I attended SIGIR2013 in Dublin at the end of July. I had a fantastic time and I met many interesting and smart people.
As the author of the JumpStation in 1993, I was invited to participate in a panel Celebrating 20 Years of Web Search chaired by Professor Alan Smeaton and in the company of Stephen Robertson, Ricardo Baeza-Yates, and Paddy Flynn. After nearly twenty years away from the IR community this invite was a daunting prospect and I needed some convincing that I was the right person. Mark Sanderson and Páraic Sheridan convinced me. I am very glad that they did.
It has been a long time since I was in front of over 500 people and I think my pre-panel nerves were entirely normal. The panel itself was a lot of fun. Alan kept us all on topic and we each spoke from our knowledge and experiences. At the end, to celebrate Stephen’s career, Alan presented him with a book of messages of support and thanks. The applause for Stephen was long and heartfelt and yet another positive indication of the IR community.
Before and after the panel I attended tutorials and panel sessions. Every time I saw BM25 on the screen I grinned, having newly learned who and where it came from. I learned about TREC test collections and how the participation and results processes encourage collaboration. I learned a little about cross-language IR and how the availability of EU laws in multiple languages provides a Rosetta stone of sorts for statistical translation purposes. At many of the panels I felt like a cave-man teleported into the modern world – a mentally challenging experience for me to bridge the gap between web search twenty years ago and now.
The conference left me with a sense of the community and collaboration of the Information Retrieval community. I experienced this community watching people at registration and at the social events and by observing the way the conference participants interacted with each other in the panels and sessions. SIGIR is a gathering of friends and peers with shared interests and goals. I was (am!) very happy to be welcomed into the community.
The conference was planned and operated really well. The conference chairs Páraic and Gareth Jones and organizer Sarah Collins made it looked effortless for the participants. Thank you and congratulations on a great conference.
I had such a good time in Dublin that I want to attend SIGIR2014!
Update (2013-09-04): Joe Miller wrote an article for the BBC about search engine origins.
Update (2013-09-05): Jonathan Brown wrote an article for the Independent about search engine origins.
Update (2013-09-29): Mathures Paul wrote an article for the Indian Telegraph.