I said I would toss out my thoughts on this one and I haven’t stopped for long…well until this weekend.
Planning lately has been hard and I even have a coworker who begs me to help. So as I beat my head against the steering wheel in Illinois (Chattanooga to Minneapolis is 998ish miles) I think it might have sunk in to ask for help.
It was my first trip to a FOSS4G conference. I’ve been to the ESRI UC and I’ve been to all sorts of local GIS Conferences. I’m about burned out on conferences in general. I wanted to go to this one though. I actually wanted to sit and watch. My first trip to the ESRI UC was in 1996. I landed in Palm Springs and went to the convention center. I watched a VW bus roll up with two kegs in the back and a SUN server keeping them from tipping over. People in sandals. People excited about GIS. I really felt like these were my people. I tried to convince the girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife to pack up and go to Redlands. I was that excited.
Flash forward 17 (oh god) years later and I’m not that excited by the endless parade of over the top expensive software and guys in suits telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing and what new standard is coming down the pipeline.
I found myself sitting at FOSS4GNA watching a lot of excited people. Granted it’s no gigantic conference – but – the excitement is gigantic. You have people excited by the software. You have software adapting to peoples needs. It was nice. From a keynote mentioning how they leveraged GRASS during an election cycle to developers saying ‘Well we listened and here’s the next round of changes….”. Everyone one of the presentations I saw were all good. Granted the speakers may have been more nervous than necessary but they all had something good to say. Something worth hearing and something that needed to be said.
It made me wonder about the big guys. ESRI had a booth there. Hexagon didn’t. I saw no one on the GPS front there. The industry in my opinion is evolving almost every year. My business life has been ESRI centric and now it’s more “the right tool for the job” centric. It was a hungry group of people doing amazing work. Granted – I have no clue what market share open source software has – my guess it’s low based off my clients. It’s low – but it’s growing. So I sat through the last sessions and found my people. Again.
At some point the idea was put forth that they big players can’t keep up anymore. Putting a map on the internet isn’t the painful thing it once was. Editing data against a database isn’t magic. I’ve been working for two months in a US territory with nothing more than open source software. I have to agree. The big guys need to be worried. We kept wanting GIS to go mainstream. It has. It did. How do you keep up now?
So if you haven’t been to a FOSS4G conference…Go. You have no reason to say “it doesn’t apply”. If it doesn’t today it will tomorrow. Join the ranks. Be a better GIS person.