Information Online and on Disc 1995: Conference Report

By Scott Robinson

The Seventh Australasian Online and On Disk Conference was held at the new venue of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour. The focus for the Conference was 'The Virtual Information Experience' and this portrayed itself in the strong multimedia, online service providers and Internet presence.

The conference's ability to attract quality keynote and session speakers has certainly not diminished. Day One began with a keynote address by Mr. Patrick Tierney, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dialog Information Services, Inc, who discussed the way he saw information services changing towards 2000. Mr. Tierney's relaxed style allowed delegates to appreciate the problems from a service provider's point of view, and gain insight into possible future trends. The first keynote speaker Day Two was Dr.Lee Olsen : 'La Bizarre -A Multimedia Presentation', who -assisted by a speedy computer and LOTS of hard disk space -gave us an hour-long guided tour of the immense capabilities of multimedia. Video, sound and text were melded with skill to bring home the impact this technology can have on users, the study results cited pointed to much reduced learning times and greater retention rates. Finishing with a dramatic piece -albeit advertising -created by his young daughter, he proved that this technology is within the capabilities of everyone. Contrasting with Dr. Olsen's address, the second keynote address by Dr. Peter Jasco, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, University of Hawaii, discussed 'Quality and Quantity in Multimedia Databases'. He identified the need for multimedia product providers to carefully research their products and cross-check data during production, a topic of concern to information professionals.

In between sessions delegates perused the Exhibition this year hosting around sixty companies involved with the industry. The extensive range of stands provided insight into library supplies, net-work hardware, CD-ROM suppliers, online service providers, specialist database publishers and .... Many companies now publishing CD-ROMs made these available in the CD-ROM Showcase, a network of PCs and MACs with access to some fifty-six CD's online simultaneously -quite a sight for many with low budgets and high aspirations! The Internet Centre provided delegates with access to the wide range of services available, many browsing the exciting world wide web (WWW) for the first time. Other sessions included Birds-of-a-Feather: discussion groups for different interests, and the Information Trails Blaze: a guided tour to learn more about the industry.

Ms. Reva Basch, President of Aubergine Information Systems, opened Day Three with a keynote address discussing information searching from the user perspective: where it's coming from and heading to. Finally Mr. Neil McLean, Deputy University Librarian, Maquarie Uni., spoke on the future of information services, closing with some relevant comments to keep us thinking until the next conference.

As a support professional for information services, I found the conference an overwhelming success, bringing to life products we had read about and providing many ideas to improve our existing facilities. The hands-on components were the most informative, while staff at the stands were only too happy to demonstrate their products and offer advice. Congratulations to the Conference Organisers and attendees, and see you all there in 1997!

Scott Robinson

Network Administrator

The Southport School