The 2014 installment of the Esri Federal GIS Conference (formerly known as the Federal User Conference) happens next week. I have attended the event off and on since its inception. While I originally was drawn by the presence of a large geo-related event in my local area, that gap has been filled by numerous, smaller events from various sources in the past few years. The FedUC has traditionally had something of an identity crisis, with the content often feeling a bit diffuse and somewhat rushed over its quick, two-day schedule.
To Esri’s credit, and probably in recognition of the changing economics regarding travel for Federal employees, they have continued to fine-tune the event when they could have easily walked away from it. The main problem with the FedUC is the fact that the Federal Government performs a wide array of functions that are difficult to cover well over two days in a conventional format. Esri has tackled that problem this year with the introduction of “immersion summits,” which are three-and-a-half hour sessions dedicated to specific domain areas.
For example, check out the Natural Resources Immersion Summit led by my friend John Steffenson. The agenda features speakers from USDA, USGS, the US Forest Service, the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Department of Interior, representing over 100 years of higher education dedicated to natural resources management. The session also has slots for several demos of systems deployed in natual resources domain.
The session’s content seems to be designed take a holistic view, including fiscal, logistical, technical, and demographic challenges among others. This type of deep focus is an intriguing change to event’s focus. While nautral resources is not my usual domain, I do like to drop into other sessions as I find that uses cases from other domains can give me ideas to bring back to my work. I think this new format could maximize the use of the compact schedule of the Federal GIS Conference and begin to give the event its own identity.