Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

AGI GeoCommunity 2012

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Last week was the AGI GeoCommunity 2012 event at Nottingham, and as usual, a great time was had by all. In the weeks leading up to the event I’d been a little worried that attendance would be down as many of “the usual suspects” said they weren’t attending. However, in the end attendance was up, with a lot of new faces and new sponsors. I’d love to know the demographic/industry area for these new attendees (hint, hint, AGI). The venue was the East Midlands Conference Centre, which will also be the venue for next year’s FOSS4G, so those of us in the organising committee were casting a critical eye over everything to ensure things are in place for next year. To those that attended OSGIS earlier this month- the WIFI was much better!

You can get a good feel for the event by checking out the geocom hashtag on twitter. Look out for the p0rnbots, who infiltrated the feed early on but made some scarily pertinent comments!

Day One started with an excellent keynote from Tim Stonor of Space Syntax Ltd. Go see wikipedia for a definition of the term if you’re not familiar with it (I wasn’t). Tim’s talk was mainly about spatial connectivity in city planning, and using path accessibility to predict how people will use spaces, both inside and outside. Really interesting and thought-provoking, and it turns out that there’s a QGIS plugin for it!

I then went to a stream on “sharing best practices”, which was really about how to get GIS deployed in large organisations, to people that are not familiar with it’s use. So what are these “best practices”? Bribery, ambushing them at the coffee pot, and giving them the data as Excel spreadsheets, apparently. Whilst I winced at some of the comments (one speaker concatenated Google with Open Source and made half the audience fall off their seats), the general idea is sensible- give people the data in the form that they are comfortable with to start with, and then slowly introduce newer elements. People are just trying to do their job, after all.

I spent the afternoon helping at a joint Ordnance Survey/AGI Tech SIG workshop on using open data with open source software, in which we introduced a whole new set of people to the joy of QGIS.

I don’t think I need to say anything about the evening events- I’ll just say that you potential FOSS4Gers don’t need to worry, these AGI people do know how to party!

The stand-out papers for me on Day Two were all to do with delivering GIS for the London Olympics. Nothing ground-breaking, but just GIS done really well, at a grand scale. An honourable mention also goes to Steven Feldman, incidentally FOSS4G 2013’s conference chair, with an Open (Data, Standards and Source) 101, to prepare GeoCommunity people for next year’s event.

“GIS done well” probably sums up the event for me, actually. There were very few papers saying “look at this cool new shiny thing that I have developed”, but a lot about consolidating and delivering GIS across large organisations. I’d say that the enthusiasm for “open”, and QGIS in particular, bodes well for a meeting of minds next year too.