I still tweet a lot. Well – mostly a lot.
A phone call yesterday left me wondering “Are we at Peak #GIS Conference yet?”
— :) Randal Hale (: (@rjhale) September 21, 2016
The other day I asked on twitter if we ‘d reached peak GIS conference. I was a week away from a county GIS user’s group meeting. That next week (this upcoming week) I head to Athens Georgia for the Georgia Geospatial Conference. Two days after that I’m in Knoxville screaming into the void at another GIS conference. I’m actually planning one for East Tennessee that isn’t related to the State TNGIC Conference. That’s not counting anything else I could drive to (within 5 hours of where I’m sitting currently). There are a lot of conferences. 20 years ago I could argue yeah it’s all new enough to warrant a lot of conferences. These days I really think we’re over-conferenced. The push in Georgia to do things at a GIS level is pretty much following a path that Tennessee took 20 years ago. Granted the tech is different – but the path isn’t terribly different. I doubt anyone in Georgia has driven over the border to TN and asked “what are you guys doing?” (hint – drive across the border and ask).
Which brings me to the Georgia Conference. This October conference has always been a “canary in the mine shaft” for me. Most of the anniversaries that were in my head are forgotten – but this one still rings with me. It’s held every 2 years. At one point during my time on the board I argued we should do it every year. I’m really hoping everyone forgot I said that. The Georgia Conference is mainly put on by Georgia URISA (with a few other orgs throwing in for good measure). I had really planned on skipping the entire affair. I was somewhat coerced into staying involved and I really started looking at it as a bit of a “closure” year for me. This is year 10. I like even numbers.
- In 2006, I walked into the Georgia Conference as a new business. Talked to some people. Shared some insight – then watched the gears of GIS turning. It was a good conference overall. Met a lot of people and decided to get involved on the Georgia URISA Board.
- In 2008, I was more or less on the board and watching the conference come together. I had a chance to watch ESRI and ERDAS sort of “duke it out” at the conference. If I remember correctly there was much partying and much learning. On a person note I was about to go full time in this consulting gig. So riding in I was still Randy the Federal Employee. Riding out I was Randy the NRGS Employee.
- 2010 may have been my best conference and my most stressful. It was a weird year of new friends and new work and trying to figure out me as a business and me as a person and if I was separating them enough. I think that was the year the conference went to “Georgia Geospatial” vs Georgia URISA. We combined conferences with SAMSOG (surveyors), and GITA and took a more “we are one big family” approach to the entire endeavor. I was stepping a very small toe into Open Source at that point but I was a raging ESRI BP.
- 2012 was a bit more stressful. At that point I was looking at partnering with a company and had also almost decided maybe I needed to do something else professionally. It was an odd year overall. The idea that we were “all one big family” melted with an upturn in the economy. In 2010 we had a large number of surveyors at the conference. 2012 brought less than 10 back. They were all busy with work as Georgia began to wake up from the recession.
- 2014 was sorta bland as a conference. It was good but life was calling me back to Chattanooga and I was distracted. I had, in between the 2012 and 2014 conferences, moved to Athens. First time I actually slept in my bed at this conference. Life had dealt some blows to work and personal. I was really trying to sort out how to deal with it. I went a bit into hermit mode which didn’t help work but it did help me. You were a hermit? We didn’t notice – oh those of you on the social media side wouldn’t have.
- Which brings me to 2016. I’m giving two presentations. I’m actually going to meet people I’ve known for 10 years at this thing. I couldn’t tell you who was speaking about what. There will be “hurrahs for the GISP” and “Yay ArcGISOnline is a thing” and map competitions. Overall – this one is all people oriented. I may not attend much of anything but just talking to people. I may attempt to pirate a booth in the conference center – if so find a chair and sit with me. We will talk about QGIS and Fulcrum and which bar we should go visit.
In some ways this conference (Oct 3-5) is a mix of all the previous years. There is some dread at just being in a pile of people for 2.5 days. There’s some excitement because the 10 year journey as a business has really had it’s twists and turns. I’m not twisting or turning at this one at all. Randy 10 years ago doesn’t resemble Randy now. It’s a huge journey of personal and professional. I would love to tell you it’s all been great. It hasn’t. I still make mistakes. Had I stayed doing what I was doing in 2006 – I can’t imagine where I would be. Me in 2018….I can’t imagine that either. There’s an excitement to the air these days for business. I hadn’t felt that since 2006 really. Maybe it’s just less worry – I can worry with the best of them. I haven’t been doing that as much and just trying to live the life. Take more selfies with me and the cat. Go Canoeing more.
So – track me down if you are there. Sit and talk. Tell me about you.