Sarah Bartlett, Senior Analyst, Talis entitled What Place for Libraries in a Linked Data World? was a refreshingly practical one that had Sarah show us some of her linked data models. She suggests that you pick a resource you like and model it, this is the only way you’ll truly understand linked data. Sarah explained that bibliographic data is subsumed into the semantic web with potentially endless links to sources such as DBPedia, which enrich our understanding of the bibliographic resource.

The final presentation was by Martin Malmsten, Senior Developer, National Library of Sweden on Linked Library Data Matters. Again Martin took a very pragmatic approach (“people would rather use their light (quick and dirty) API than learn z39.50″ to the situation. He gave the example of LIBRIS, the Swedish Union Catalogue, which has been available as Linked Open Data since 2008 and is today connected to various other datasets such as LCSH and DbPedia.

News Searching

Although many of the social media sessions in Harnessing Opportunity from the Social Web and ‘The Cloud’ track were probably not as forward thinking as I would have liked to seen I did really enjoy Phil Bradley’s session on News searching. Phil filled in for one of the speakers who could not make it to the New Tools & Techniques for Exploiting the Social Web session. His recommendations for News searching sites included Bing News, Silobreaker, Social Mention, Ice rocket and more.

IWR Award

The coveted IWR Information Professional of the Year Award is always presented at Online Information. This year’s award went to Library Systems Manager at the University of Huddersfield. I’ve worked with Dave in the past and feel that he is a very deserving winner. He’s done some great stuff with Library usage data, has worked on the Mashed Libraries series, is a real advocate of moving libraries into the 21st century (your OPAC sucks!) and is an all round nice guy.

My colleague Brian Kelly has written a more comprehensive review of Dave’s achievements. Well done Dave!

Other highlights include catching up with lots of people I knew or sort of knew (through Twitter), freebies from the exhibition (!), free coffee and a quiz in the speaker room, the great organisers.

Some of the not so greats were the presentation by Matt Wood from Amazon Web Services which turned out to be a sales pitch and the “Please switch off your Mobiles” sign!

Please switch off your Mobiles

Here’s to a snow free and mobiletastic Online 2011!