FOSS4GNA 2015 – A Summary

Mar 15, 2015 | GIS, Open Source GIS, QGIS

As anyone who writes anything must do – I start with a quote:

So much universe, and so little time – Terry Pratchett

There are a lot of quotes I could start with – but that one sorta covers it since I’ve been struggling for a few days on how to summarize foss4gna and Mr Pratchett has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

I’m really burned out on conferences. If someone asks me to go to one – I’ll show up and talk. The only one I planned on making this year was this one. It’s my second one. I was at the 2013 conference in Minneapolis.

So – how do I summarize it? Lets try this….

I am living more and more on this side of the tracks – the open source side. Why? No Cost Software? Not really – It helps – but it’s a very technically challenging and full filling side of my life. My first ESRI conference was gritty – it was fun. It had that fly by the seat of your pants feel. My last ESRI conference had so many ties in it I went to the beach for about half the conference. This conference is like the first ESRI one: gritty. So many of my tools are open source I want to go and see what is happening in the field. It’s an innovative conference. There is so much occurring that you may end up with completely competing ideas in one room – and you may get to watch those people with those ideas sit and discuss them.

I did the QGIS class while I was out there. It is a full 8 hour class – and I had three hours to do it in – and I did it. We skipped a few sections and skipped the exercises BUT – everyone has the chance to go back to their office and work through it. The interesting thing that did happen was I asked for a show of hands “How many GIS/ESRI people to we have?” and about half the class raised their hands (maybe 35 people in the room). That made me happy – perhaps desktop GIS isn’t as dead as some claim. To me that was a lot of GIS people for this conference. I know – it’s GIS software but it seems to be attracting more “regular” GIS users. I met people from Atlanta to Mississippi to Los Angeles to Canada to Austria who work in the geospatial field. Who aren’t programmers. Who just want to wrangle data and provide answers.


  • AmigoCloud
  • I had a chance to hang with CartoDB and talk to some of the people with the company.
  • Learned about LocationTech
  • ESRI was there
  • Boundless was there
  • MapBox was there
  • OpenDroneMap was flying high.
  • I can build a drone – I sat through a demo on doing that.
  • PySal
  • Sat through a presentation where Michael Terner from AppGEO made the pitch that Open Source GIS is ready for the business world and has been for many years.
  • GISCube and received a personal demo

The beautiful thing about all of these talks and all of these ideas – it’s not falling out of one vendor. It’s a mix. It’s all an interconnected network of people, thoughts, and ideas. You might ask – “what does this have to do with me I’m an all Arc shop?” – It has everything to do with you. This is GIS. Your job is GIS.

The event was combined with Eclipsecon – and I still have slightly no clue what they do (better than what I did) but there was so much happening with FOSS4G I never wandered over to their half of the show. Also – Women! I’m going to hazard a guess that thanks to a lot of outreach there was probably 40% female representation on the Geo side of the conference. My one complaint (and I’ll only have a few) – there is so much time spent making sure female representation is there we miss (to me) ethnicity. We are still a white male dominated field – but there could be more color there (remind me to tell you at some point about high school and why this is important to me). We had Asian and Indian and some African Americans – but – we can do better especially on the African American side of things. That’s a hard sector to go after I know and if you looked there is probably a woeful lack of diversity in FOSS4G……BUT…  I hate to even mention it because all you have to do is talk about skin color and the room starts getting uncomfortable. Except it’s my room up here. So I’ll make it uncomfortable. **Edit – every geo conference is a problem (IMO) – not just this one. It’s my take on Geo in particular. Because – I was African American on my school database for a while in High School. Oh the stories I could tell…and will one day**

*** EDIT: SEE Below Comments from Andrew Ross the coordinator – I had this one off in my estimating – cost was much lower – $1200 was last minute registration. It was in line with FOSS4GNA in 2013. I goofed***My biggest complaint on the event – the cost. I spoke. I did a workshop. Several people were asking me what I was paid and entrance was free because of speaking/teaching. I know FOSS4G is climbing into more businesses – but I never considered this a corporate event (I ain’t putting on a tie for anyone). $1200 to $1500 dollars (US) is a lot to choke down if you are a small business or an individual wanting to see what this is all about. My last 2013 event was probably $400. Maybe more. So – the price needs to come down.  I couldn’t afford this one had I not spoke or taught a workshop. It worries me on the people who couldn’t afford to attend because of price. I hope 2016 lowers in cost. I hope 2016 finds itself on the right hand side of North America. I know it’s not a US centric conference but Atlanta is nice this time of year (HINT)

Anyway – enough of my complaining – when this happens again make a goal to attend. You need to be there. You need to see the things occurring in Free and Open Source Software For GIS. It’s important. It’s revolutionizing this field in which we work.

I await the 2016 conference.

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