Speaker Spotlight

We took the time to interview a few of our speakers to get their insights on search and on their upcoming sessions at WebSearch University! Keep coming back as we will update periodically.

Mary Ellen Bates
Principal, Bates Information Services, Inc.

Q: You’ve spoken before about competitive intelligence and, as you point out, competition is a fact of life in so many different areas of our lives. Is there really much that’s new to say about CI? Any new tools and approaches you plan to highlight? 

I’m not talking as much about new approaches as I am about how to think differently about your competitive landscape, especially for people who don’t regularly conduct more formal CI research. A friend of mine who is a private investigator once told me, “We don’t call those coincidences; we call those clues.” My presentation will look how to spot those clues-not-coincidences and insights that come from looking sideways – finding the non-obvious ways to glean insights using the web, social media and professional online services.


Barbie Keiser
President, BEK Consulting

Q: You’re a strong advocate for openness in government, believing that transparency is good for everybody, not just information professionals. Is this trend toward openness going to continue? 

It’s not always a straight path, but there is no question that we are moving toward greater transparency in government, in part, enabled by technology. Governments around the globe are codifying the right of the governed to information about their governments’ work to create better societies, and people are using all sorts of means to hold governments accountable.

Along with this openness, government agencies are releasing larger datasets and time series that may have been available to those few who knew in which the data they sought was likely to reside. Now, data repositories allow users to discover large datasets of interest to them. Utilizing advanced technologies, users are able to mix-and-match datasets, uncovering patterns and predicting likely scenarios useful for planners both inside government and out.

This conference is being held in Washington, DC, so it would be logical to highlight federal agency efforts and approaches to open government data, identifying repositories and tools that could be helpful to attendees when they return to their offices. However, we must look farther afield, for innovations at local levels of government, along with their partnerships with technology innovators, academia, not-for-profit organizations, and citizens who work to build tools that engage the public in decisions that affect their own communities. Examples include the ability to identify issues related to traffic, beyond potholes, and see how quickly they are remedied; where the next public library should be located (and the services offered); and participatory budgeting efforts.

There is good news for those who’ve sought accurate and timely data from nations around the globe—especially developing and emerging nations. Not having to deal with legacy systems, many are at the forefront of “open government” and we now have the means to measure progress on a number of fronts, including release of national statistics, government budgets and spending, legislation, elections, company registers, pollution abatement, water quality, and land ownership; government procurement; and investment in transportation and health improvements. All of this will be addressed in a Websearch University session, “The future is open.”


Q: Barbie, why should web searchers know about tagging content and auto-categorization? What will they learn from your workshop?

Okay, you’re a taxonomist, but your world has just become a lot bigger and more complex. You thought you just needed to find the right terms – make the correct equivalencies – and turn it over to IT. Not so fast. Today’s taxonomist responsibilities reach much farther, extending to the use of terms in tagging of content to improve findability; uncovering related material through faceted search; managing complex governance structures as more people have permissions for creating and uploading content; and assisting IT in developing the workflows and enterprise governance mechanisms that makes all of this possible.

Auto-categorization tools are becoming increasingly complex, employing a range of approaches and methodologies to accurately mine text and helping search engines deliver accurate answers. In addition to exploring the options, the workshop is designed to help you build a business case for acquiring the tool, selecting the right tool for your organization, and testing the tool based on a test plan you’ve created.

What must you include in your RFP? What does your taxonomy implementation plan look like? How can you devise a governance strategy that’s appropriate for your organization’s culture? We’ll cover all of these aspects of expanded taxonomy development in a group discussion, but we want to give you a chance to go beyond this. Attendees can choose the activity that interests them the most—developing the business case for acquiring an auto-categorization tool; designing a process for selecting the right tool for your organization; creating a test plan; writing a governance document—depending on the needs of their organizations at this point in time. Representatives from several vendors will facilitate roundtable discussions for contextualizing the generic documents to your needs and answer questions you may have about the various tools covered during the first part of the session.

By the end of this workshop, you should be ready to go back to your organization get started. So, join us on Monday afternoon, September 12, for Websearch University’s Tagging and Auto-categorizing content workshop.


Marydee Ojala
Editor-in-Chief, O
nline Searcher magazine

Q: Piracy? Really? You're going to talk about piracy in the context of web searching? 

A: Yes, really, piracy. And it’s not just arrived with the internet, either, or with the pirate site Sci-Hub that wants to “liberate” scholarly articles. As long as we’ve had databases in libraries—and that goes back 40 years now—we’ve had people trying to steal information, sometimes to profit from their ill-gotten gains but sometimes to support the philosophical belief that all information should be freely available. The information industry, both producers and consumers of information, are affected by piracy and by plagiarism. I’m going to give some examples and raise issues surrounding the practical and ethical fallout from piracy and plagiarism. I’ve got my pirate costume ready.


Tracy Z. Maleeff
Principal, Sherpa Intelligence LLC

Q: Information security is something you’ve become very interested in recently. How does “info sec” affect us and how scared should we be? 

A:  Information security affects all of us. Your personal data can be at risk to exposure to criminals not only invading your privacy, but hurting your financial stability. It’s something to be taken seriously, that’s for sure. Having good information security practices is not very different from locking your house before you leave for the day. Know which precautions to take so that you won’t be constantly scared! My session will introduce you to the vocabulary of basic information security, and as librarians, how to research it effectively to be in the know of this fast paced topic.