They say the happiest place on Earth is Disney World — They’re wrong, its FOSS4G

Todd Barr
3 min readAug 27, 2017
Summer Camp for Geographers

So, its been a week since I’ve returned to the mountains from Boston, and the FOSS4G Conference. During that time I was able to A) get over not being surrounded by awesome Geo people all day all the time and B) digest what I encountered, saw and experienced during that time.

All the following are my opinions, no data, no counts - just my feelings about this conference.


I’ve been to a ton of conferences, not all GIS/Geo, but like 50 wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility. The International FOSS4G 2017 conference was by far the best planned conference I have ever been too. From the workshops to the Gala, this thing worked like a machine. It never felt stressed or rushed. There was always enough space, food, and time to enjoy the space. The efforts put into this were simply Herculean. The amount of work put into this, while not obvious to the conference goer, was incredible. The conference team deserves massive congratulations for their efforts and pulling it off.


As I taught one, they were amazing. From what I gathered from the other instructors, everyone had a full house. I dove into the subject matter of the Workshops over here.

It was great seeing a line at 0715 in the morning waiting for their workshops.

TL;DR the sessions covered diverse topics, and dove deep into many aspects of FOSS4G Tech and Analysis.


I focused mostly on the machine learning, R, and PostGIS stuffs, but that’s just me. Instead of tracks, FOSS4G had days. I still stand by my tweet that R day should not involve talking like a Pirate, but some stuff can slide. I didn’t make it over for most of QGIS day, because Gala. I’m not an avid desktop user, but people who are indicated they learned a lot.

As usual the presenters were experts in their fields, from book authors, to people you follow on twitter and fav most of what they tweet about.


AMAZING, well put together, and really showed off what Boston had to offer. Honestly, I had forgotten how much I missed water taxis.

Drinking. with. Penguins. (Note this does not work in what3words)


While this is not the fault of conference planners, but pretty standard for the tech community. The gender diversity at this conference was, well unbalanced. While I haven’t seen any demographic breakdown by gender, I’d estimate that it was about an 85/15 split.

In my workshop, the breakdown was about 70/30. I don’t want this to take away from how great the conference was, but I know the community is more diverse than this, and we can do better. In 2018, the community may need to double down on pushing for a more balanced attendance.

Wrap Up:

I always compare the FOSS4G community to going to summer camp. It’s the time you get to hang out with your pen pals from the rest of the year, and sneak a beer behind the camp counselors cabin. The Boston crew has set a high bar for Dar es Salaam, but judging from their sizzle reel, they should meet it. I mean, a 5 star hotel on the beach. How could it not? Rumor has it, they have good beer.

There are too many people to list, but if you were there and we talked, I am glad we did. Re entry to reality from this conference was hard, but it energized me to work harder for this community and to be a better Applied Spatial Data Scientist.

I am so looking forward to both St Louis and Tanzania.

For my discussion of the breakdown of the sessions and workshops, click here or here.