A Trip to Sydney

I went to Sydney yesterday – it was a work thing – a meeting about the state of play about data citation.

It was valuable, not in the least because of the opportunity to network – one problem about being based in Canberra is that the university data management community is passing small and there’s no real forum to calibrate where you are against your peers.

The formal trip report is available online as a pdf, but what I’m intending in this post is the value add stuff.

Getting there

The meeting was at the old locomotive works in Redfern. This is a set of old railway workshops converted to a conference centre and offices. When I last went there the place still smelled like a workshop and there were people still taking apart machinery in part of the building. Now that’s gone and the building is purely an office cum conference centre, although it, or smething similar, would also make a really good performance space.

A nice feature is that they have left some of the old panel presses as features and a reminder of the building’s industrial past.

However I’m getting ahead of myself. To get there I flew Virgin, which I havn’t done for a few years as Qantas has had a near monopoly of the Canberra Sysdeny route – while there were Virgin flights there were only a few and at inconvenient times. Now they have more flights in the morning and evening and competitive prices. Service is the usual happy-smiley Virgin service, but they are trying really hard – on the way down they handed out coffee that tasted of something and breakfast muffins to thos that wanted them, and on the way back it was distinctly adult fare – zaa’tar and salsa with wine or beer available if you wanted them. The White wine was a reasonable no name sauvingnon blanc in a plastic airline bottle, but no worse than the house wine in the airport bar.

Once in Sydney, it was onto the train. The advantage of the Locomotive Works as a venue is that it is right next to Redfern station. The trains in Sydney are under new management and they were noticably cleaner and shinier than previously, and equally efficient. I did manage to get lost in Central Station – the last time I did this the Eedfern T4 train came in on one of the surface lines, but unbeknownst to me they’d moved the T4 platform to a new platform, #25 in an underground section underneath the station – once I worked that out it was simple and easy to find.

My confusion came about because there is a mismatch between the signage and the travel information on Sydney trains website and is probably just a glitch due to the change of management, with the website referring to the T4 line and the signage referring to the Eastern Suburbs line. If you lived in Sydney you’d know they were the same thing, but I don’t so I didn’t.


I took my seven inch tablet as a note taker, which worked really well until the battery started running low half way through the meeting. While I had my power supply with me, there was a shortage of handy power points so I resorted to the alternative technology – a decent notebook and pen.

Sydney airport has free wifi, albeit with a failrly tedious signin procedure which involves having to click past various ads to get a connection. On the way down I had half an hour to spare so I used it to check my email and suchlike.

On the way back I discovered that Virgin provide stand up desks with power points at the gates so I used one of these to transcribe my notes while waiting for the flight back while recharging my tablet, and then used the airports free wifi to save my notes to google drive as a markdown file for further editing and cleanup.

There was no wifi available at the meeting, or more accurately there was but they weren’t handing out logins. Initially I thought this was a bit mean but as the day wore on I warmed to the idea. No distractions, no urge to check email or twitter, and just concentraing on the discussion. As there was no wi-fi I turned it into an opportunity and turned it off to save my battery.

The meeting

I’d describe it as quietly gratifying. As far as calibrating where we were I’d say we are up with the best of them if not quite so formally structured.

The networking and social chat was useful as it showed that I wasn’t off on a tangent – a lot of people were thinking about similar things as regards integrated search, researcher identification and data citation (and impact) as we were. It also gave let me explain our use of bagit as an archival format, and out work using fido and tika to extract and save the technical metadata.

Clearly there’s a push around altmetrics and data and I clearly have some more reading to do …

Written with StackEdit.

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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