The Search Conference Wars

November 24, 2010

I was in Washington, DC last week for the Mark Logic Government Summit. I estimated that there were between 450 and 550 people at the Tyson’s Corner-area event.

I learned from a colleague at a conference across town that there were 1,200 people at the Information Today multi-part search, knowledge management, and digital everything conference at the Renaissance Center in the District of Columbia.

Sys-Con’s “Endeca Government Summit: Important Context on a Key Mission Area” reported:

The Endeca Government Summit was yesterday.  The agenda included some fantastic presentations from customers who have used Endeca to address issues requiring incredible scale (billions of records) and incredible scope (including the need to discover meaning in data in milliseconds) and human-focused interfaces (including, in every solution I saw, an ability to enable humans to interact with data in ways that search never enables).

I heard that there were “hundreds” at the Endeca event.

I don’t doubt that the encomia in the Sys-Con write up is accurate. The Mark Logic Conference was excellent, but I was a captive participant and anything in which I get involved looks great from my vantage point. I think Mark Logic’s speaker line up from the military was more timely than Endeca’s but that’s my opinion.

The Information Today event yielded little feedback, and I assume that like its other conferences, the Information Today event was like previous Information Today events.

My views on these competing events are as follows:

  • Vendors definitely like to target November for conferences
  • Stacking up search and content processing conferences at about the same time is like the medieval practice of grouping shoe makers on the same street
  • There must be a heck of a lot of people in Washington, DC with an unquenched thirst for information about finding information.

What’s this tell me?

I think there will be more piling on. An anchor conference—say, for instance, the Information Today road shows with their predictable line up of topics and speakers—pulls attention to a window of time. Then the savvy vendors target a conference at the same time, offering possibly more compelling programs. The result is a conference competition.

Who wins?

My view is that the magnet conference is carrying much of the marketing cost burden. Once the anchor event publicizes what it is doing, it becomes somewhat easier for other organizers to offer another venue to customers and prospects.

What happens when the magnet loses some of its pulling power? Interesting question. For now, the conference wars are minor skirmishes in the fight for the hearts and minds of information access. What’s ahead? Interesting question.

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2010



One Response to “The Search Conference Wars”

  1. Seth Grimes on November 24th, 2010 6:23 am

    The MarkLogic and Endeca shows — and Open Text Content World, which took place just a couple of weeks before in the Washington DC area — are vendor productions with core audiences of the vendors’ customers, prospects, and partners. They don’t have to turn a profit, they don’t have to be balanced, and their goals are somewhat different from third-party content-domain conferences such as Information Today’s, Gilbane’s and my own. Bottom line: Apples and Oranges, both Fruit, but not the same.

    I think there were two different magnets here, neither of them a conference. Open Text was drawn by the Gaylord near Alexandria Virginia, a large, conference center that has been underutilitized since it opened at the start of the current recession, likely because of its crappy location, near but not in Washington, no accessible by public transportation. Next year, the Open Text event will be in Orlando, which is capable of hosting a large conference.

    The Information Today in the fall of each year had been, before this year, in San Jose. Given that the spring events are in New York, I find the switch to Washington DC interesting. My guess is that more regular & potential attendees live in the northeast US so that it makes sense to have both conferences in the northeast. Myself, I wouldn’t have attended the Enterprise Search Summit, part of the Information Today event, if it had been in San Jose.

    MarkLogic’s and Endeca’s conferences were *government* summits so of course they were in the Washington area. Bring the conference to the audience, just as MarkLogic did in locating its Digital Publishing Event, and just as I did in locating my Smart Content event, in New York. Both were in October.

    If you want to hold a conference in the fall, October and the first halves of November and December constitute your window. It’s hard to publicize a conference over the summer, making September less desirable, and you need to avoid the weeks of & before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    I think conference producers prefer to avoid “stacking.” I have one friend at MarkLogic who couldn’t come to Smart Content because of the time proximity to the Digital Publishing Summit.

    … so a different take.

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