Glorious sunshine greeted the opening of the first day of UKSG 2009 in Torquay yesterday. The stroll along the seafront from the conference hotel (Grand in name and all facilities, except Internet access – £1/minute for dialup indeed!) was in delightful sharp contrast to the often depressing plane and taxi rides to downtown conference centres.
The seaside theme was continued with the bright conference bags. Someone had obviously got hold of a job lot of old deckchair canvas. 700 plus academic librarians and publishers and supplier representatives settled down, in the auditorium of the Riviera Centre, to hear about the future of their world.
The first keynote speakers were very different in topic and delivery, but all three left you with the impression of upcoming change the next few years for which they were not totally sure of the shape.
First up was Knewco Inc’s Jan Velterop pitch was a somewhat meandering treatise on the wonders and benefits of storing metadata in triples – something he kept saying he would explain later. The Twitter #uksg09 channel was screaming “when is he going to tell us about triples” and “what’s a triple” whilst he was talking. He eventually got there but I’m not sure how many of the audience understood the massive benefits of storing and liking data in triples, that we at Talis are fully aware of. Coincidentally, for those who did get his message, I was posting about the launch of the Talis Connected Commons for open free storage of data – in triples, in the Talis Platform.
Next up was Sir Timothy O’Shea from the University of Edinburgh, who talked about the many virtual things they are doing up in Scotland. You can take your virtual sheep from your virtual farm to the virtual vet, and even on to a virtual post mortem. His picture of the way information technology is playing its part in changing life at the university, apart from being a great sales pitch for it, left him predicting that this was only the early stages of a massive revolution. As to where it was going to lead us n a few years he was less clear.
Joseph Janes, of the University of Washington Information School, was one of those great speakers who dispensed with any visual aids or prompts and delivered us a very entertaining 30 minutes comparing the entry in to this new world of technology enhance information access, with his experience as an American wandering around a British seaside town. His message that we expect the next few years to feel very similar on the surface, as we will recognise most of the components, but will actually be very different when you analyse it. As an American he recognises cars, buses, adverts, and food, but in Britain they travel on the wrong side of the road, are different shapes, and are products he doesn’t recognise. As we travel in to an uncertain but exciting future, don’t be fooled recognising a technology, watch how it is being used.
A great start to the day, which included a good break-out session from Huddersfield’s Dave Pattern. He ended his review of OPACs and predictions about the development of OPAC 2.0 and beyond, with a heads-up about my session today, which caused me to spend a couple of hours in the hotel bar, the only place with Wifi, tweaking my slides. It would be much easier to follow Mr Janes’ example and deliver my message of the cuff without slides – not this time perhaps 😉
Looking forward to another good day – even if the sun seems to have deserted us.