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.