Conference Spam or Conference Prime Rib

January 21, 2009

I winnowed email over the weekend. I noticed what seemed to be an increasing amount of conference spam. I don’t want to name the offending conference organizers, but I think that traditional conference organizers must be feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. For example, I just learned that one conference outfit that asked me to give a talk wants me to pay several hundred dollars to publish my presentation. I ignored the request. Another outfit sent me a list of 10 reasons to attend a mobile conference in Barcelona. Hey, Barcelona is a great city, but in today’s economic environment, I am not buying my own ticket to Spain so I can learn about mobile phones. I can read some Web log posts and interact with people on this Web log. Another outfit has told me that I can learn about the future of enterprise search. Sorry. Enterprise search doesn’t have much of a future. The most successful companies are providing systems that mesh with work processes and deliver actionable intelligence or some other buzzword just not “enterprise search”. The recent pull out from the IDG Apple conference sent shock waves through the conference world. If Apple jumps to the CES 2010 show, what happens to Macworld? What about information conferences that try to cover multiple disciplines in the unruly world of digital data? Those puppies confuse the attendees and anger the exhibitors. What’s network attached storage have to do with eDiscovery and licensing news from Factiva? Answer: not much from an exhibitors’ point of view I opine.

There are some promising new conferences coming along. I am not including the “in crowd” meet ups that occur routinely in the San Jose – San Francisco corridor. The go to search meeting for 2009 seems to be the Infonortics’ Boston meeting. You can find information about that program here. I have a vested interest in this conference for three reasons:

  1. I roll out the findings from my most recent analyses of Google’s patent documents and technical papers. The period from April 2008 to the present has been Google’s most productive. Few know about Google’s broader technology thrusts outside of the Googleplex.
  2. I fund and oversee the Evvie Award. Named in honor of one of the leading online innovators, Ev Brenner, the award recognizes the best presentation developed for the conference. The judging panel’s criterion is to answer the question “Would Ev have liked the presentation?” The people making the value judgment typically include Sue Feldman (IDC), Liz Liddy (Syracuse University), and David Evans (Justsystems), among others. The recipient receives a modest cash honorarium and an equally modest trophy. The value is peer recognition at this important conference.
  3. I learn from speakers who “do” search and content processing. I don’t endure presentations from the exhibitors or the best friends of the conference organizer.

Infonortics, unlike some of the near-death and deadly dull conferences, limits the number of attendees. Register early or find yourself waiting for next year.

Stephen Arnold, January 21, 2009


2 Responses to “Conference Spam or Conference Prime Rib”

  1. Daniel Tunkelang on January 21st, 2009 11:48 am

    Stephen, I’m looking forward to meeting you at Infonortics.

    I’m also curious how my own touting of the SIGIR Industry Track fares vis a vis your spam filter. I’m personally excited to be involved with an event that is not beholden to any vendor or analyst, but rather to the world’s most reputable organization in the area of information retrieval: the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR).

    More details about the event are forthcoming, but let me share an important one: none of the speakers or their employers are paying to be on the agenda. Rather, the agenda consists of invited talks and panels, vetted by the SIGIR Organizing Committee ( The model for the event is last year’s CIKM Industry Event (, but I’ll be so bold as to say we’re stepping it up a notch.

    This isn’t a vendor user conference like Endeca Discover or FASTForward, nor is it a “vendor-neutral” conference in name only where vendors, analysts, and consultants are paying for air time. And, while it won’t be free, it is being run by a non-profit organization whose goal is to serve the community, not to line its pockets.

    I hope that you and others will support this welcome change.

  2. A Shadow Falls on Search Related Conferences : Beyond Search on January 27th, 2009 12:04 am

    […] I was completely wrong in my opinion piece “Conference Spam or Conference Prime Rib” here. I enjoy a lively debate. I like intense discussions even more when I have no interest whatsoever […]

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta