FOSS4G-NA 2015 San Francisco

17 March 2015 by Bryan McBride

The Fulcrum Development Team just returned from San Francisco following another great FOSS4G Conference. This was my second FOSS4G Conference, and my first time attending the North America event. As with FOSS4G Portland, the best thing about attending a conference like this is being surrounded by all the creative energy of folks excited about doing cool stuff!


General Observations

  • The conference venue was an excellent choice. The hotel was easy to get to via shuttle from the airport and built for just such conferences. While the venue was somewhat inconveniently located between San Francisco and Burlingame, the hotel itself made for a pleasurable stay. The bright, open atrium with plenty of trees made for a cheery atmosphere, especially for folks coming from cold and snowy regions, such as myself!
  • The FOSS4G Conference was held jointly and co-located with EclipseCon 2015. This was an interesting decision and made for some different interactions between conference attendees. The vendor area and meals were combined, while conference sessions were generally held in different wings. I didn’t make it to any of the EclipseCon sessions, though I did hear that some of the EclipseCon attendees ventured over to check out what we were up to, and had positive feedback.
  • The food was generally good and there were plenty of open bar opportunities, so that was a plus for socializing and general networking.

Conference Buzz

  • Unlike FOSS4G Portland, there didn’t seem to be any specific industry buzz that everyone was talking about. To my knowledge, there were no big announcements or product releases coinciding with the conference.
  • All the usual sponsors were there, dutifully manning their booths. I had the opportunity to touch base with colleagues from Mapbox, CARTO, and Boundless and check out some cool new initiatives from Azavea and AGI.
  • Sessions featuring UAV/drone technology continue to be extremely popular. While this is still primarily hacker space, I would imagine future conferences will see more talks about commercializing this technology and showing what you can do with your drone, rather than how to build it.
  • One of the coolest technologies on display was Cesium, a JavaScript library for creating 3D globes and 2D maps in a web browser without any plugins. Matthew Amato from AGI demonstrated how Cesium’s first class treatment of time makes it an ideal tool for visualizing temporal geospatial data. He showed some impressive demos and I’m looking forward to researching how we may be able to integrate this technology with data collected by Fulcrum.

Key Takeaways

  • The star speakers continued to impress, with entertaining and insightful talks from Vladimir Agafonkin of Leaflet fame and Paul Ramsey from CARTO discussing the past, present, and future of PostGIS.
  • I particularly appreciated Vlad’s talk on Leaflet, WebGL and the Future of Web Mapping. As WebGL and vector tiles are getting a lot of attention these days, it’s good to know that core developers continue to see the value in simplicity, platform independence, and speed. While WebGL will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in a web map, Leaflet will remain the go-to mapping library for most web projects. It was also quite interesting to hear his take on dealing with the demands of open source burnout, and the anxiety, guilt, and pressure of engineering from a war-torn country, with newborn twins! After hitting the ball out of the park, he followed up with this insightful introvert’s guide to giving awesome public talks.
  • Michael Terner from AppGeo gave a particularly well received talk regarding his experience using open source software in a commercial setting. This presentation, which was initially rejected by the program committee, highlights the delicate balancing act between the technical and the business aspects of FOSS4G. He argues that we’ve progressed to a hybrid geo architecture, where cloud services are driving innovative commercial offerings, built on open source technology and open data. Fulcrum just happens to be one of these services, which is leveraging the power of open source and cloud technology to build a user-friendly and affordable platform for anyone to get up and running with cutting edge geospatial technology.

Fulcrum At FOSS4G-NA

FOSS4G-NA was a professional development opportunity for our engineering team. Without the responsibilities of manning a booth, we were able to enjoy the sessions of our choosing and brainstorm what’s next for Fulcrum.

In closing, I’ll simply reiterate my statements following FOSS4G in Portland…

Attending events like FOSS4G reinvigorates our creative approach, helps us personally connect with our clients and colleagues, and reenergizes our commitment to building the best mobile data collection platform available.

About the author

Bryan is a software engineer with Fulcrum, and works with our web and backend platform.

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