Conference fee: $500
Float Plane: $120
Value gained at FME UC: Priceless
OK, OK, sorry for the cheezy intro. It’s true though. Let me tell you why.
Starting with the important stuff: Safe Software really know how to do swag and marketing in general. This is hands-down the best bag that I’ve ever got at a conference, though the Research in Motion WES conference came close. Inside the bag was the regular paperwork, but also a great water bottle, an organiser and a T-Shirt (they actually asked my size). Nice going conference team!
OK, that’s not really where the value lies, but it was definitely a nice way to start off the day.
I’ve been active in the FME community for a bit over three years now, and know a lot of folks (staff and users) solely through email. This has been a great opportunity to meet these people and others that I have never seen before, and compare notes on how FME is enriching our lives. The conference is intimate enough (around 100 people I think) that it’s possible to at least say hi to everyone, and there are many staff and expert users here to help out with your problems and discuss any ideas you might have in helping FME evolve to be an even better product. Everyone that is here is extremely accessible, and all seemed to be having fun, from the co-founders through the developers and other staff. It can not be emphasised enough how much value can be obtained solely from the networking available at this kind of conference.
The official kick-off featured a couple sessions about the history of Safe Software and FME, and I personally found these very interesting. Don Murray and Dale Lutz, Safe’s co-founders, showed how a great idea and hard work have grown Safe Software from a two-person operation into the strong organisation it is today, with over 70 employees. This was inspirational if nothing else. The second presentation was by Mark Sondheim and Peter Friesen from the BC Goverment. They recounted first hand the wild west of spatial interchange formats in the 90′s, and how the history of Safe Software was closely linked to the initial implimentation of the SAIF (Spatial Archive Interchange Format) standard. I’m ashamed to admit that I was nowhere near as visionary as Mark and Peter, and wondered at the time why we needed another format that I couldn’t even read from Arc/Info. If you haven’t heard of SAIF, take a minute to look it up. You’ll find that it shares a lot of concepts with GML. If you combine this precursor to GML with pioneering roles in PostGIS and the Java Topology Suite (I had similar unenlightened thoughts about JTS when I saw the RFP…) the effect that these folks have had on our industry and open source geospatial in general is amazing. Now if only they could do something about providing publicly funded base mapping data in BC for free ;)
The afternoon consisted of two workshop sections, with two streams each. In the first section I co-presented a session on the use of FME in my workplace in the same time slot with two other municipal-related sessions. For the next section, I chose to go to the Scripting stream, where there were sessions talking about using TCL within FME, using FME functions in Python, and some of the new Python-related enhancements in the FME betas. All very cool stuff. The slides will be available after the conference at the FME User Conference 2006 site, as is the agenda if you want to see if I’ve missed anything.
After the educational sessions, it was time for some fun and games. Three other FME MVPs (Hans, Peter, and SRG) competed along with me for the coveted FME Idol award. As we were working, Ulf Mansson took the opportunity to showcase some of his latest FME Art, which was very cool, and a bit distracting. Even with the distractions, I am happy to say that after some stiff competition I walked away with some serious hardware… er… glassware :)
To wrap this up, I should talk about some other important features of any conference: food, entertainment, and venue. Here, the conference team came through for us again. The food at the conference center was reasonable, and the dinner and entertainment at Storeum were excellent. The conference is being held at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, a rather unique space that is very condusive to communication. This was also the location of the GeoWeb conference earlier this year. I’m not sure how well it would do with a larger group, but it worked well for us today.
Anyway, let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. I am really looking forward to tomorrow.
P.S. If anyone from Autodesk is reading this post: Please, Please, Please work with Safe Software to give use a better solution for reading DWG with Object Data!