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Getting Together: First Summit Promotes Developer Community

Scott Morehouse
Friday's keynote speech was given by Scott Morehouse, Esri's director of research and development and chief software architect and visionary. Following his presentation, Morehouse talked at length with conference attendees in the Tech Talk area.

Attendance at the first Esri Developer Summit, held March 17–18, 2006, far exceeded initial expectations. This developer-centric event, sponsored by IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, and Safe Software, was held in the Wyndham Hotel and Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs, California.

The attendees, from more than 30 countries, included developers, software architects, and decision makers and ran the gamut from experienced GIS developers to developers who were learning the value of spatially enabling applications. The number and enthusiasm of conference participants underlined the transition GIS is making to mainstream IT.

Esri created this conference with three goals in mind—gather feedback so Esri can better support developers, share information with developers, and build a GIS development community.

"The Developer Summit marks a shift in corporate direction to focus on a technical level to support developers who are extending the power of GIS and geospatial technology," said Esri president Jack Dangermond during the opening session. He noted that Esri needs to figure out how to better support developers and will take feedback from developers at the conference seriously.

conference attendeed outside by the pool
Conference attendees enjoyed sunshine and socializing by the pool.

The Developer Summit is one of several developer support initiatives. The Esri Developer Network (EDN) is the key component of this expanded support. Launched during the first quarter of 2005, EDN is a subscription-based program that gives developers access to software, tools, documentation, and a collaborative environment for building solutions based on Esri's server, embedded, and Web technologies.

Brian Goldin, project lead for EDN and master of ceremonies during the opening session, stated the underlying goal for the two-day conference was talking about current software and how people can be successful with it.

Friday's keynote speech by Scott Morehouse supplied insights designed to make developers more productive. Director of research and development and chief software architect and visionary at Esri, Morehouse talked about patterns of GIS development.

The ArcGIS framework is a schema-driven information system that is highly extensible. To be effectively used, frameworks must be understood. Morehouse emphasized that understanding the ArcGIS framework lets developers reuse designs and implementation strategies and apply experience and components developed while working on other projects. He noted that intelligent GIS development works "with the grain of the development framework" and takes advantage of many aspects of ArcGIS such as geoprocessing tools, ModelBuilder, and coarse-grain objects that supply basic GIS functionality. "Our goal is to help real people do real work," said Morehouse. "That is what GIS is all about."

the Community Center
The Community Center, featuring wireless coverage, overstuffed sofas and chairs, and Tech Talk areas, contributed to the conference's relaxed and informal atmosphere.

This theme was further developed in other presentations by members of Esri's software development teams. They shared development strategies for desktop, server, mobile, and Web GIS applications and integration during the opening session presentations.

Martin Nally of IBM and Eddie Amos of Microsoft kicked off the second day of the conference. An IBM distinguished engineer, Nally spoke on business processes and service-oriented architecture. Amos, the senior director of the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft, talked about a vision for the next generation of the Web.

Following the keynote addresses, sessions covering best practices, design patterns, and case studies made up the bulk of both days. Given to standing room-only crowds, these sessions were divided into tracks for data management; enterprise architecture; GIS concepts; and development in ArcGIS Desktop, Java, .NET, Web, and mobile environments. These presentations covered a range of topics. Hitchhiker's Guide sessions emphasized concepts. Other presentations focused on practical considerations such as performance and scalability, security issues, and best practices for developing with specific extensions such as ArcGlobe.

Promoting a sense of community was another of the summit's goals. The conference layout and format were tailored to those ends. The Community Center featured wireless coverage, overstuffed sofas and chairs suitable for lounging, and Tech Talk areas equipped with whiteboards. This setting encouraged informal discussions and networking.

Developer Summit presenters were available to attendees in the Tech Talk areas following their presentations. Lively discussions in the Tech Talk areas that followed many presentations attested to the high level of interest in many of the topics. The ratio of attendees to staff meant developers had ample opportunities for one-on-one discussion of specific issues in the Community Center and hallways. Esri staff at the Development Island in the Community Center were always available for demonstrations and to answer software questions.

Art Haddad
Art Haddad, ArcGIS .NET Development Lead, presenting during the plenary session

Special interest group meetings, familiar to attendees of other user conferences, were held for .NET, Java, UML and Agile Development, and electric developers. A more novel approach for encouraging interaction was also employed. Birds of a Feather sessions furnished face-to-face forums for any topic of interest. Attendees simply submitted topics through the EDN Web site, and Esri provided a space and time for a casual, interactive discussion during the conference.

Opportunities for social interaction also abounded. The St. Patrick's Day dinner on Friday and Industry Solutions and Development Social on Saturday gave all attendees opportunities to mingle and network. Attendees can enhance next year's conference by taking the postconference survey at www.esri.com/devsummit.

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