Thoughts on FOSS4GNA 2016

FOSS4G has been my favorite conference since I attended the first Mapserver meeting in 2003. I've attended each North American installment since then...except for the 2012 NA meeting in DC. I shared about this in my talk Adventures of a Solo GIS Consultant. (The map for my talk is below)

The 2016 edition FOSS4GNA did not dissapoint. In fact it was one of the best, and not because I fell in love with Raleigh the way I did with Victoria in 2007, or Portland in 2014. Raleigh was nice, but it was more about the conversations between the talks. I loved that the organizers gave us so many long breaks. The rain all week also helped keep me inside :)

Perhaps it is because I work for myself that being around all these like minded folks is so stimulating. Perhaps it's because I get to meet people I know from Twitter, face-to-face. I loved the moments when I was standing in a group of people and we're all introducing ourselves, by our Twitter handles, like "I'm @spara." Perhaps it's being around some of the smartest people I know. I know it's a little of all of these. FOSS4G is more than the sum of it's parts. I always learn new things, but if that is all it was, I wouldn't keep going back. It's because there is a community of people behind the twitter handles. OsGeo has done a great job of fostering a community with these conferences.

I met a lot of people I knew from social networking like @sarasomewhere, fellow Locate Press author @PetersonGIS, #gistribe members @gisn8, @UUDreams, @MicheleTobias & @spara. I made some new friends too, like @GuidoS & @TinaACormier, and it is always nice to be able to catch up with people like @rjhale.

The workshops on Monday were great. I attended the GDAL/OGR workshop taught by Sara Safavi & Sasha Hart and the Getting the most out of QGIS with Python by Chris Daley. Each had a good mix of review and new material. 

The BoF sessions were a highlight. I sat in on QGIS, #gistribe and Women in GIS. The latter was a great discussion and I really appreciated hearing the experiences women have at FOSS4G and in the workplace. I've seen the numbers of women increasing over the years at FOSS4G, but it was good to hear how it could be more inclusive.

Of course there were many great talks. Some of my highlights were:

  • State of the QGIS Project by Larry Shaffer
  • Awaken the QGIS Within by Gretchen Peterson
  • Uncovering Ancient Mound Builders Using Open Data and FOSS Software by Calvin Hamilton
  • Cartography with Inkscape by Michele Tobias
  • WTFGL: a beginner's guide to the future of open source web mapping by Lyzi Diamond
  • Empirical Mining of Large Data Sets Help to Solve Practical Large-Scale Forest Management and Monitoring Problems by Bill Hargrove

I also greatly underestimated the keynote addresses. Each day I'd look at the title and say, "Maybe I can skip this and sleep in, or go get a good breakfast." But I ended up attending each one, and they were all fascinating. Each a little out of the box and provacative in just the right way.

Thanks to the organizing committee for putting together a great conference. I thought the venue, the session schedule, the food and the communication were all outstanding. 

FOSS4GNA Raleigh Organizing Committee

I wish I had the budget to go to the 2nd QGIS meeting in Gerona or FOSS4G in Bonn. Realistically though the next time I'll be able to add to my map is FOSS4G in Boston in 2017. So hopefully I'll see you there!

PS...after FOSS4GNA I met my wife in NYC to celebrate my birthday. NYC didn't dissappoint. The map of our adventures is below!