The annual Search Solutions conference organised by the Information Retrieval Specialist Group of the British Computer Society is an example of a great small conference. Eleven presentations in the course of the day, mostly well presented and addressing very current issues, made for some frantic note taking. Charlie Hull has beaten me to it with his description of the presentations, so let me try to convince you to put the event into your calendar next year.

The audience of around 60 were a mix of people from both the search management and information retrieval research communities, which made for some very interesting networking. All of the presenters respected the time slot they had been given and also recognised that they were talking to an informed audience so could get quickly into the substance of their papers. The session chairs were “in charge”, making sure that questions were asked and answered and also making sure the conference kept to time. Throughout the day we were never more than a few minutes away from schedule. That’s the precision element of search.

The conference also managed to achieve high relevance as well, with papers on everything from leading edge voice search query management from Google (a stunning opening paper) to how to get some quick wins in the messy world of poorly supported enterprise search. My only disappointment was that the two vendor papers from Coveo and Ravn did not give any evidence from case studies that supported their respective convictions that enterprise search can be implemented in a day and that integrating social and enterprise content results in significant improvements in search satisfaction.

The only downside of the BCS venue in central London is the conference is held in two rooms opened up to be a single area, so there are two screens with the speaker positioned to the extreme right of the room. Sitting on the left-hand side I felt a little detached from the experience and passion exhibited by all the presenters. Good food though and plenty of space to have one-on-one discussions without being overhead. There were tutorials on the day before the conference but unfortunately I was not able to fit them into my schedule.

Overall the IRSG Committee did an outstanding job in organising such a valuable and enjoyable event. See you there next year.

Martin White