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Roger Clarke's '30 Yrs of Bled, and Counting'

30 Years of the Bled eConference
From Past to Future

Preparatory Notes for a Panel Session at 30th Bled eConference
19 June 2017

Roger Clarke **

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The Bled conferences began 18 months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, 3 years before the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and 5 years before the formation of the European Union. Information and Computing Technologies were primitive, comprising mainframes and mini-computers, Macintoshes for which a hard-drive was still an optional extra, IBM PCs running the a thin veneer of Windows over MS-DOS. Portables were a dream and luggables still only emergent. Analogue cellular was new and digital cellular (2G) several years away, local networking was supported by 10Mbps Ethernet and 300Kbps Appletalk, but tele- (distance) communications were run over lines designed for voice, with modem speeds having reached 2400bps.

The focus of the first five conferences was on the replacement of inter-organisational paperwork by electronic data interchange (EDI). This broadened to inter-organisational systems as a whole. The emergence of transmission lines designed for data rather than voice enabled the explosion of data transmission over distance, and the Internet rapidly became mainstream in the mid-1990s, to provide discoverability and connectability of what had begun as islands of users. The decade from the mid-1990s to the mid noughties was about eCommerce, both B2B and B2C, and related mechanisms for achieving eInteraction among many parties, such as ePublishing, eBusiness and Electronic Services Delivery.

By 2005, the enabling technologies had drifted into the background, and the Conference's founder signalled the broadening of the event's scope by re-styling it 'the Bled eConference'. All forms of electronic interaction were now in play, with multi-organisational schemes, extra-organisational systems that involved both organisations and individuals outside their corporate boundaries, and consumer-with-consumer and citizen-with-citizen communications.

The Themes selected by Program Chairs provide a trace of the developments in the entire realm of electronic interaction. EDI began as an object of interest in its own right, but was quickly recognised as having implications for organisations, for organisational strategy, and for inter-organisational processes. With the greatly increased degree of interactivity made possible by telecommunications, the decade 1994 to 2004 had as its primary focus the trading of goods and services. Yet, by only the 14th conference, in 2001, the breadth of e's impact was felt to be so great that the title of 'e-Everything' was chosen. Since the switch to an 'eConference' on 'all things e' was made, program chairs have proposed themes that have been functional in nature, such as integration, collaboration and transformation, but with concerns about values, trust, dependability and wellbeing.

The topic-areas of the Outstanding Paper Award-winners, even though they are a very narrow window through which to view developments, evidence the ongoing interests in all of organisational, inter-organisational, consumer services applications of technologies. A slightly deeper analysis by means of tag-clouds of clusters of events shows first paper and then EDI disappearing out of view, but then electronic and Internet also sliding below the surface, as terms associated with adoption and impact come to the fore.

A further indicator of recent trend-lines is to be found in the titles of the Special Interest Tracks that have been curated in recent years by senior Bled community members from across Europe, plus of course ever-present Australians. It's clear that these themes, and the variants that they morph into, will continue to be focal points for some years yet.

In 2012, I suggested a number of areas in which challenges would, or at least should, confront participants in Bled eConferences. Some of these derive from technologies that threaten organisations, and that threaten individuals. Other threats arise from the application of those technologies. The third set has to do with the clashes among the interests of different players, where corporations are becoming dominant; governments are becoming weaker in their control over corporations but stronger in their control over people; and consumers and citizens are suffering from the excessive power of both sectors.


Bled (1988-) Proceedings of the Bled eConference, in hard-copy 1988-2000, and since 2001 on CD, and online at and

Bled (2012) 'The First 25 Years of the Bled eConference' Special Section of 9 Papers, June 2012, at and

Clarke R. (2012a) 'The First 25 Years of the Bled eConference' Notes for a Keynote Address to the 25th Bled eConference, 18 June 2012, at

Clarke R. (2012b) 'The First 25 Years of the Bled eConference: Themes and Impacts' Proc. 25th Bled eConference Special Issue, PrePrint at

Clarke R. & Pucihar A. (2012) 'Electronic Interaction Research 1988-2012 through the Lens of the Bled eConference' Electronic Markets 23. 4 (December 2013) 271-283, PrePrint at

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in Cyberspace Law & Policy at the University of N.S.W., and a Visiting Professor in the Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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Created: 29 May 2017 - Last Amended: 30 May 2017 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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