There are many ways in which you could write a blog post about the Esri User Conference. You could list impressive stats, such as the 17,901 attendees from 142 countries who submitted more than 1,700 maps to the Map Gallery.
You could marvel at the fact that those attendants consume 20,819 litres of water and 9,084 litres of coffee. You could wax lyrical about the 480 technical sessions, the 237 Demo Theatre talks, the 124 Special Interest Groups, and the 307 Exhibitors who made the exhibition hall their home for the week. Or perhaps you could praise the 2,200 Esri staff who made the event possible.
Regardless of the statistic you select, anyone would undoubtedly reach the conclusion that the Esri User Conference was very impressive.
If statistics aren’t your thing then perhaps an analogy or two would be a good place to start. To my mind the Esri UC 2018 is a bit like attending a spa, where the plenary and technical sessions are like hot stones and a massage - they sooth aches and pains and invigorate the mind, body and spirit, renewing your enthusiasm and reminding you of why the "Power of GIS" could have been a song by Huey Lewis. You see after using the software for 12 months since the last conference you could get a little jaded...perhaps ArcPro has crashed one too many times, or doesn’t do what you could do in ArcGIS Desktop?
On the social side, bumping into old friends and colleagues is one of the highlights of the conference for me, in some cases relationships extend back decades, for others you met them just last year. For a conference of almost 20,000 people, you may think it’s unlikely you would randomly bump into people, but in fact the opposite seems to be the case with encounters happening at almost every turn.
Social opportunities at this conference extend well beyond the technical sessions, with invitations to attend a Kiwi night, the Asia Pacific gathering, industry meet ups, catching up in the Gaslamp quarter or the end of conference party in Balboa Park. Whichever event you choose to attend, be prepared to consume some fantastic food and a few beverages, it's all about the networking!
Of course you can’t talk about the Esri User Conference without talking technology. It is after all one of the main reasons people attend, and this year we were enthralled with new releases of existing technology and releases of brand new kit. ArcGIS Urban looks like a great collaborative tool for urban planning. ArcGIS Indoors takes us into the world of Indoor mapping and navigation. ArcGIS Pro 2.2 brings new capability and parity with ArcGIS Desktop (which didn’t get a look in) and the latest ArcGIS Online release moves to a WebGL base vastly improving map performance amongst many other improvements that’s make ArcGIS a true WebGIS.
If technology isn’t your thing then let’s bring it back to one of the most remarkable things about Esri and its founders Jack and Laura Dangermond. Last December Jack and Laura gifted almost 10,120 hectors of pristine Californian Coastline bought for $250m NZD to The Nature Conservancy. This year they made the conference carbon neutral by donating more than 60,000 trees to Trillian Trees project - that’s roughly 3 trees for every conference attendee. They also announced free ArcGIS Online software for every K12 school on the planet and if that doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies then nothing will. The industry in which we work, more than any other similar IT industry, is driven by a couple who truly and passionately believe in making this world a better place through the use of geographic information. It really is an amazing industry to be part of.
So take your pick, talk about statistics, or technology, about meeting great people, about doing great things, it doesn’t matter what you pick because this conference caters for everyone and everything.
Blog written by Chris Morris, Spatial Group Manager