OpenStreetMap

The State of the Map Conference 2021: feedback

Posted by DeBigC on 13 July 2021 in English (English).

My intention

It is what it is. This is some feedback for the organizers, speakers and community at large. I’m just picking out my main impressions and experiences. I sat through about 80% of it except for a couple of the Sunday things. The conference, being the second remote one had a dead atmosphere about it, even judged by the remoteness yard-stick. I have always been remote, for various reasons, and I enjoyed Japan, Milan, Heidelberg, and even the shell of Cape Town last year from afar. In those years small glitches occured, but despite these things did improve and did get better with the passage of time.

My intention is to give positive feedback, without being a cheerleader because cheerleading is just noise, not specific and not credible. Positive feedback is honest, and helpful with its honesty.

The content

I think the speakers, their topics, the content decisions, the preparation, the enthusiasm and the concern for the rest of the community and the project shown by the speakers was exemplary. As a viewer of several SOTMs I can certainly see interests in the community maturing, specializing and upping its game in terms of evidence behind ideas, and explanation of these ideas, and calls for engagement. I don’t dare to pick out my favourites as I have 4 friends who presented, but there were talks that were surprisingly interesting, beyond how they were billed. This needs to be preserved, firstly by naming it for what it is, and maybe the process of selecting and focusing talks is working well.

The format

The format seemed to be stretched out to the point of being energy sapping with all the long downtimes between segments. The talks themselves, if they were related to one another to begin with(?), are more difficult to relate to one another with those gaps. This was not hard to get right if the talks were pre-recorded. I can’t see any logical argument for the variety of audience time-zones creating a need to spread the whole event out over half a day for very few talks, and very short actual talking time. Big suggestion: if there have to be gaps put a countdown timer to the start of the next one. No more fiddling around with UTC conversions.

The Platform

I was late booking, and didn’t get a ticket. As a consequence I missed out on the main viewing platform, and found asking questions impossible. Why were tickets even necessary? Why choose a web space or application that is limited technically to such a ridiculous extent that it has to have a ticket system. Some of the moderators/convenors were facing dead air for engagement and resorted to shouting for twitter questions, which were studiously ignored because the moderators weren’t communicating with the twitter department. Doesn’t it go against the grain of the history/identity of the community to force people to have tickets, or use mastodon (no thanks) to be able to meaningfully engage? I think it obviously does. If you decided this, and you are reading my reaction please reflect upon this as a lost opportunity. Sadly some talks got no questions, and there was little engagement evident for those of us without tickets.

Conclusion

In balance the interesting talk content and speakers outshine the weaker points, and I hope that comes through here. If there was a big thing to suggest about remote conferences I would say to the organisers at the start “make it feel like a conference”. Hopefully the next SOTM is face to face, but even if it is that will only be an experience for a few hundred people, while thousands of highly committed mappers will still depend on the SOTM organisers getting the balance right, and should not be excluded from viewing all the talks, and all the questions and comments.

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 25 July 2021 at 10:43

In unlikely case that you watched my talk, had questions, still remember them - feel free to ask now.


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