Smith College Spatial Analysis Lab

Esri User Conference Report

This summer Jon and Victoria ventured out to San Diego, California for Esri’s annual User Conference. Our good friends at Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute – the company that brings you products like ArcMap and ArcGIS Online) put together this conference each year that attracts over 15,000 GIS users from all across the country and around the world to spend a week in Southern California nerding out about GIS. It’s the perfect environment to network with important figures in all parts of the GIS industry, learn new ways to use Esri products from the specialists, and to accidentally wear the same plaid shirt two days in a row without anyone noticing.

The first part of the conference was the Esri Education User Conference, which focuses on GIS use in the education industry. Here Jon and Victoria were able to collaborate with GIS representatives from a variety of colleges – state and private, local and far – and even came across a number of familiar faces from colleges in the Northeast.

The highlights of the Ed UC included an “unconference meeting” of GIS users at liberal arts colleges, a riveting presentation on Story Maps by Victoria, and a build-your-own mashed potato bar. Jon stood out as one of the most talented mashed potato dish designers, exhibiting his excellent techniques in the picture to the right.

Once the Ed UC came to a close, the main conference began, kicking off with the annual all-day Plenary. This event is hosted by Esri’s distinct owner, Jack Dangermond, who brings his most charismatic employees to stage to present their newest products. This event, fondly referred to as “the Jack show”, attempts to squeeze all 15,000+ conference attendees into the convention center’s largest room where the performances can be viewed from one of twelve massive screens lining the front wall. Victoria caught a nice picture of Jack in action, seen at the top of this page.

The remainder of the conference was packed with workshops and presentations focusing on a huge array of Esri’s GIS products including anything from understanding coordinate systems, to 3D mapping with City Engine, to Drones. Jon sought out industry advice for our Zebra Fish brain scan mapping project, while Victoria attempted to network her way through the masses, acquiring a large stack of useful business card contacts.

The conference came to a close at the Thursday night Balboa Park party where Esri occupied each of the museums, providing free admission for all of the conference attendees. This entrance came complete with a food and drink offering that was intended to reflect various cultures’ cuisines.

Overall a great conference full of sunshine, nerdy exchanges, and more learning than one brain can handle. Check in again next year to see if Jon and Victoria manage to muster the energy to cross the country yet again!