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NACIS 2006 review


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#1
mike

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I had a great time at the conference. It was great putting faces to names and Cartotalk alias names! Sorry I didn't meet every single person, but I guess that's what next year is for. Hope I can go next year too. :)

#2
Matthew Hampton

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I had a great time too! The Map-off was a little cheesy... :blink: (I actually think the Map Off was a lot fun.)

I really like NACIS, but think they could do a little better with the logo. I took a whack at it today. What do you think?
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#3
Derek Tonn

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I can't help but think of the movie "Airplane!" when it comes to the phrase "Drinking Problem". That, and the character who player Beaver Cleaver's mother on TV saying "I speak Jive as a second language." :lol:

NACIS was a lot of fun! I told Nat (Case) on the car-ride home though that the "egos" present in that group (at least on the academic side of the coin) give the graphic designers conferences I attend a run for their money! Man alive were there a few people who think that they are God's Gift to __________. But I digress.

My favorite quotes from the conference:

1. "I didn't mention the word 'untenured' because I didn't think it applied in the row I am sitting in". One of the "academics" refusing to say that they were an "untenured professor" in a canned, written question planted in the audience by the presenter of the University of Oregon interactive map session.

2. "It's not a banana....it's an entirely different type of fruit species." A comment from the "peanut gallery" during the Mapping Uganda session, when the presenter compared a traditional native fruit to a banana, only to be politely scolded by an audience member for making such an obvious error related to plant species. :rolleyes:

3. "Anyone using the Arial typeface does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with the phrase "imaginative." An academic who likely has never had any formal training in typography commenting on Map #2 of the MapOff....a design from, well, Yours Truly. Not that I am biased or anything. ;)

Seriously though, I really, REALLY enjoyed my time in Madison, particularly being able to spend time face-to-face meeting frax, Hans, mike, chicarto, rjdey, etc. Great, great group of people...who I hope I will continue to get to know better in the months and years to come. Just a tad less "wee bit superior to thee" from some of the academic side of the NACIS membership would make the conference that much more enjoyable in future years though.......

Derek
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#4
Mike H

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Next year we may need to add our cartotalk names to the badges - I could barely call you Derek because my brain wanted to say datonn! It was really fun to put faces to the (screen) names. And always enjoyable to see lots of great maps.

m.
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#5
Derek Tonn

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Agreed Michael. CartoTalk "handles" would have been really nice on those name badges.

So what's your take on NACIS? I know you're more in the "inner circle" and are well-versed on both the "commercial" and "academic" sides of the fence. What gives with at least a handful of the attendees seemingly having an "I'm smarter than you" contest at just about every session, the Map-Off, etc, etc? Is it insecurity, ignorance, or do some of the faculty in attendance really believe that they are somehow ten-times "smarter" than everyone around them? It's awfully easy to criticize other people and their work, but my guess is that many of those very-critical individuals couldn't hold a candle (related to design) to much of the work being produced by the members of this board.

My favorite quote from recent months: "We're all experts and we're all idiots.....just at different things." - unknown

I hope I'm not sounding rude! I know I have a more "direct" communications style than many, but that's just because I'm working ALL the time (and watching my two kids during the few hours each day I'm not on the computer) and don't have a lot of time to tip-toe around various issues. I can be a bit of a "bull in a china shop", I know. However, I only have the best intentions in mind when making various statements and/or asking various questions.

Now that I got the chance to meet you in-person, I am even MORE impressed by you and your work! B) Lots of great people here around CartoTalk, as well as at the NACIS conference. I hope I can attend the 2007 event in Missouri.

Derek
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#6
Mike H

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I think it simply gets down to personalities - which does encompass many of the character traits you mentioned. It's not just cartography - I have a pretty diverse background in design and marketing and have seen the same personality traits come into play in other venues. In my experience, the best designers are also the most humble. They let the design speak for itself. They also recognize that this is a craft that takes time to master. Over time, NACIS is a great opportunity to watch creative cartography grow, as a discipline and with respect to individuals.

The academic/professional conflict is simply two very different worlds colliding. Tenure can be an evil process, and it does form a dividing line. To some degree there is institutional conflict and competition, just like we see among private cart firms. There may be deeper issues not readily seen, such as bad blood between former students/professors, or former employees/managers/owners. Many of us compete for the same grants or clients or staff, and may not feel the best team got the job.

There are a few 'known conflicts' which may appear odd, or innapropriate, to first time attendees. But to those who know, these slightly combative dialogs are predictable, and enjoyable, to watch unfold. The bottom line is there is no right or wrong answer, it is a conflict of design or theoretical ideologies, and the audience can side with whichever they agree with. Or, perhaps most valuable, they can form their own opinion in the middle.

