I thought about doing a play-by-play recap of my experience at the Esri User Conference but then thought that would be pretty boring to other people. So instead, this is my “color commentary” of some of the highlights, lowlights, and medium-lights? Is that a thing? And my general, stray thoughts overall.
I wonder how much time the marketing team spends on making these four-word slogans. I like them and think the marketing group does an excellent job. This year it was “See What Others Can’t”, replacing “The Science of Where”.
Early in the plenary, Jack Dangermond guaranteed that there will be no earthquakes during the week of the UC because he can “see what others can’t”! Video link
It was cool to watch Jane Goodall chat with Jack and E.O. Wilson. I wonder if it would have been better if it were a little scripted instead of ad-libbed.
The Good highlights:
- The weather was amazing. It is always amazing in San Diego, but this year was particularly amazing. I know this is not in control of Esri and the conference (or is it?), but still. Along with that, the food in San Diego is also amazing. I love getting the fresh sea food and Mexican food (and combining the two).
I saw a few people wearing map shirts and map dresses. This is purely awesome and I kind of wished I had one. I was a little creepy and took some ‘spy’ photos of these people (sorry for invading your privacy but your clothes were too cool to pass up):
- Ken Field is always sporting awesome stuff
Whose license plate is this? It is truly awesome:
- It is always super cool meeting people that I interact with on GeoNet. For some reason I never found Owen Evans, but I did run into Kory Kramer, Kelly Gerrow, and Melita Kennedy, as well as the GeoNet staff of Christopher Catania, Michelle Mathias, Leslie Fountain, Louise Branscomb, and Pea, I think? I also got to meet up with awesome GeoNet users like Curtis Price, Ken Buja, Andres Castillo, William Craft, Chelsea Rozek, and Ted Cronin (as well as Amy Niessen, Kirsten Pinkston, and John Foster).
- Giving out reusable aluminum water bottles was a cool idea, especially with different hydration stations around:
- Before a Survey123 class with James Tedrick, Ismael Chivite, and Elvin Slavik, they made everyone stand up and stretch. I thought that was pretty awesome:
- My son and I got to meet Jack at Balboa Park:
- This pint glass I got from the fine folks at GeoNet is terrific:
The Medium-sized highlights:
- Kory Kramer and others presented on ArcGIS Tips and Tricks and it was awesome. I picked up a cheat sheet that he had made for shortcuts but cannot find that in PDF form anywhere. Where can I find that?
- I noticed that most of the talks are from Esri personnel. I mean, I want to go to the Esri-based talks to get the technical training from the horse’s mouth. There were a few ‘paper sessions’ but I did not want to ‘waste’ one of my time slots when I could have gone to a talk/training on something I work with daily. But what happened to presentations like, “A Spatial Analysis of the NCAA Basketball Tournament” and other fun type of topics? I guess this is just kind of a random rant/thought but it is something I thought about while at the conference.
- I thought it was really random that Kevin Eubanks was there to play a song and more so that he allegedly has been to a few conferences. Growing up watching Jay Leno made me appreciate this more. He sure has not aged in 20 years! Video clip.
- I liked seeing the ArcGIS Pro Parcel Fabric introduction that’s new in 2.4.
The Not-so-good highlights/lowlights:
- There are just too many people. I love seeing how big this conference is and meeting people from all over the world as well as finding the top experts of every field. But it is just packed, packed, packed. During the plenary I saw many sections that were completely filled and a few rows of people who had to stand in the back. I heard rumors of people saying that San Diego is no longer large enough to hold this show and Esri needs to start looking elsewhere. From what I understand, San Diego has the seventh largest convention center in America. All the other places are in cities way less desirable than San Diego. I know Esri has San Diego booked out for a few more years but what will happen?
- Some vendors seemed like they just did not care. I know this is not really a fair assessment but on more than one occasion, I spoke with a vendor about a product I needed or was interested in and they just did not seem to want to engage and promote/sell their product. I found that a little odd. I will not name names either.
- I know there was some grumbling about extending vendor hall time to 4 pm on Thursday when it used to be noon on Thursday. Many of the vendors did not want to be at the vendor hall that long after two grueling long days before.
- There were too many talks and too many overlapping talks. I wanted to go to several talks that were in the same time slot. This happened at nearly every time slot. But, again, this is a huge conference with every discipline, so this is likely how it has to be. I know there were some repeat talks but those did not always work out either.
- Balboa Park. This place is amazing, and I would not want to miss going to the Balboa Park Party. But I am guessing that this had to have been the most attended party, or maybe it was just me. I feel like I have never seen it so crowded. It was on the verge of unpleasant on how busy it was.
- On top of it being mega-crowded at Balboa, some of the food ran out. I know that it is likely first come first serve but we had to fight through a few crowds just to get the BBQ type food. It was good too, but I wish it was not that stressful!
- I want to know, do people who work for Esri have fun at this conference? I do not know what it is like being on the other side (Esri-personnel side) but it just seems that most Esri employees are working 24/7 at this conference, going non-stop, and working super hard. I have not seen anyone complain or look irritated, but I wonder how I would feel working that hard and possibly not getting to enjoy different talks, different vendors, or San Diego in general.
Overall, the conference is extremely well-run, hardly any technical issues, and just the best place to be for GIS professionals. My wife would ask me, “How come you care so much about these talks to where you’re early and sit in the front row but didn’t care that much in school?!?” I am lucky that I get to go and hope to continue to keep going. I get as much out of it as I possibly can.
Thanks for reading!
You can find my Twitter feed during the conference here.