Updated: Aug 17
My first Esri User Conference Experience
Let’s start with the party.
All week long I had heard whispers and rumors about how great the Esri UC party is. I’ve been to a lot of corporate summits, expos, conferences, and confabs so I was skeptical, to say the least, that any conference party would be worth talking about. I was wrong. The party that took over Balboa Park in San Diego was the best conference party I have seen.
And not just the park, Esri opened all the museums and covered the grounds with food, music, and entertainers. The lines for the food were long everywhere, except in the park’s botanic gardens. That was the secret nook nestled behind Casa de Balboa that fed us that evening. Beautiful architecture, beautiful light, people strolling El Prado, and to cap the evening off The Spazmatics. A great cover band whose show is dialed in and performed perfectly. If for no other reason, the final night’s party is enough to encourage any geospatial analyst to go.
But, the party is far from the only reason to go. The GIS community has been abuzz with the advent of digital twin technology of late and I could have used a twin myself as the conference had more sessions I wanted to attend than was able. This being my first UC, and as my firm is a new Esri Startup Partner, I focused on those sessions that would improve my technical skills and inspire new possibilities with our data.
The Expo Hall was like visiting an Apple Genius Bar on steroids. Esri brought so many people to help us that no matter the app, module, or issue it would be troubleshot by the engineer or UI/UX designer behind it.
Jack Dangermond, Esri founder and president, peppers his talks with requests for complaints and criticism so the firm and its ArcGIS product suite may continue to grow and improve. His ethos runs through everybody I spoke with. The desire to understand how users engage with Esri products and how those engagements might improve is heartfelt. In that vein, I would recommend even larger demo theaters as each one I attended was standing room only. You literally needed to skip a previous session just to make sure your able to attend the session you really want to.
Balboa Park is home to sixteen museums and those that took the time were able to be inspired by some beautiful art. The UC was not without its own inspirational art in the Map Hall. User contributed thousands of examples of their work over the past year for peer review and much of it was inspiring indeed. Looking at the examples of others will inform how I produce StoryMaps, dashboards, maps, and data layers in the year to come. In fact, it has inspired me to submit for next year’s UC.
In the opening plenary Jack said, “Our lack of understanding and failure to communicate is the fundamental problem of our time.” This goes beyond GIS but after a week where I was able to learn from so many about the myriad ways in which geospatial technologies, and Esri, are used to educate our communities I leave emboldened to do my part.
By Michael Temchine, Geospatial Analyst