Go out and Build a GeoCommunity

“Go out and Build a GeoCommunity” – my closing words at this year’s AGI Conference.

500 people over two days attended 51 papers, workshops, keynotes, debates and hands on training sessions.

Mike Hickey of Pitney Bowes and Ed Parsons of Google kicked off the first day giving their perspectives on the emergence of neo-geography.

Eat, drink, learn and discuss sleep, network and party Geo. Great Party, hangovers, old friends, new friends. Ideas, business, fun and serious people dressing up in sillly costiumes. We definitely started to build a GeoCommunity.

Chris Holcroft, Simon Doyle and their drummer from Dusseldorf were joined on stage by another past chair of AGI, the venerable Peter Capel in a memorable session (they are available for weddings and barmitzvahs – not)

Some usually sensible people took the fancy dress theme of Village People a bit too seriously. Would you buy a GPS from the guy on the left? Would you trust your planning application to this couple below? Great costumes guys.

We learnt a new vocabulary at the conference which extended from neo-geography to paleo-geograhy (thanks to Ed Parsons) which describes us old time GIS heads and then on to post-neo-geography (thanks to Simon Doyle) which is where the paleos might be when they recognise the neos. Oh and David Maguire introduced folksonomy as well – a bottom up taxonomy. We heard a lot about democratisation and crowd sourced data and realised that “the plates are moving”

As an industry we face the challenge of articulating the business case for what we do higher up the organisation and particularly in putting £s in our RoI statements so that GI is not just a nice to have.

There was a lot of talk about SDIs and about INSPIRE at the conference but no one seemed to be clear whether the UK will ever have one and if they do will it work and will anyone engage with it? Vanessa Lawrence updated the conference on the progress of the GI Strategy for the UK (Now renamed a Location Strategy). The final document has now been sent to ministers for approval, time frame for announcements is unknown (well at least to mere mortals) but my hunch would be before the end of the year if Mr Brown doesn’t call a pointless General Election this week.

A couple of interesting announcements from the OS courtesy of Vanessa Lawrence’s key note:

  1. OS will now extend the licensing of their data to third sector (not for profits orgs) if they are working on behalf of a Public Sector body who is part of the PGA or MSA. Good move which will respond to one of the justified criticisms of OS licensing, check details with OS – do not rely on my interpretation.
  2. OS have launched Explore which allows you to plot and share your favourite walks and points of interest on top of 1:50k maps. Neat and a step in the right direction. Rumour has it that this is a mash up based on the long awaited open Space API
  3. Open Space will be launched by OS before the end of the year and will be free for non commercial use

Can’t really complain about any of this, could always ask for more but one step at a time (in this case three). Who says they never listen? The wheels of the civil service just move at a slower pace than some of us would like.

The best paper award was won by Andy Coote with “Show me the money, making the CEO listen”. Papers by Craig Moulding of Calderdale MBC, Andy Elliott of East Riding of Yorkshire Council and James Proctor of the Environment Agency were also commended. My congratulations to everyone.

Thanks to all of the sponsors, without you there would not have been a conference so I hope you networked into some lucrative business and will be back next year.
If you didn’t get to the conference you missed out. If you are a neo-geographer who thought us paleo-geographers were from the dark side come along next year and meet with us, persuade us and partner with us, together we can do loads more.

I asked every delegate at the conference to return to their work place and talk about the conference and try to encourage one extra person to attend next year. If they all did that we would have 1000 post-neo-geographers and the venue wouldn’t be big enough.

Dream on!