KMWorld Enterprise Search and Discovery 2020 – conference report

The KMWorld conference, managed by Information Today Inc.  is probably the flagship event of the US library and information professional community and for the last few years has been held in Washington DC every November. It has always been a multiple track conference and has included an Enterprise Search and Discovery track. This dates back to the Enterprise Search Summit that was established by Online Inc. before its acquisition by Information Today Inc.

The ESD event started off with a series of workshops from Raytion, Agnes Molnar of Search Explained and me wearing my Intranet Focus hat. The conference itself was a three day event and the programme of presentations and panel sessions is still up on the KMWorld web site. There were a number of search-related presentations in the Taxonomy Bootcamp and Knowledge Management tracks.

Although many of the papers were well presented I was disappointed that there were virtually no case studies of enterprise search applications. Most of the papers were presented by consultants and systems integration companies, many of whom were sponsors of the conference. This has been a challenge for KMWorld for many years, and I ran into a similar problem as Conference Chair for Enterprise Search Europe from 2012-2015. As a result the focus was on ‘good practice’ at a generic level – useful but only to a limited extent.

The reasons for this reluctance to present may be a mixture of a concern about confidentiality and (in my somewhat cynical mood) a concern about how poor their search application is. A presentation from one global professional services organisation revealed that the US search team had no connections with the teams in any other location and indeed there was no global search capability. This is not unusual for professional services companies which are structured as national partnerships but it does make me question how much collective information and knowledge is actually accessible across the organisation. Clients might well assume that they are tapping into a global knowledge bank.

The organisers tried very hard to create a platform that supported ad hoc networking and also provided access to a range of sponsors, and they deserve credit for this. Inevitably this showed up the value of on-site conferences in enabling useful contacts to be made – the sort of situations where you find yourself sitting in the auditorium alongside a possibly potential client!

This event was my first experience of the Pheedloop virtual conference management application. However, this was in effect a back-office management application and the presentations themselves were given in Zoom. The integration of Zoom with Pheedloop is work-in-progress as the Zoom integration is not the full Zoom product. At present it does not support gallery views or HD streams, for example. Speakers would not notice any of the integration issues but it was quite a challenge for Moderators as the Q&A was conducted across both applications. Nevertheless if you are organising a reasonably large scale event it might well be worth looking at Pheedloop.

KMWorld 2021 takes place (we all hope!) in Washington DC on 15-18 November.

About Martin White
Martin White

Martin is an information scientist and the author of Making Search Work and Enterprise Search. He has been involved with optimising search applications since the mid-1970s and has worked on search projects in both Europe and North America. Since 2002 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield and is currently working on developing new approaches to search evaluation.

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