This weekend almost 80 people gathered in a nice country house located in the middle of the park of El Alamillo in Seville at Geocamp ES to discuss open data, open source and geospatial information. Geocamp ES 2015 is the third edition of a conference series following the lead of Geocamp in Portugal. Past editions where organized by Geoinquietos Galicia in Vigo and A Coruña and this year Geoinquietos Seville took the flag to organize this unconference. The format of Geocamp ES is a one day event with some of the talks programmed and the rest of them proposed the very same day. The schedule is finally defined at the beginning of the conference with a relaxed timing to give time for discussion while others talks are shorter and focused to the topic.

Seville

In my case I gave a talk about four use cases of CartoDB applied to the access and visualization of geospatial data, focusing on some aspects that make CartoDB different and special: the easiness to develop web mapping applications without the need to deploy any other components than pure HTML/JavaScript code consuming CartoDB Maps and SQL API. I also discussed using the convenient CartoDB JavaScript library, the rich expressiveness of Spatial SQL to perform geospatial analysis and the flexibility of CartoCSS to define cartography rendering rules. I didn’t had any questions immediately (maybe it was too technical) but afterwards discussions came about how to use CartoDB.

Apart from my talk there were other interesting proposals like the work enthusiastically done by the technicians of the Cartography Institute of Andalucía to maintain updated the regional street map (Callejero Unificado de Andalucía), where they collaborate everyday with public administration employees of sometimes incredibly small and low tech equipped municipalities. Their passion was eloquently described by Paloma López: “I work hard because without soul there’s no project”.

Another great talk was delivered by Juan Carlos, the manager of the FabLab of the University of Seville. He explained the concept of a FabLab (born at MediaLab at MIT) and how it can provide anyone with tools to innovate on the development of real concepts and designs, ones that can make a difference both in academic and social settings. With a low budget but a lot of hard work and passion, FabLab Seville like many other laboratories around the world are putting design, engineering and innovation in the hands of everyone that has interest in it. According the presenter, FabLabs are to design and innovation what libraries are to literacy and education.

Juan Carlos from FabLab

Other interesting talks were about 3D rendering, research about improving our cities, the risks inherent in caching the metadata that our online activity traces, problems with Spatial Data Infrastructures, the application of modern web mapping techniques to heritage studies, security improvement for cyclists and other sports practitioners through improved mobile applications or the possibilities of cartograms to express density maps.

Many talks supported great discussion afterwards and that’s, in my opinion one of the big differences between this unconference and more traditional formats. The low number of attendants and the relaxed organization of the conference enables free expression and the sharing of opinions. Still as always, some people prefer more intimate discussion and breakout sessions are perfect for this.

Break

After the conference Andrés Nadal, a historian from Barcelona, provided a great tour of the city. His tour highlighted fascinating stories about the history and governance of the city, and notable personas like Miguel de Cervantes or Bartolomé Esteban Murillo; the perfect ending to a great day.

On Sunday two complementary activities were organized by Geoniquietos Seville, a Mapillary photo walk and a little practice of geocaching. Pau Gargallo from Mapillary was the host for the first activity; after some training six groups went to take hundreds of pictures of the city centre to cover some historic streets. Afterwards, the geocaching local group of Seville proposed a “scavenger hunt” for micro treasures, hidden in different places near the city centre. For me, it was the first real experience on this activity even I’ve known about it for a while.

Geocamps are a great opportunity to join both professional and community aspects of geospatial research and software development; spending a weekend with a good group of geonerds from Spain and Portugal is always refreshing. Where we will have our next Geocamp? an Iberian Geocamp was discussed to join forces with our friends of Portugal next summer. We’ll see.