Rediscovering Missing Conference Web Sites
Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 August 2013
I’m a big fan of the Lanyrd service. As described in Wikipedia Lanyrd is “a conference directory website created by Simon Willison and Natalie Downe and launched in 2010“. In November 2010, shortly after Lanyrd’s launch I described Developments to the Lanyrd Service and gave some Further Thoughts on Lanyrd. In May 2012 I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event?, and then in August 2012 I described how Lanyrd Gets Even Better – But Can It Provide The Main Event Web Site?
Last week a post on the Lanyrd blog entitled Find speakers for your events with Lanyrd’s new speaker directory described further developments to the service:
At Lanyrd, we’re building the definitive database of professional events, conferences, talks and speakers. We want to help organisers run better events, speakers get more exposure and attendees find the events that are right for them.
Our brand new speaker directory provides a powerful new way to explore the 70,000+ speaker profiles already on Lanyrd, and helps organisers connect with new talent to help make their events even better.
Since I am experienced speaker I have a professional interest in making use of Lanyrd’s speaker directory in order to provide an online record of my previous speaking activities which may be useful in finding new opportunities in my post-UKOLN career.
Lanyrd Entries For Past Events
In order to ensure that my Lanyrd speaker profile contained a suitable record of my main speaking appearances I wanted to ensure that details of significant international conferences were included.
Back in October 2008 I presented a paper on “Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends” at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference which was organised by the National Library of Singapore. This was a particularly memorable conference for me, not only due to the location but also because I had a couple of weeks holiday afterwards, visiting Malaysia and Thailand. In addition the paper, which was subsequently published in a special edition of the Program journal which featured papers from the conference, is also the most downloaded paper by UKON staff hosted in the University of Bath repository. I was therefore keen on ensuring that this event was included n my Lanyrd speaker profile.
Since there wasn’t a Lanyrd entry for the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference I had to create one. As I was a speaker but not an organiser of the event, there is a question as to who should take responsibility for the creation of an entry. However this is addressed in the Lanyrd FAQ:
I’ve noticed anyone can edit an event and add and remove speakers — is that really a good idea?
Lanyrd works a bit like Wikipedia — we keep track of all changes made to an event (we don’t yet expose that information in the UI) and any vandalism can be quickly reverted.
I therefore decided to create a Lanyrd entry for the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference. However although I had details of my session on the UKOLN Web site I found that the conference Web site, which was at http://www.bridgingworlds.sg/, no longer existed. It was therefore not clear how I would recreate details of all of the talks given at the conference. Such information was needed if the Lanyrd entry for the conference was to have a role to play in providing information on thee talks, the speakers and links to information about the conference.
Digital Archeology Using the Internet Archive and Slideshare
My first port of call in looking for the conference programme was the Internet Archive. Fortunately there had been nine captures of the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference homepage, two captures of the programme for the first day and three for the second day. As illustrated there was sufficient information to find the title, times and speaker information for the talks. This information was used to recreate the conference timetable on Lanyrd.
In addition to the Internet Archive I also discovered that there was a Bridgingworlds2008 Slideshare account which contained the slides used for 18 of the talks together with copies of the papers in three cases. Since Slideshare resources can be embedded within Lanyrd I was therefore able to provide access to the slides used for many of the talks.
However the Internet Archive’s copy of the conference Web site only included a couple of the abstracts so I was not able to reproduce this information for all of the talks.
Since several of the speakers were known to me or could easily be found I was able to find their Twitter ID and use this as an identifier in the Bridging Worlds 2008 speaker directory, as illustrated. It should be noted that in a couple of cases, the information for speakers for whom I do not know their Twitter ID is replicated.
Although this work began in order to provide an entry in my Lanyrd speaker profile, the demise of the conference Web site led to an interesting exercise in ‘excavating’ Web resources in order to reproduce the past and reproduce the information which was discovered in order to provide a resource which may be of use for others.
It does seem that conference Web sites are regarded as displosable, which can be deleted after the conference is over. This is the case for CILIP’s recent Umbrella 2013 conference, held at the University of Manchester on 2-3 July 2013.
If you visit the CILIP Web site you will find that most of the information about the conference, including the dates and location, has vanished. All that remains are links to the presentations (in PDF format). As shown the links provide speaker information but nothing about the timings, the strand they were in, the room locations, etc. More importantly this information is not interoperable with the Social Web: there is no way of providing associations with the talks and commentary about the talks (such as tweets and blog posts) or for the speakers (e.g. their talks at other events; their connections with other speakers and participants at the event).
It does seem that Internet archeology will be needed already for this recent conference. There is a Lanyrd entry for the Umbrella 2013 conference. However this currently has very little information, beyond the conference dates and location. Perhaps motivated individual or individuals from the CILIP community might be willing to recreate the conference timetable (which was previously published in a large PDF file) within the Lanyrd environment, enabling additional information, such as the slides, reports on the talks, links to Twitter archives, etc, to be included as part of the conference record.
But shouldn’t conference organisers take a more pro-active approach in ensuring that (a) conference information is replicated beyond the institutional environment to minimise potential that such information due to in-house decisions and (b) conference information can be integrated with other information sources hosted outside the institution? This has been the approach taken for the IWMW series of events. Wouldn’t it be sensible for other organisations, such as CILIP, Jisc and UCISA, to provide information for many years of high-profile events in this fashion? Of is there still a reluctance to make use of third-party services?