CalGIS Notes: Day 2

The first sessions in the morning were mostly two-hour sessions by the premier sponsors, so I just hung around the booth with Sam. Mid-morning, the short sessions started again.

Justin Lokitz, formerly of Oracle, now of Acquis, gave what must be his standard talk on “enterprise geospatial”. For someone who understands the technology, his talk is a bit disconcerting, because he kept talking about moving spatial features from device to database to on-screen map and saying “this does not involve GIS, you do not need a GIS to do this”. After a while though, I understood that while he was saying “GIS”, he really meant “ESRI”. By using the generic term, he was attempting to inoculate against the strong bias in the (standard US spatial user/manager) audience to think that any kind of spatial data work requires ESRI products. His general point was that you could build an application that gathered and managed spatial data using (gasp) only a spatial database a rendering engine and some user interface glue. The examples were Acquis apps, but of course the concept carries over the any number of other mixes of technology.

Next up was another (!!) Farallon consultant, with an app that appeared to automate data interchange between a cost modeling application, GIS database, and scenario manager. A bit of a hair-ball, to say the least, but apparently quite successful at streamlining an ugly prioritization process for road maintenance dollars.

Completing my tour of the Farallon (!!!) staff, was a talk from Adam Lodge, which recapitulated the points they raised on their day one talks, about the many benefits of building business apps against the Google/Yahoo/Microsoft APIs. Adam added some points about the usefulness of open source components that his colleagues largely omitted from their talks. I spoke with him briefly after the talk, and he is a recent refuge from county GIS — he seems to be enjoying his new freedom to work with a range of tools.

A panel discussion on the “future of GIS in government” with folks from San Francisco, counties, and CalTrans was notable for how often “open source” was raised as a point of future investigation and priority. For the managers with keen young staff, doings lots of hands-on exploring, I think great things are ahead. For those who are going to download some stuff, dump it on a server and “see what it does”, I predict disappointment. Much of this flows from organizational dynamics, vibrant interesting people do vibrant interesting things, and attract like-minded colleagues.

Sam gave his conflation talk at the end of the afternoon sessions (the “golden hour” cough) and was well received. Conflation does not get the respect it deserves. Operational GIS folks thinks that you just need to apply enough clicking desktop monkeys. Algorithmic GIS folks think that it can be automated away into a cloud of digits. In fact, it inhabits a nasty gray area, with unanticipated special cases, the politics of “who’s data is ‘right’”, and algorithmic possibilities all colliding in an interesting stew. Sam’s talk is about how to cook that stew so that it’s possible to consume it and survive.

The evening included a stroll down to Jack London Square, not worth writing home about (oops), and then dinner at a super fabulous Mexican tapas restaurant (mmmmmmm) just a couple block from the conference center, very much worth writing home about.

And so, to bed.