Yesterday’s FOSS4G UK Online was the first fully virtual geospatial event I ever attended. Over the previous years I’ve joined remotely some FOSS4G and SoTM events, like last year excellent Bucharest 2019 FOSS4G. Having everyone joining remotely makes things quite different, since you don’t feel like a second class attendant. The OSGeo UK Local Chapter organized this fantastic conference in just a few weeks, gathering speakers around three different tracks of talks. There was even a fourth track simulating a coffee corner where you could join and have a chat maybe in the frequent breaks in between talks, what a brilliant idea!
I attended along with Jennifer Allen, the Kibana Maps team lead. We were the whole day grabbing notes around the same document, capturing links, resources, screenshots, and what not. This was way easier from the comfort of my workplace at home compared to the quick notes you can take when running from one session to the next. Surprisingly, I felt also I could get more focused during talks compared with being in a real conference venue; maybe because I didn’t had to worry about going from one room to another to find a good spot to see and listen well, or because I could simply disconnect and get a cup of tea anytime.
No doubt I missed the practical workshops, the hallway conversations, and the after event beers; but as for the way to consume the content, my awkward reflection, at least at this moment, is that I think I prefer a remote conference over in person one. Is it worth to make folks to travel all around the world for a quite exclusive exchange of knowledge? Aren’t we already used to collaborate and learn together at a global scale without the need to make such a big expense? What about of those that don’t feel welcomed at this kind of event for many different, and all legit, reasons? What about those that can’t afford them? I still find value on real gatherings, but maybe I find more bearable to do this once per year or even less, and by the way, totally separated from any holidays plan.
Regarding the content itself, as always there were quite a few great talks. National FOSS4G events tend to attract more use cases and consultancy projects than “core” product development. In this conference I liked the opportunity to learn about the last updates from Geoserver, and all the great work behind the Input App for data collection on the field that can be synchronized with QGIS projects using a Software as a Service called Mergin. Thinking strategically was a good talk with some reflections about the geo industry, and how small it is in the ocean of the data analytics world; the Q&A session afterwards was also quite interesting. The Women in Geospatial+ talk showed all the good work this global community is doing to promote diversity in our industry. Finally I wanted to mention the talk that showcased the OSM regions project, since it shares quite a lot of objectives, tools, and workflows with the stuff we are doing for the Elastic Maps Service. I’d love to put some time to go through the project details and eventually try to find collaboration opportunities.
And that’s it, I think I could have tried to have a talk on this event, and I feel a bit bad for not stepping forward back when the request for talks was launched but I’m sure I will have plenty of opportunities to present Elastic Geo features to the FOSS4G community in the future. As a closing call for action, take a look to the Twitter #FOSS4GUKOnline hashtag to find more opinions and resources, and more importantly, check the recordings when they get up in a couple weeks, you won’t regret it.