A few days ago, Randal Hale posted an announcement about the upcoming Southern Appalachian Conference on GIS to be held at East Tennessee State University. I have never attended that conference and probably won’t this year but, if you live and work in that area, you may want to check it out.
Why? Well, I don’t know yet because they are still accepting abstracts for papers so it’s hard to know what the content will be. But I’m coming to the close of a 12 month period in which I only attended one “big” conference (the Esri FedUC). All other such outings were either regional conferences (GIS in the Rockies, North Carolina GIS) or our local unconference, WhereCampDC.
These conferences, along with my recent work with the Arkansas GIO office, have given me a greater appreciation of the innovation that goes on at a local level. Admittedly, my years of working at the Federal level may have hopelessly skewed my perception but I am finding that the conflicting conditions of reduced resources and increased requirements create a powerful crucible in which unique solutions to real-world problems can emerge. There’s not a lot of pie-in-the-sky UDOP (re)development happening there.
I saw more innovation in one day in Charlotte than I did in five days in San Diego. Perhaps the same will be true in Johnson City. It’s hard to say. So I’ll leave it at this: get off the beaten path. Whether it’s Johnson City or Huntsville or Loveland or someplace else, there’s probably a regional event happening within a day’s drive of wherever you are. Go to it. See what’s happening, what challenges people are facing, and how they are applying/integrating GIS (or whatever it’s called these days) to address them.
You might just be happy you did.