More than 140 delegates from 21 Australian universities and 10 overseas countries arrived at the Southern Cross University earlier this month for what may have been the world's first international conference to be organised entirely over the Internet.
When AusWeb 95 was announced on the World-Wide Web, the first response came from an academic in Sweden. Within a month the conference was booked out, even before brochures had been printed, and the university found it could have accepted double or triple the numbers. One of the organisers, lecturer in education Allan Ellis, said details about the conference, including photographs of the venue, accommodation, the menu for food and the wine list were published on the Web. A home page provided for online payments. Mr Ellis said all 61 papers had been submitted electronically and were available on the Web for weeks before the conference started. The conference proceedings would also be available on the web and bound in paper as well as being produced on CD with videos of interviews with key delegates. "This is one of those events Toffler called a 'hinge point' where we are changing from a paper-based system to electronics and the CD is intermediate for those who do not have the bandwidth to tap into all the information via the phone line,'' Mr Ellis said. Because people would have had the chance to read the papers beforehand, the conference had been restructured to allow for much more discussion than was usually possible. Issues covered at the conference included education, business, technical and socio-cultural topics and these had been split into 14 streams, Mr Ellis said. Each stream had a chair and presenter with a moderator there to "tease out the themes for that group''.
*The THES Internet Service is now fully accessible from Australia. The route through the United States is now open to commercial services, following the transfer the former NSFnet into commercial management.