Saturday, October 30, 2010

Texas GIS Forum 2010

I've never been fond of regional GIS conferences because they seemed set up to sing the praises of the sales team of that GIS vendor whose name I dare not speak because of the Voldemort rule.  In full disclosure, I haven't been to a regional GIS conference in six to eight years — when I was howling in the wilderness about "web services" and hearing crickets in the background. 

I attended the Texas GIS Forum and had my rather jaded view of regional GIS conferences rearranged. I've always loved presentations about how people are using GIS and spatial technologies to solve problems. Listening to people talk about how they apply their domain knowledge and using or creating tools is the most enjoyable part of conferences for me. However, I've always preferred presentations where people create tools or creatively use tools with a bit of side-ways thinking, over presentations where they use only the vendor provided toolset.  It's not that there isn't a lot of creative problem solving going on with single vendor solutions, but when people start using an assortment of tools I usually learn something new to add to my own toolbox.  

A summary bullet point from a presentation seemed to me the main lesson of the conference:
"Don't be afraid to mix technology in your GIS/Web stack"
When I saw that, I knew I was at the right place.

Story Musgrave gave an fascinating keynote that wove together elements of his life starting from growing up on the farm, working as an aircraft mechanic during the Korean War, life as an astronaut at NASA, the 18 years he spent managing the Hubble Space Telescope project , and his current activities in the rotting business and teaching design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. Throughout the keynote he referenced the principles of simplicity and reliability in design, while gorgeous photos of his life were shown on the screen as examples. He graciously made his slides available to the audience. They are available for download.

I did not attend as many sessions as I wanted (one day I would like to be at a conference with zero telecon responsibilities), but I made a few notes on some of the presentations that I did see.

  • Get the Results You Want, Mapping with KML,  Michael Chamberlain of TxDOT TPP demoed an application that combined TxDOT's Linear Referencing System (LRS), javascript, and KML to produce an online Statewide Planning Map.
  • Visualizing Recovery Act Funding: Lessons Learned from Development to Deployment by Jeremiah Akin, Texas State Comptroller's Office demonstrated an mobile app that shows of TARP funds in Texas suitable for a number of mobile clients such as iPhone and iPad.
  • Microsoft demoed the Bing Interactive SDK where you can change code and see the change in the brower.
  • In Introduction to SQL Server Spatial and Capabilities by RanJan Muttiah of iHydro Engineering was a great overview of SQL Server Spatial. I was struck by the adherence to OGC standards and how all the SQL shown would run in PostGIS unmodified. Also, major kudos to MicroSoft for adhering to EPSG codes instead of publishing their own version of WKT (Well Known Text), unlike other vendors (cough, Oracle; cough, that other GIS vendor).
  • Bing Maps and SQL Server - Adding Data Awareness to GEMSS by Richard Wade and Chris Williams of TNRIS demoed GEMSS (Geographic Emergency Management Support System) which is a home grown SDI for Texas by TNRIS (Texas Natureal Resource Information System). It currently acts as a searchable data archive but TNRIS is adding uploading of user data. Wade said that this was the future direction for data dessemination by TNRIS

It was great conference and I hope to be back next year.


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