Last year, two of my friends (also student associates of Esri Canada) went to the 2016 Esri’s Developers Summit. When they came back, they said to me, “You should really go to this conference next year. You’re gonna love the experience. Plus, it is even more beneficial for you since you have some development background.” I actually didn’t think I’d be able to go the following year due to potential time conflicts with my dissertation and TA work. In response to ‘did I enjoy the Developers Summit?’ … the short answer: Absolutely. The longer answer, out of my past conference experiences from different organizations, this one [Esri’s Developers Summit] is by far hands down the best I’ve attended. Some of you may ask, “What makes this particular conference unique from others?” Well, I’m glad you’d ask because showcasing my experience to you should be convincing enough for you to attend.

Matthew Brown (left) next to Anastassios Dardas (right) at the DevSummit 2017 showcase.

Please note though, this conference is best suited for those that are either current developers or are interested in becoming a spatial developer or computer scientist and would like to learn some of the sweet spatial programs and tools Esri has to offer.

For starters, this conference is located in Palm Springs, CA. If you live in the northern states or in Canada, like me, and want to take a break from cold, gloomy weather as well as from work, then this conference is for you. The conference is usually held in early March, which is a perfect timing to go since the weather is always sunny with dry heat in the upper 80s [30 – 32 C]. Want to experience all climates in one environment but still be in the desert vicinity? Find a time after the conference and take the aerial tramway – it’s one of the cheapest, but well invested touristy thing to do. At 8500 ft, there are snowy trails to explore, a restaurant to eat, and breathtaking view of Palm Springs on the balcony.

Now, some nitty gritty details. This conference has a variety of over 400 tech sessions to offer and countless showcases – from introductory to ArcGIS JavaScript API to processing spatiotemporal big data. So Esri provides for a wide skill range for its attendees. Plus, each session has Q & A, including the opportunity for us shy people to ask the speaker questions in private afterwards. A few of my favorite sessions were the Keynote Speaker, Visualizing Big Data with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript and WebGL, and Big Data: GeoEvent & GeoAnalytics, Leveraging the Spatiotemporal Big Data Store. The keynote speaker, Todd Greene, showcased his startup company, PubNub, an extraordinary service that allows developers to simply create realtime apps via live spatio-temporal data. The WebGL session is something I’m planning to teach myself and apply for my dissertation work. That session displays the use of 3D inside ArcGIS’s JavaScript API with the tools of WebGL to improve browser rendering and aesthetics as well.

For student associates, this is a wonderful opportunity to attend and expand your current knowledge of GIS and development. From the showcasing, not only will you learn some of the latest products and technologies Esri has to offer, but it gives you the opportunity to network with the staff. Lastly, both the sessions and showcases, will certainly spark your ideas for the ECCE App challenge, any upcoming hackathons, or a change in methods for your research. Certainly, this applies to me. I’m planning to change one of the methods in my dissertation research as well as altering strategies for the app challenge.

Another amazing thing about this conference is the work-social balance. While the main purpose of this conference is to learn and network, it also caters some fun too! In my case, I got to know some of the Esri Canada staff/attendees. The last night of the conference included a mini-carnival, catered unlimited food and drinks, and had a dodgeball tournament, which if your team wins you get free entrance tickets to attend to one of the world’s largest developer conference hosted by Esri at San Diego.