Spring 2019


It is an honour to have been appointed as Editor of Informer in succession to Udo Kruschwitz. The first time I saw a real-time computer-based search service was at 10am on 23 February 1976. If you are wondering how I can be that precise over forty years later the secret is that at the time I was Editor of Inform, the newsletter of the Institute of Information Scientists. I was attending the launch of the European Space Agency’s RECON service. This gave access to databases of scientific secondary journals (abstracts) such as those from Inspec (now the IET) and Chemical Abstracts. The RECON service was set up in 1969 but searches were carried out off-line for customers, who then received a print out of the results in the post 10 days later. That all changed in 1976 and I’ve been involved in search one way or another ever since.

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ISKO 2019 Conference 15/16 July

ISKO UK holds a biennial conference that is always worth attending. The 2019 Conference takes place at the Department of Library and Information Science, University of London, which may be better known to many as ‘City University’. The Department is sponsoring the event along with Synaptica. One element of ISKO UK conferences is that they are always at the leading edge of what is going on. This year there is a strong focus on what might be called applied Artificial Intelligence.

The overall theme is the Human Position in an Artificial World. In total there are 25 papers, many in parallel sessions. Among the session titles are AI and Taxonomies, Creativity, Ethics, and AI, Knowledge Organisation and Retrieval. There is also a session of short case studies, a poster session and good opportunities to ask questions and contribute to debates.

The opening keynoter is Jem Rayfield, Chief Solution Architect at Ontotext and on the second day the keynote is given by Neil Maiden, Professor of Digital Creativity at the Cass Business School of City, University of London, and Director of its Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice.

If you can’t make the conference you might well want to consider becoming a member of ISKO UK. Annual membership is just £55. (From the Editor)

Conference Review – Haystack US 2019 – Relevance Avengers Assemble!

Last year I attended the Haystack search relevance conference in Charlottesville, USA as a guest of our partners OpenSource Connections (OSC). In 2019 we merged my old business Flax with OSC so I returned as one of the conference organisers.

Haystack is a conference all about search relevance – making sure that the results your users see fit their requirements and your business needs. Unlike some events Haystack has no sponsors and no vendor pitches and we try hard to keep the price low to promote accessibility. It’s a great chance to network with other search people – and no-one will ask you if what you do for a living ‘is a bit like Google’!

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NATO Conference on federated search

Over the last two decades most of my search-related projects have been with large multi-national companies so an invitation to participate in a NATO working on enterprise and federated search in March 2019 was irresistible. The fact that it was to be held in a 5 star hotel on the Adriatic Sea at Split, Croatia had nothing to do with my acceptance!. The event was an annual European Think-Tank for Information, Decision and Execution Superiority (TIDE) Sprint. There is a related event in the USA later in the year. Given that it was a NATO event and not open to the public I hope you will appreciate that I am not going to get into too much detail about what was disclosed and discussed.

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Events: Spring

One Day Events

KidRec 2019: 3rd International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Children & Recommender and Information Retrieval Systems. Of interest to members working on applications targeted Children. One day workshop as part of the IDC 2019 conference 12-15 June. http://idc.acm.org/2019/

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And finally..

Editors always like to have the final say. One of the challenges of digital columns is getting people to read to the end. So each issue you will find something a little different at the end of Informer which may inform you, challenge you or amuse you.

Let me tell you a story. As you walk up Walton Street from the centre of Oxford the road bears slightly to the left and a large 19th century building comes into view. It is not an Oxford college but the headquarters of the Oxford University Press. OUP is the largest university press in the world, and can date its origins back to around 1480. In 1983 I arrived at this building carrying a Texas Silent 700 terminal. This used thermal ink printer technology and had two rubber ears on the top into which a telephone handset could be inserted to link the printer into the BT public telephone network through an acoustic coupler. In 1976 I had used the same technology to use the ESA RECON computer-based search service. I was heading up early attempts by Reed Publishing to develop electronically published products and services, notably airline flight timetables.

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