A tale of two FOSS4G meetings

Aug 16, 2018 | FOSS4G, OSGEO, QGIS, Tennessee, Training

In the Spring of 2017 I had a small FOSS4G meeting in Knoxville TN and the general feeling after it finished was “When are we doing this again?”. So the conversation started and surprise – we had two meetings.

The first meeting happened in Knoxville on August 13th 2018. We had 9 presentations. The big headache I had with this meeting is it all comes down to sponsorship. I wanted it cheap – but I didn’t want to do in the hole again to do this. So we had sponsors. We also had a $10 dollar charge that could be offset with a scholarship if needed.

We had right around 50 people and covered everything from postgis tricks to measuring vegetation in the Great Smokey Mountains with LIDAR.

The second meeting was in Huntsville Alabama on August 14th 2018. The GIS Association of Alabama stepped forwarded and covered all the expenses. There was no charge for this one.

Fifty people came from the North End of the State to hear about QGIS, working with FOSS4G tools, and Jupyter Notebooks.

So what is the point? Actually is there a point? I sat around most of the day playing with how I wanted to summarize these two meetings. Meetings like this are hard. You have catering, a worry no one will show up, and a bigger worry no one will come and speak. We gave close to 100 people a chance to see something different. Which was double of what we did last year.

When I first started going to GIS meetings back in 1995 it was exciting. People would get up and speak and we’d all compare notes and figure out that we were all wrestling with the same problems. We were writing AMLS and buying workstations and digitizing old maps. Everyone had some sort of ESRI based user group. Maybe they were Intergraph. Maybe they had bought other software.

Flash forward to now and I’m consulting and not working for the Feds. User group meetings have morphed into these multi day extravaganzas that meet in your area…possibly not. You have to budget time and hotel reservations and it’s just a pain. So you end up not talking to your fellow geo people….or as we saw over the last two days people with specialties where geo is another trick in the bag.  Of course there is twitter and slack and facebook and linkedin and 100 different ways to talk to one another. What if you don’t?

So lets have a meeting centered around FOSS4G……or meetings. They don’t have to cost much. Maybe they cost $10 a person. Maybe they are free.  For Knoxville I poured about 2 to 3 hours a week over the course of 3 months…so about 40 hours. It wasn’t that hard – get a few people together and it’s less difficult. Find a low cost/free location. Huntsville had theirs in a courtroom. Knoxville had theirs at the University.

So in 2018 – I would like to get people together to talk about FOSS4G. Maybe you have a friend with a commercial solution in place for his organization. Maybe they have nothing. I think ESRI owes a large part of their success from the early days of getting people together to talk. We can do the same for QGIS/PostGIS/Geoserver/GDAL/etc. It’s a big world out there – you can mix and match about everything. I may not be able to make a North America Meeting (FOSS4GNA). Maybe these smaller meetings can scratch an itch for people and I can do that instead.

There’s no one to tell me I can’t. So what am I going next year? Workshops and a meeting in Knoxville. It sounds like the same thing will happen in Huntsville.

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