Over the years I have become less enamoured with conferences and seminars. Maybe I was going to "annual" events and therefore exposed to similar topics, similar themes and maybe similar outcomes. As always though it was good to catch up with friends and colleagues. I do have sympathy for the conference organisers as it must be difficult to constantly re-engineer and make their conference interesting.
For the last two days I have attended GeoCommunity13 organised by the Association of Geographic Information. It was my first time at this event and it turned out to be informative and enjoyable with a hint of frustration which I will expand on later. What I did find inspiring was the way in which individuals and companies are using spatial data in a huge number of ways in pretty much every aspect of our day to day lives. One particularly interesting comment by one speaker was the language used by those of us involved in geographical information and how it doesn't sit well with consumers and our customers. Using any form of acronyms, technical language and terminology may simply be alien to these people and not help when you are trying to sell your own services.
The two days were filled with a large number of technical papers, best practice and case studies in between plenary sessions. Particularly memorable papers for me were on "135 Squadron" who supply geographic data for the armed forces, how the Government proposes to roll out Building Information Modelling, how GIS is being used to help the Kings Cross Argent development and finally how Sainsbury use location data for a whole range of uses.
On the down side and what must be the conference organiser and presenters nightmare, technology or rather the lack of it. As so much of the two days highlighted the power of cloud GIS and how it would enable far more people to use spatial data it is so disappointing when presentations fail because they can't do the "online demo". Seeing how other people and organisations are actually using geographical is one aspect I would have liked to see more of. I must also say that I thought Vanessa Lawrence (Head of the Ordnance Survey) missed a huge opportunity to explain what they are doing to provide the industry with upto date map data and data sets. I wasn't really that interested to hear what the OS are doing with the United Nations and what meetings and conferences have been attended over the past year. Sainsbury's highlighted that even some of the OS's key open data sets are "average", that may be one persons view, but they are heavyweight users of this key and important data.
It was good to see a number of sponsors promoting their services and having the opportunity to discuss new ideas. I spoke to a few at length and will hopefully soon be experimenting with MapThat from CADLine and investigating further some of Lleica's GPS equipment. Upto now most clients I work with want me to provide the mapping expertise and in most cases I am either working with them (in their offices) or they use hard copy output. I know this can improve with the use of web based and online solutions. To date I haven't found the right solution and many of the products simply aren't that easy to use. Over the next few weeks I hope to find a solution. When I arrived home I revisited an online mapping application I have experimented with in the past. The vendor at the event explained just how easy it would be to map the data we discussed. I may not be a "GIS Super User" but after an hour I was stumped, I logged call with their help desk. I felt much better, they couldn't provide an easy answer either.