Wednesday, 25 September 2013

It’s the GeoCommunity ’13 Post Mortem

The bulk of #Maptember is passed us following a week of geo madness in Nottingham. Having helped run both GeoCom ’13 and FOSS4G everything started to blur into a haze of delegate registrations, networking and partying until 3am however I will do my best to give a bit of an overview of GeoCom ’13. In an attempt to organise my slightly tired mind I will separate it into the serious stuff and the fun stuff.

Serious Stuff:
GeoCommunity ’13 proper kicked off on the morning of the 17th with registration and the opening speakers including new attendee Stuart Batey speaking on behalf of 135 Geographic Squadron providing a very real world look at the uses of GI. After spending the rest of the morning checking the sponsors were OK (they were) and registering delegates I was able to escape the desk and get along to the SMART cities stream.

I was treated to an exciting/terrifying vision of an integrated location based future in which we are bombarded with location specific marketing by UCL’s Andy Hudson-Smith. This was followed by a slightly more immediate report on Glasgow’s SMART cities initiative which is working to put the production of GI data in the hands of the citizen, with a focus on widening the demographic away from usual tech users. This was followed by a demonstration of how a very simple but practical application for GI can be used to both solve a problem (in this case optimising meeting locations and travel times) whilst also introducing the concept and usefulness of GI to other colleagues and departments, definitely useful for anyone in a large organisation.

Wednesday the 17th opened with a slightly sore head and a discussion of the challenge of open data given by Iain Sterland of Sainsbury’s. This was followed by an overview of BIM and changing government regulation, further cementing its importance and place within the GI sector. To prepare myself for FOSS4G I headed over to the open stream to see Chris Ewing talk about using Open Data and Open Software for catastrophe modelling which also provided an interesting insight on how insurers calculate risk and exposure using geo data. Of particular interest to someone who studied climatology was Mark Jackson’s report on an ambitious and extensive project to create an open source geoportal for climate science showing the potential of GI and open as a tool for scientific research and collaboration.

Hopefully this gives some idea of the breadth of topics on offer at GeoCom ’13, many of which I was sadly unable to attend due to a lot of running around trying to find things! For someone trying to get back up to speed with all things geo the variety of the industry is actually slightly intimidating.

The Fun Stuff:
Alongside the talks, workshops and exhibitions there is the essential social side of the conference; the parties and the networking they provide. This year was no exception with the conference kicking off on Monday with the Icebreaker complete with a fiendishly difficult quiz (the winning team only scored 50%) and karaoke (the less said about this the better). This was all taking place alongside the theme of a masquerade ball with masks ranging from the glamorous to the terrifying via the hilarious (a certain council member’s full head rubber map mask deserves an honourable mention).
Armed with a fried breakfast a vague hope that I would be able to put names and faces together I returned to the conference for the first day proper to find that most of our delegates had been surprisingly sensible (against previous form) and that the morning plenary was well attended and only a couple of people looking like they needed another days sleep. The same cannot however be said of the main conference party on Tuesday night. Accompanied by a mini casino and an excellent buffet (cheesecake and stilton is a valid combination) the socialising began and continued well into the small hours. I started with the good intentions of canvassing delegates’ opinions and kept this up for a surprising amount of time until the quality of my questions and the answers began to degrade until I suddenly found I was talking about football... oh well it was inevitable.

OK this is getting long

Overall the general feel of GeoCom was that it was a resounding success with a wide range of speakers, a good sponsor list and some moderately raucous parties. However not being ones to rest on our laurels we will be revamping the format extensively for 2014, possibly with a more hands on, workshop driven approach, more to follow (along with embarrassing photos on flickr).

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