Thoughts, notes and quotes from the Online Information 2008 Seminars: Part 1

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 10 December 2008

Last week I was at the Online Information Exhibition in Olympia, representing my role as a contributing editor for FUMSI at the FreePint stand. It also meant I got a chance to wander around lots of the stalls, and to attend quite a few sessions for the 5-track free seminar programme that takes place away from the main Online Information presentation programme.

Although it is very much the younger sibling of the event, the seminars nevertheless had a series of really interesting and useful talks. Over the next few days I'll be posting some of my thoughts, notes and the best quotes from the sessions I attended.

"Monitoring and analysis of social media" - Will Critchlow

"Usually in a situation like this you ask people to turn their mobile phones off. I'm going to ask you to turn your social media off...unless you are saying nice things about me on Twitter"

Will tried to pull off the daredevil stunt of live PowerPoint editing during his talk - but I didn't get to see the outcome as I was at the very back of a crowded session, behind a strategically placed screen which allowed me to hear but not see the presentation.

He was addressing one of the ongoing concerns around social media - how do you measure it? Having seen the recent Chinwag Live session on a similar topic, it was good to hear a different perspective.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that I took from the talk was the attempt to ape the kind of value measurements that the PR industry applies - the "equivalent advertising value". He suggested that understanding the volume of people who had been exposed to a brand for a social media campaign, multiplied by the cost of advertising to that many people through those channels, gave a measurable level of value.

He also had a useful nugget to pass on to any senior manager concerned about the impact of social media on a brand:

"This isn't something that has been invented by the Internet. People have been taking the pi$$ out for your brand forever. It's just they used to do it in the pub, and now they can do it on the web and, if they are really funny, get 100,000 page views"

"An overview of social networking: Uses, opportunities and pitfalls" by Arthur Weiss

Another session that featured social media was the one from Arthur Weiss on the Wednesday morning. Arthur recently wrote a fantastic article for FUMSI looking at gathering competitive intelligence from other people's websites, and he applied some of the same techniques to social networking.

Arthur Weiss logos slide

He was the first presenter I've seen in a long time to namecheck and Friends Reunited as the original 'old skool' social networks on the web, and used a show of hands to illustrate his point that not all social networks are global. Nobody was a member of Orkut, and very few belonged to several other networks he mentioned which were dominant in territories other than the UK. Nearly 90% of the audience were members of Facebook however.

Arthur talked about the old days of cold-calling companies and trying to speak to senior people in the organisation. Basically, he said, 'if they hadn't been in the press, you had no chance of knowing names or job titles'. Now he is able to use sites like LinkedIn to build a very thorough picture of an organisation and the people in it before he even starts to call.

Like several presenters, he also got drawn into trying to describe Twitter, saying that you could be Tweeting:

"I'm at online"
"I'm speaking at online"
"I'm getting bored by someone speaking online"

Arthur gave a quick run through of some services that were new to a large proportion of the audience, including Twine, yoName and Spokeo. There was even time for a topical mention of the demise of Pownce.

My favourite quote:

"Statistics show that you are probably signed up to 1.6 social networking sites. That's to go with the 2.2 children you had the other year."

"eReading strategies: Reading for a degree in a digital learning environment" by Jill Beard and Penny Dale

I caught a little bit of this session on the final day about the changing face of library use in the UK's Universities. I have to say that I think the Online Information event is the only place you'd find a librarian standing up and talking about social networking and the Web 2.0 context of knitting. Real knitting. With wool and everything.

This was a really pertinent topic about the way that digital technology impacts usage of educational resources, as it is a well known media mantra that students today are less well equipped to study and have limited concentration spans. The talk had some fascinating figures, in fact showing that although traditional book issues in the University Library had declined, when you added digital usage to the numbers, you were actually seeing an increase in aggregate use.

Shift To E slide

Seeing the Sony eReader described as 'Web 2.0 technology' seemed a bit of a stretch for even that elastic catch-all term, but interestingly this year the University has given MBA students either a Sony eReader, an iPhone or an unspecified alternative, so that they can assess which is of more use to the students. There was a strong feeling that students preferred multi-function devices, and that the ease of reading "eInk" on the Sony machine may not be enough of a draw.

Library Sony

The centre-point of the slides was a shot of the very busy Bournemouth University library, which today's students are using as a "social learning space". Something I entirely approve of, unless, as sometimes happens, I'm trying to use the British Library as an office and can't get to a desk with a plug socket because it is full of students...


Tomorrow in part two I'll have some thoughts, notes and quotes on another 3 of the seminar sessions I attended at Online Information.


I completely agree with Arthur Weiss.

Thanks for the write up, Martin. Sorry you couldn't see my slides (and the only reason for the live ppt editing was that a font wasn't installed on the machine so it was coming out in hieroglyphics!).

Glad you took something useful away from it though.

You can find my presentation here

It won't be that useful for people that weren't there, but maybe it can be useful for you since you heard me deliver it!

Kool overview... I tried for the first time... a bit confusing. is much easier


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