I’ve been debating on how to summarize the FOSS4GNA 2016 Experience – So I’m breaking this up into small digestible chunks and it’s more for my benefit than anything – I left FOSS4GNA with a lot to think about.

In the previous post – I had mentioned one of the reasons I go to this conference is the people. “Randy there are people at every conference” – yeah but this is a bit different.

I’ve been to a lot of conferences. Usually half the day was going to sessions and the other half was cutting out to do something else. Call it old age or “I’ve been doing this way to long” but I don’t cut out on this one (I did once for about an hour though this go around). I usually hang out and find a spare chair or table and just sit there and talk to people. During parts of the conference I’m tracking down Twitter Folk I follow and sometimes they are tracking me down.  Sometimes I’m tracking down developers of software I use. Sometimes I’m tracking people down from my past lives in Gov’t and other weird associated projects.

It’s a friendly crowd. Generally, we have nothing to sell but ideas. I did look for work and got a few leads. I sat in sessions that made me feel unbearably stupid. Of course you have vendors that have subscriptions to something or software to sell…or gadgets….but overall it’s conversation. Even the vendors will spend a lot of time talking about anything.

I finally got to see a QGIS Developer in the flesh – Larry Shaffer. We talked for barely a minute and he was off and running.

I did my first Birds of a Feather meeting on QGIS. What is a BOF meeting? I actually had no clue – so we winged it and it we talked for an hour and explored plugins and talked about things. Kurt Menke was there and he’s written a few QGIS books and teaches at a college. Buy a book!

I went to lunch and randomly sat down at a table and the person to my left reads my blog – this blog (and I’m sorry I forgot your name because I’m OLD).  We talked about the best post I ever did and the most inflammatory. For the record the best was on the death of my uncle and the most inflammatory was where I let someone else take the wheel and call the OSM Community a toxic environment. I wanted to use “buttholes” but was talked down by my co-worker.

The QGIS Class had 50 people in it – and ONE PERSON HAD BEEN ON THE OLD ESRI-L List. Yes – the first time I felt the fun of a GIS Community. I know the ESRI community extends beyond that old reference – but I wonder at times.

We all went out to dinner post workshop and we tried our best to get one young lady in the group a neck tattoo. What started as a joke almost came to fruition – Yes Geo4Lyfe. The 4 gives you some street cred and misspelling life just makes it cool. Why not me? I’m saving my neck tattoo for something worse.

Got the chance to sit with Spara and eat lunch the last day where we talked about a little of everything. Guns, Charredas, and old companies for which we had worked. We even hoisted the Amish Pirate “flag” over our table and asked all to join us. No one did.

One night a group of us snuck off and ate cheeseburgers and enjoyed a local brewery. How many of us? It was a rotating group as people appeared and disappeared.

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There were a number of locals. I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was…in a good way. We had people I wasn’t expecting from Georgia, and Tennessee, and Florida. People I had communicated with in NC over email I had the luck to meet and either shake hands or hug.

One person is a veteran of many ESRI events. The discussion can be paraphrased down to “People talk to you at this conference – not at you.” It’s true – by Tuesday Afternoon I was debating whether I was getting sick because I was talking too much. I work by myself so conversation is something to be savored and enjoyed.

Why all this talk of people? Because it’s the people that makes this fun again. You learn a few things at a conference – but it’s the people that makes this all bearable. It makes it fun. I think by the end of this particular conference I realized I knew more people than I thought I did – or more people know me from the craziness of social media.

So if you ever debated a FOSS4G event – people. The people make it fun. The people will make what feels like at times a very tiring industry fun again.

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