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Holland Hit by a Wave of Geospatial Conferences

2012 June 21

Letter from the Low Lands / Directions Mag
Webinars, podcasts, all social media tools aside: if you want to stay up-to-date on developments that matter, meeting face-to-face with colleagues is still indispensable. Conferences and “meet-ups” provide you with that context, and Holland has had its fair share of those opportunities recently.

Some unique characteristics set each of these events apart, but what they have in common is clear: getting people and organizations together to discuss where geospatial technology is taking “us” and the world collectively. Full disclosure (FD): I am a self-proclaimed fan of conferences in the various roles I get to play. So here are a few comments about the wave of “geoconferences” that recently hit The Netherlands.

GIS Tech 2012 - Faces of GISGIS Tech
This yearly technical event, organized by Esri Nederland, brought “Getting to Know ArcGIS Online”. With over 900 participants – the venue could not host many more – the event brought keynotes, presentations and workshops for current and future users of Esri technology, all in Dutch. One of the key presentations focused on volunteered geographic information (VGI) and how citizens support Kadaster to maintain the national border markers. FD: I gave a presentation on practical steps to take while working with open geodata.

GeoSpatial World Forum
For a first time in Europe, GeoSpatial World Forum gathered 1,053 participants from all over the world. The conference had many guests of honors (ministers, mayors) which brought geospatial to an executive audience. Unusual for The Netherlands, there was a big awards ceremony (the Dutch are not big on awards, yet).  Despite some small logistical glitches, official rumor has it that the Forum will be in Amsterdam for at least two more years. FD: I was the liaison to our professional society, Geo-Informatie Nederland, and organized a session on the European Digital Agenda.

The programme shaping upwhereCampEU
In almost every way, whereCampEU was the complete opposite of GeoSpatial World Forum. This “un-conference” took place the weekend after the Forum. Just a handful of people attended both events and the contrast could not have been greater: no suits, no ties, no program either. But it was all about maps, with topics like OpenStreetMap landuse tagging, one-linear mapping, real-time visualization and much more. With corporate attendance from Google, Yahoo and Nokia, the total attendance was about 150. FD: I was part of the local organization and gave a short presentation on what Esri would like to share.

International MapWindow Conference
Last but not least, the MapWindow conference is moving out of the U.S. for the first time and has been dubbed “the International Open Source GIS Conference” for the occasion. The location: van Hall-Larenstein University of Applied Science in Velp, just outside of Arnhem. The driver behind this conference is volunteer product manager (MapWindow 4.8) Paul Meems. Meems is supported by the Dutch OSGeo chapter, which was founded last December.

What does the conference aim to achieve? Says Daniel Ames, one of the driving forces of MapWindow, “I, personally, hope to receive a lot of useful feedback from both the user and developer communities regarding the MapWindow and DotSpatial projects and what can be done to improve them.” There will be workshops, presentations and codesprints. The organization expects to have members of the MapWindow, DotSpatial, SharpMap, NTS and other communities all represented.

FD: I will give a keynote presentation on “Where Open Innovation Leads Geographic Information.”

So where do all of these conferences take us?
From my perspective, conferences and meet-ups, whether they are of the formal or informal kind, are about learning from others and sharing lessons. They are places to connect and reconnect.

In the last couple of years, they have served a new purpose: meet up with those you have been meeting online for a long time already (thank you social media). That gives an extra dimension to conferences, one you might not expect in a small country like Holland.

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