Last week, I packed my bags and headed for Norfolk, VA to speak at the Mid-Atlantic Developers Expo. I’ve spent the better part of the past year traveling the country, speaking about Geospatial Programming using Ruby and Rails. As a long-time lover of maps, the topic has been a joy to introduce to the community of Ruby developers, at both small regional conferences like MagicRuby or MountainRuby, and at major national conferences like RubyConf 2010 and RailsConf 2011.
MADExpo, however, was a different kind of conference. MADExpo is primarily a conference attended by Microsoft .NET developers. I was nervous about how my talk, primarily aimed at Rails developers, would be received by “the other side.” What could I possibly tell a bunch of .NET guys about doing Geospatial apps if my expertise is Rails?
As it turns out, quite a bit. I was genuinely surprised by the interest, attention, and questions I received during and after my session. Most folks were genuinely interested to learn how Rails developers are doing GIS apps, and had insights to offer about how certain problems are solved using .NET.
One of the main points of my speeches on Geospatial Rails is that “we should draw inspiration from outside our bubble of knowledge.” Old-school desktop GIS has a lot to teach web developers about what is possible, what is useful, and what is realistic. MADExpo made me realize that there’s another piece of this argument that I had been missing. Not only should we be looking at what desktop GIS can teach us: we should be looking at what users of other web stacks can teach us as well.
The slides from my presentation are available on Scribd. I welcome feedback and ongoing conversation about the future of Geospatial programming, and I’m looking forward to bringing a modified version of this presentation to the fifth annual Lonestar Ruby Conference in August this year! Hope to see many of you there. In the meantime, feel free to leave your comments below or ping me with questions on Twitter!