Very sad to see the following notice on the Online Information Show website:
We regret to announce the closure of the Online Information Show - the conference will not take place in 2014. The Online Information team would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our advisory board members, speakers, sponsors and delegates who have participated in and contributed to the show in previous years.
I have very fond memories of 'Online' as everyone always used to refer to it. I haven't been to every single one, but I was at most - either going around the exhibition, working on a stand with SilverPlatter (there's another name from the past), running a Masterclass, or speaking/moderating at the conference. The exhibition was huge - I always made it into a 2 day event if possible, because it simply wasn't do-able in one day. My strategy was simple - day 1 in jeans and get the basics and be ignored, go home and read up, then day 2 in the suit and talk to the people that I wanted to - and who would now talk to me thanks to the suit!
In the early days of CD-ROM, which would be back in the late 80s and early 90s Online was at its peak - at one point the exhibition covered 3 floors with hundreds of stands - often really tiny ones as all the new CD-ROM publishers tried to make a name for themselves, all selling variations of Medline it seemed to me. I remember one of the silly joys of the exhibition was going around trying to pick up as many freebies as possible - and in the hayday there really were a wide variety of them. These days the tins of Quality Street really don't do it. One year SilverPlatter produced helium balloons to promote the stand, and we were very surprised when people asked for them, and then walked the around the exhibition. We had to keep getting more, and transporting 100 helium filled balloons was no mean feat!
I remember when the 'internet thing' started as well - there was an entire basement for the Internet companies, and a real scandal when Demon Internet Services employed two young women dressed in very skimpy red demon outfits to floorwalk. This was only beaten by the year one Dutch company I think it was employed a naked model who was body painted during the course of the day.
For me though it was just the word 'Online' that really did it for me. I suppose it's the nerdy geek coming out, but it was always an event to look forward to. An opportunity to see friends you hadn't seen from last year, see what new things companies were offering, play around with new databases and tools, grab the latest magazines...
Laterly I got involved in the conference itself. One of my ambitions was to speak at Online. It was THE place to get an opportunity to talk to colleagues, and if you were invited to speak, that was really something - you had absolutely made it onto the circuit then. In those very early days the idea that I'd actually make it onto the Executive Committee that chose topics and speakers would have absolutely blown my mind completely! I always loved being at Online - both conference and exhibition, and I learned a huge amount, met some wonderful people, and generally had a great time. I remember the trek across London, standing for what seemed like hours on freezing cold platforms waiting for the one in tenth train that would take us up to Olympia. One year I got so angry at the wait I just shouted to the world 'I want an Olympia train NOW!' and a few seconds later, up it came onto the board, and everyone cheered. Online Information was that kind of show - there was a great feeling of cameraderie with it; you'd sit and chat with strangers, eat a packed lunch sitting on the floor while reading all the promotional material, or rushing from meeting to meeting while trying to squeeze in a talk here or a session there.
Of course, times change, and over the years Online did as well. The smaller stands disappeared as the companies got bought out, and individual stands just got bigger and bigger as the corporates took over. It didn't take 2 days to get around the exhibition - it took less than 2 hours. However, the masterclasses were always full, and the conference was still of the highest quality. But these days, the annual event is far less important - it's so easy to create unconferences, and smaller is generally seen as better than bigger, and we share so much more via the Internet. However, for those of us who still need our annual fix of conference there is always the Internet Librarian International conference which is on October 21st and 22nd at Olympia. It's also a great conference and I love it as well, but it has its own voice, flavour and memories, exactly as it should do.
So - farewell Online - thanks for all the memories, thanks to everyone at Incisive Media for running it, and most especially Lorna Candy, as well as colleagues on the Executive Committee. Thanks also to all the exhibitors, visitors, speakers and delegates over the years. You'll be missed.