Friday, 15 April 2011

AGI Northern Group Conference

On 14 April 2011 I attended the AGI Northern Group Conference at the National Railway Museum in York.

First some general observations.

If you're going to host an event in some where like the NRM you HAVE to allow time to see the sights! A full day of seminars and events gives us good value for money sure, but it would have been great to have an hour to see some trains before and/or after! Hold it somewhere dull and functional otherwise and save a few quid!

The food was great, the scones to die for!

The day was hosted by my twitter buddy Stuart Mitchell who kept good order and kept the speakers to time simply and without fuss, he allowed time for questions but again not too many as to allow time to run away.

OK to the speakers.

I have to apologise to Dr Andrew Hudson Smith as I didn't get there until hi presentation was over half way through so cant really comment on what he had to say. However any one who has a corporate logo of "Gemma the Gerbil" is either very sure of their product or a little fool hardy.
I also thought it was a dodgy shirt too, that was until I saw Steven Feldman's.

Which brings me neatly on to second dodgy shirt of the day, and another twitter buddy, Mr Feldman. Whether you agree with or even like Steven Feldman is immaterial, he always gives good value and creates a discussion point. That is until this session.
A look and what the AGI's foresight study said in 2009 would happen in the industry over the next five years. Going through the points really just seemed a box ticking exercise , with most of the points either being stated as "not going to happen" or " has already happened".
The thing to take away from this was that some aspects of our industry are changing rapidly whilst others are not. hardly news. I also got the impression that Steven wasn't wholly comfortable with this session, unlike his second session later in the, but more of that later.
Steven rounded his first session off with a plug for the AGI CDP programme, which I believe has fundamental flaws in it, but more of that another time.

Alex Hill next of Plus Dane Group. Alex started by saying he was a little over awed by the previous two contributors and in a way I can understand why. But he shouldn't have, after all, he is the one doing it "at the coal face" to use his words. Whilst academics and thinkers can bush the boundaries and look for new opportunities and ideas, its people like Alex who actually do the work and use the software. there was nothing new or innovative about what is happening at Plus Dane Group in terms of GIS, but I'm sure there needs to be. They have established a method of working with GIS that works for them. At the end of the point lines and ploygons are all they need, so its all they use.

Next up then Arup and Ewan Peters. Demolishing buildings in San Francisco at first glance is more Geo-physics than GIS and indeed that could have been a criticism of this presentation. But the diverse use of maps and mapping applications is always good background knowledge for all GIS professionals. As Ewan said, some people are still impressed with points on a map. he doesn't have to impress us geo-geeks, just the people paying the money. Which he did. My only question on what they were doing was, if they are using the cloud to do some of the work, why bother with ESRI software at all and get the cloud to do more for less?

Ah and now INSPIRE. never was a subject less aptly named, or indeed presented. The presentation was centred on things we have been talking about for 2 or 3 years now. I myself was running almost identical explanatory session as long ago as 2009. I'm sorry if I'm being negative on this one but if you're not on board past this level with INSPIRE by now, you have bigger problems than you think. Maybe a demo of the Open Source Metadata tools would have been more useful? Sorry Ian nothing personal.

Ian Robinson of Cadcorp was next up, with first of the two sales pitches of the day. Ian presented well and confidently he was clearly practised and new his subject. Again nothing new and innovative, the concept of joining up departments and organisations has been a key GIS topic now for getting on for 10 years. maybe it's time to move on bit and look at other ways and methods of delivering this. As the software may well be more mature than 10 years ago, the base concept being sold was not. I would expect a vendor to push something new at an AGI event not just preach to the converted.

Curious inclusion next I thought, with Ray Buckingham talking about the Cockermouth floods. My first thoughts as he kicked off his double act with a gentleman who's name I sadly did not get
of the mountain rescue team, was "Where's the maps then?"
I was premature, there were maps, and I missed the point. the centre of the attention was nopt the map for a change but people. A timely reminder that amid all this rush of technology, it's pointless if it helps no-one. They managed to make a difficult subject humorous and interesting and showed again how just the most rudimentary of maps can be of huge help and significance. Ordnance Survey got a plug for there Open Data, which in the words of the chap from Mountain Rescue "Is saving lives now"
A poignant video rounded off their talk of the impacts of the floods on peoples lives.

I will do the post lunch sessions in another blog!

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