Just got back from the 2007 AGI conference, which I thought was a massive improvement on previous years events. Steven Feldman and his team at the AGI have done a great job downscaling the event, and taking a new direction as a residential conference for the GI industry to talk to itself.
The GI industry in the UK is now well beyond the stage in its maturity where there is a need for a big conference and exhibition to attract new users – today if you need GIS, you are already a user.
So this years conference was really an opportunity for the industry to meet and discuss issues and developments, and to help develop a sense of community.
This year the recurring theme seemed to be the impact of Neogeography (Andrew Turner has a lot to answer for !!) on the traditional GIS industry or Paleogeography as I called it in my keynote.
I think, there is still someway to go for the GIS industry to fully come to terms with the potential that a neogeography approach to providing solutions to users has, and there is still a large amount of scepticism, but I was really pleased to see a programme which contained a number of “neogeo” presentations.
Of particular note for me, Ian Holt and John Abbott of Widr gave two excellent practical demonstrations of building mashups using location aware API’s, Ed Freyfogle of Nestoria was impressive as ever and Nick Black opened many peoples eyes in the audience to OpenStreetMap, many of whom it would appear had not come across it before.
Nick introduced Cloud Made a new project in collaboration with Steve Coast to offer commercial support to organisations wanting to use OpenStreetMap data – Cloud Made is only just getting off the ground, but think Redhat and Linux.
There really are two ages of geography at the moment, the established GIS industry is great at serving the needs of organisations for which geospatial data really is core and for creating core large scale geospatial data. This will not change fundamentally, although there are important lessons in particular around simplicity of tools and licensing models that can be picked up from neogeography !
On the other hand Neogeography offers a better approach to communicate and engage with communities of users who need to use geography to put whatever data they are interested in, in context. This is potentially everybody !!
Vanessa Lawrence in her presentation confirmed that the OS will be releasing the OpenSpace API before Christmas!! I have a couple of bottles of Champagne I promised the team once upon a time, that I can put back on the ice !
In many ways this year the conference also seemed to represent to some extent a handover to a more relaxed and down to earth view of the industry, no better demonstrated than by the soon to be infamous AGI party, partly captured on my camera phone !
GIS professionals dressed up as village people… that would never have worked 15 years ago in Birmingham !!
Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.