While a team of my coworkers represent my company at the Esri Developer Conference in Palm Springs (which is a great conference, I’ve helped the GISi team lose the dodgeball tournament twice, and have the scars to prove it) I had the opportunity to explore another GIS conference: FOSS4G NA hosted in San Francisco this year.

The FOSS4G conference focuses on Free and Open Source Software for GIS. So far it’s been a great experience. The people have been friendly, and the sessions have been accessible and informative. I’m looking forward to the next few days.

Day 0: Training day

I arrived to FOSS4G early enough to attend a training session on using R to perform spatial analysis. It was a great kick-start to the conference. Not just because hands-on training is a great way to learn, but it’s something 50 peers also accomplished together. This provided great discussion points in the later conversations.

After training, the exhibitors provided a happy hour. As should be expected from any tech conference, once people start to mingle, the computers break out, and a little impromptu bug fixing gets underway!

Day 1

Denise Jacobs’s keynote focused on inspiring creativity. Denise is a “Chief Creativity Evangelist” (which sounds like a great job). Her presentation was a great message for a conference focused not just on Open Source, but for problem solving and continuing to learn new technologies. She challenged us to consider ourselves creative.

My morning sessions followed the PostgreSQL/PostGIS track. I have very little experience with PostGIS, but after 3 sessions I want to rewrite my code! Forget NoSQL! Instead, Yes SQL.

In the afternoon, I went to a session that discussed Open Source and Business. Michael Terner from AppGeo discussed their experiences during the past 5 years highlighting a few of their projects that took a “best of breeds” hybrid approach of using both proprietary and open source solutions. He also shared the process his company takes on how and when to open source some of their projects.

Lauren Ancona gave a presentation on Parkadelphia. She has an impressive story to tell about state/city/agency regulations that weaved an impressive story. She started the presentation with a disclaimer that she was very new to GIS, but she could have fooled the crowd. Philly has an impressive amount of parking regulations which inspired her (at the time, “just a civilian”) to create a simple map that she hosted on map box. Almost overnight it caught the eye of a blogger that wrote a blog post that quickly launched over a 1000 viewers. This is the open source story. Someone very new to GIS was able to solve her problem, that also solved other people’s problems.

Stay tuned for an update on Day 2.

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