As reported in a brief statement posted to the Online Information Conference website, there will not be an exhibition or conference this year, 2014, with no certainty that it will re-appear in the future. Another victim of these austere times no doubt, with exhibitors, delegates and organisations paying closer scrutiny to the value of every penny spent.
Rightly so, but nevertheless, it is a sad reflection of our times, where the opportunities for establishing new connections and developing new relationships is increasingly devolved to a virtual world. Not that I’m against the digitisation of social and professional networks (I belong to enough of them!), but can they ever really replace face-to-face time, or the buzz generated by listening to – and possibly meeting – an internationally respected keynote speaker? It’s a bit like thinking you can get the same value from listing to Elbow’s latest album vs. seeing them in concert (yes, I like Elbow). As Kevin Bacon tells us in his latest EE broadband ad – it’s a ‘no-brainer”!
I’ve been privileged to have chaired the conference these past 4 years, and have worked with some highly respected and knowledgeable colleagues on the Executive Conference Committee in developing the ideas and themes for the conference programme during that time. But before that I had been a regular delegate for several years, and always considered ‘Online’ to be the premier “must attend” conference if you wanted to learn more about your profession and get some insight into emerging industry trends. The highlight was being invited to speak/present – on two occasions, my first steps onto the conference circuit.
I believe (though I’m sure someone will correct me if my data is incorrect), that this year’s conference and exhibition would have been the 38th since it first started, so missing out on its ruby anniversary by just 2 years. It was the world’s largest information industry conference, regularly attracting over 700 delegates from more than 40 countries. It will be remembered as a showcase for the latest developments in digital information; for promoting strategies for effective information management and deployment of information resources, and for stimulating thinking on the future of the information landscape.
Which leads me to wonder where the many loyal delegates to this event will now go to get insights into the emerging trends affecting their industry. Not everything is in the virtual space and face-to-face networking can never really be replaced by online networks. Quite coincidentally, I picked up this quote today which appears to echo my own sentiments: “Traditional face to face networks where relationships have been established and built up over time provided added validation and expertise that is not easily achieved through electronic networks.”
I will certainly miss the event, but remain hopeful that it might reappear in some format in future years – guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
To conclude, here is a roll call of keynote speakers that I’ve had the privilege to meet and to hear at the conference. With apologies for any omissions, but my memory and archives only go back a far as 2007. I’m happy for any readers of this blog to fill in the gaps.
- Mark Stevenson – 2013
- Jacob Morgan – 2013
- Tom Steinberg – 2013
- Cory Doctorow – 2012
- Gerd Leonhard – 2012
- Craig Newmark – 2011
- Rachel Botsman – 2011
- Dion Hinchliffe – 2010
- Charlene Li – 2009
- Sir Nigel Shadbolt – 2009
- Clay Shirky – 2008
- Jimmy Wales – 2007
And finally, a word of thanks to my colleagues on the Executive Conference Committee, to the sponsors, speakers and delegates – past and present – and special thanks to Lorna Candy and her team at Incisive Media, who have ensured the success of this event over many years.
It’s been a great experience!