The FOSS4GNA 2023 Review

Nov 3, 2023 | FOSS4G, GIS, QGIS

This might get a bit long. I’ve been debating how to summarize up the first meeting we’ve had since 2019.

I’ve had a year where I’ve been trying to do things differently. Going to more meetings, handing out business cards, sponsoring more events, and just generally trying to figure out “where I am” in the greater scheme of things. It’s also lead to a lot of looking back on what I could have done differently and what worked and what didn’t. Marketing is tough in general and for myself and it’s tough when you’re “mostly it” in the business. Sometime about March or April I joined the FOSS4GNA conference committee – and honestly I couldn’t tell you if I was that useful on the committee. I was balancing work and life with two conference meetings a week. When I say two – that’s the two I was involved in and there was probably 5 or 6 conference meetings a week outside of that.

It happened. I never heard an exact final count on people but I’ll guess 500. You may laugh and compare that to other larger conferences. I’ll take 500 community oriented people any day of the week over 5000. I arrived in Baltimore Sunday and bummed around before checking into the AirBNB. I taught QGIS Tips and Tricks on Monday. I had to cut my workshop a little short for FedGeo day – but no harm no foul on that one. Everyone received the full class with data to play around with as they saw fit.

For me there were three takeaways at this event:

  • When you have the chance to sit down and talk to people you see that we’re all in the same space. By the same space, we’re all people behind the tech. Worried about health care. Trying to pick up clients. Kids are getting older. Parents are older. Some people have new jobs. Some the same job. “Learn new things” is always there. I’ve missed the human element of GIS.
  • There was much talk of the funding mechanism to keep the software we all know and love moving along. We develop this software within a community boundary. Everyone benefits. Should everyone chip in? Do we owe you software? Do you owe us money? It’s a common problem with open source software. Everyone needs it but no one want’s to chip in when bills happen and when maintenance becomes overbearing. It’s an interesting problem and another problem I wrestle with as a business. FOSS4G allows me to do what I’m doing so giving back should be a natural part of the cycle.
  • The tech….Oh the tech. The one thing I noticed on that end is “We have all these great tools so lets use them”. Not so much “new” but combining existing tools and doing amazing things. I’m going to have to dig into GeoParquet some. DuckDB. I don’t think anyone specifically said “Serverless” but getting data to the users without middleware was a theme. Fast and Easy Data delivery.

I did wonder “how many of these things have I attended”: 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2023. I’ll do my best to make the next one wherever that may be.

Other than that I spent 3.5 days talking to people. We had quite a few fellow TN people up there which was nice. As a white bald guy with glasses, diversity has weighed on me this year. “Hey why this year?” and I have no clue but it has. It was nice to not see a room full of white guys at the conference. Can we do better? Always. We tried even if we failed a little.

I visited Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave. That was fun. The social at the science center was a blast. Not that I did a ton of viewing the exhibits but I did get to talk canoes with people. A few dinosaurs were spotted out and about.

That’s about it. If you made it you enjoyed a great conference. If you didn’t I’d encourage to join the community and make the next one. This has been the one conference I’ve walked out of this year and went “It was worth every dollar to get here”.

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