ASI National Conference Report
By Paula McCoy
The ASI National meeting was held in Providence, Rhode Island, April 28–30. Titled “Providential Transformation,” the conference included a variety of presentations, from ebooks to Spanish language indexing and indexing using controlled vocabularies and taxonomies. The conference was held at the Hilton Providence, next door to the Dunkin Donuts Center, which also happened to be hosting the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Traffic in and out of the hotel was constant on Saturday afternoon as conference attendees gathered for walking and trolley tours of the city—a festive ending to a busy, sometimes brain-wearying three days of seminars.
There were keynote speeches both Friday and Saturday, and they were very engaging. In his address on Friday morning, Joshua Tallent, founder of eBook Architects (www.ebookarchitects.com), detailed in layman’s terms the technologies of ebook platforms, noting their strengths and their weaknesses. Most important was his belief in the necessity for ebook indexes to exist and to be done right. In concluding, he called on book indexers to push ebook indexes to their publishers, to offer to produce an index workable with an ebook, and to stay aware of methods for producing ebook indexes. The session was well-received, as was a later roundtable session on indexes and ebooks.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was Erin McKean, founder of Wordnik (www.wordnik.com). She was a natural speaker, and probably the funniest speaker I’ve ever heard. She managed to mix in relevant ideas about words and word usage with off-the-wall examples and metaphors, invoking frequent laughter among attendees.
In their session on “Keeping Your Indexing Business Alive and Well,” Pilar Wyman and Janet Perlman talked about the current marketplace for indexers, including pressures on fees and rates. Their experience in bidding for the same job for UNESCO was quite interesting: they both offered the same rate, but Pilar stated in her bid that she was giving the client a “discount,” whereas Janet did not use that language. Pilar got the job, in a great example of how the nuances of a bid proposal can affect the outcome. A good amount of time was spent discussing “working efficiently,” which for many people includes using two monitors and not printing the PDF of the text.
The Wilson Award was presented during the Friday lunch. Michael Brackney spoke about his index to Dōgen's Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Koroku, published by Wisdom Publications. He told me he was worried about the length of his speech, but I assured him that I enjoyed it, and my luncheon companions agreed.
WordCo sponsored a contest in which attendees were challenged to come up with words spelling out “INDEXER.” The winner was Connie Binder, and she was especially lucky: Joshua Tallent donated a Kindle 3 to the first-place winner!
Three seminars focused on database and controlled vocabulary indexing. In one session, database publishers ProQuest, H.W. Wilson, and American Psychological Association teamed up with the New York Times to talk about their indexing operations. At “Shaking the Tree: Case Studies of Taxonomies in Action,” speakers provided four different perspectives on taxonomy usage and creation, with one delving into the complex world of ontologies. A Saturday session sponsored by the Periodicals/Database Indexing SIG featured three speakers, including Devon Thomas of the Heartland Chapter.
The Heartland Chapter was well represented overall. In addition to Devon, John Bealle provided a tutorial on Regular Expressions; Cathy Seckman presented her session on stretching exercises and ergonomics aimed at preventing injury; and Margie Towery teamed with Kay Schlembach for a two-part session on the index evaluation criteria for the H.W. Wilson Award.
On the software side, attendees benefited from sessions on using CINDEX, MadCap Flare, DEXembed, Macrex, and TExtract. Although some solutions are too expensive for many indexers, or beyond their current level of technical expertise, knowing they are out there is part of the continuing education of an indexer.
As to the conference overall, attendees seemed pleased with the offerings. The timing of the sessions was a slight problem, however. The Friday keynote session right after breakfast ran late, pushing several sessions from then on to a late start and sometimes a late finish; that trend continued into Saturday. It was difficult for some speakers to speed up their presentations because they were met with numerous comments and questions—which was a good thing, indicating a high degree of interest in all the topics covered.
Attendees, as usual, reveled in the opportunity to socialize with people they only see once a year, if that, or people they’ve only communicated with via email. I had dinner with people from New York, Texas, Panama, Florida, Minnesota, California, and even Ottawa, Canada. The half hour breaks were almost too long—given our propensity to always use more than the allotted break time! The Providence Hilton was ideally situated between downtown and a mostly Italian neighborhood featuring dozens of restaurants and bakeries, and not far from the historic district, home to the Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum. There was no shortage of local delis and coffee shops. Overall, the ASI National Conference was again a well-attended event featuring forward-thinking, insightful speakers and topics.
© 2011 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.