GeoDev Summit Recap

GeoDev Summit welcome sign

I wanted to give a recap and tell the backstory to the recently held GeoDev Summit.  The event was held on March 5 at Harrisburg University of Science & Technology.  It was a one day conference for current and future GIS Developers.  Sessions covered topics like Esri’s JavaScript API, open-source web GIS technologies, and desktop scripting with Python.

We had around 80-90 people attend the event.  They represented state government, local government, private sector, and non-profit industry sectors.  Some people traveled as far as Pittsburgh, although most attendees were from the mid state.  There were three tracks for attendees: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  As I didn’t have many expectations going into the day, I would say it was a big success.  Now for the backstory.

A one day GIS developer focused conference was an idea that had been simmering in the back of my mind for the past couple years.  In the state of Pennsylvania, the main GIS conferences are the state conference in State College, the Northwest conference in Clarion, and a scattering of GIS Day events across the state.  And while these are great conferences, they tend to lack sessions geared toward GIS developers. And when it comes to GIS developer events, there is the week-long Esri conference in California, and a one day event in Washington D.C.

Here’s the problem I wanted to solve: Have a GIS developer event that is easily accessible to professionals in the state of Pennsylvania.


audience and speaker during a presentation at GeoDev Summit
Rusty Green highlighting some awesome open-source GIS technologies.

Let’s fast-forward to November 2016. I had just finished up a presentation on automating workflows with Python at the Central PA GIS Day event.  I was talking to a guy who was a developer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  I told him about this idea I had for a GIS developer event, and wanted some feedback.  He seemed to think it was a great idea.  So, with some momentum, I began to think about it more seriously.  At this point, I was thinking of the event being held in 2019 or 2020.

Let’s now fast-forward to June 2017. It was time to get more feedback.  I posted a question on LinkedIn to see what people thought about this idea.  A colleague from another county shared the post.  A former professor of her’s commented on the post that he was interested.  And that is how I got connected with Harrisburg University.  (I was already a little connected to Albert Sarvis and Harrisburg University through the Harrisburg GIS Meetup group).    I knew for this event to happen, I would need to link up with an organization with some resources.  Harrisburg University of Science & Technology has been a great partner the whole way through.

In July or August, a series of meetings started with the University.  Much to my surprise, they wanted to hold the event in the spring of 2018 – much sooner than I was anticipating.  But we made it happen.  We were nervous about getting people to present, but got enough presenters to move from two to three tracks.  And we had over 100 people register (I would have been happy with 25!).  So then it was off to promoting the event through various social media channels and partner organizations.

introductory talk at GeoDev Summit
Harrisburg University’s Albert Sarvis giving introductory remarks

I’ll close this post by sharing some reflections about the event.  I think it was a great event, and that there were informational sessions for people of all skill levels.  Some people did tell me they thought most of the people weren’t seasoned developers.

And though were tried to funnel sessions into the beginner/intermediate/advanced tracks, there was definitely some misalignment.  I also received feedback that having a pre- or post-event networking mixer would have been great.  And on a personal note, a friend of mine was giving a session on Turf.js while I was presenting on Leaflet.js. I think our sessions were complementary and should have been at different time slots – but no big deal.

At this point, it looks like the GeoDev Summit will happen again. Harrisburg University is interested in holding it again. We will be having a debrief meeting in the near future. And hopefully people completed the surveys so we can get documented feedback.

Here are some of the topics we had sessions for. I’d be curious about what topics you would want covered at a GIS Developer conference? I definitely think some basic programming or introductory HTML/CSS/JavaScript/Python sessions would have been a great addition.

GeoDev Summit Session Topics:

  • Esri Python API
  • Esri JavaScript API
  • Leaflet.js
  • QGIS/MapServer
  • Google StreetView
  • Esri Web AppBuilder
  • Desktop Python scripting
  • React / ES6 / Webpack


I wanted to say thanks to a few parties:

  • Harrisburg University of Science & Technology for making my idea happen
  • The presenters for preparing awesome talks and giving us all some good ideas
  • The attendees for coming out and learning about some new things

And lastly, a big Thank You to the event sponsors: Esri, GeoDecisions, and PaMAGIC!

logos for sponsors for GeoDev Summit
GeoDev Summit sponsors


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