The academics may be powerful and respected theorists or researchers, but overall very few PhD cartographers produce maps for public review. Those that do offer a most valuable perspective to both academics and commercial cartographers. You cannot develop a tool like ColorBrewer.org if you don't immerse yourself in production cartography with a real-world project. Yet very few cartographers would be allowed the resources to develop such a tool, nor have the teaching background to design it's utility. Very few cartographers working in commercial firms would have the time or drive to redesign a landform model of the US and then offer it for free - and it is a very special individual who has the talent and passion for the craft to develop, design and offer such a resource to the world. Incidently, both of those individuals are past presidents of NACIS - Cindy Brewer and Tom Patterson. Academic and commercial cartographers. To me, that is the very special aspect of NACIS.

The map-off has gotten a bit more critical over the years, in part because the core audience is not first-time attendees, and we hope no-one takes it too seriously, but the whole point is a critical review. I proposed the relief model looked like "moldy cheese" - which was my instinctive reaction - but in no way meant to imply the designer could do no better. Who, unknown to me, was sitting at our table. We all understnd these are produced on tight timelines with limited resources, and represent for the most part a first-round draft. Any of those maps could be sent back after map-off for a design overhaul, and we would then see four very polished maps that would be much harder to rank. It takes a thick skin to participate in map-off, and it's become an increasingly popular venue.

NACIS is what it is - it operates as a volunteer organization and conference. It's not big enough or prestigious enough to carry too much weight, which allows it's overall informality. The value is two-fold: seeing representations of state-of-the-art cartography, and networking with other mapmakers. A lot of behind-the-scenes recruiting happens, where both private and academic cartographers are looking to hire, or hint at upcoming positions, or have a big idea and are using NACIS as a way to assemble a design team. It gives people a huge list of contacts they may want to talk to throughout the year if they have a specific question, problem or idea. And it lets previously unknown designers present their work to the field, which may open up future opportunities.

Overall, I hope it's simply a fun venue for map-people to be immersed in conversation and presentation, and let friendships develop organically.

m.
Michael Hermann
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#7
margaret

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Hi Derek,
It was nice to meet you in person in Madison.... Thanks again for making the Map-Off a reality, which it literally would not have been without your enthusiasm, skills, and commitment.

My favorite quotes from the conference:

1. "I didn't mention the word 'untenured' because I didn't think it applied in the row I am sitting in". One of the "academics" refusing to say that they were an "untenured professor" in a canned, written question planted in the audience by the presenter of the University of Oregon interactive map session.


As you have quoted a beloved friend out of context in a public forum, I must defend her. The canned, written question concerned the coffee-addiction problem of tenure-track assistant professors. By resisting the word "untenured" when she read the question, the person you quote was referencing the fact that non-tenure-track cartography instructors are even more desperate, overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated than their tenure-track colleagues, and thus more likely to be desperate for coffee at any hour.

She was also making a joke about the fact that she had to justify ad-libbing the question because in fact she could not see the 12-point type on the paper without benefit of a second pair of glasses.

not all academics are elitist and vain, least of all this person

margaret

#8
Mike H

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not all academics are elitist and vain



...and those who are quickly realize their 'hot air' has no steam at NACIS. Not just academics, the same trait appears in commercial cartographers. I spoke with a rather arrogant person at State Street Brats (NACIS night out) who was not attending the conference - just crashing the Night Out. I inquired why he wasn't interested in attending, citing the opportunity to see such great work and meet other mapmakers, and his reply was " nah, I don't need that, we crush the competition."

so, perhaps it was best he didn't attend at this point. He needs to grow up a little and lose the ego. Since I never heard of him or the firm, I'm suspect that they "crush the competition" on a regular basis.

m.
Michael Hermann
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#9
MapMedia

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Ah! Thanks all for posting about NACIS 2006 - Wish I could have made it but am busy setting up new home & shop in Italy.

The map-off sounds productive in a way. Regarding academics mixing it up with 'practitioners' (i.e. folks making maps for a living), the interactions are bound to be mixed. I doubt many PhD cartographers would want to share their mapping skills with colleagues - that's not what they are focused on, per say - especially when a 23 yr old cartography graduate may be 10-fold more talented at map making then them. Its a symbiotic relationship where the study of cartography informs practicing cartographers, and cartographers discover new problems for academics to think about and do further research on.

Any pic gallery of NACIS 06 available? Not that I want to see your mugs, :P but would be nice to see the setting, attendance, posters etc.

St Louis is a great choice for 07!

#10
Derek Tonn

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not all academics are elitist and vain, least of all this person


Margaret,

Yes, I agree 120%. I was merely trying to illustrate how taken aback I was at a few people's comments and/or public treatment of one another during the conference....joking or not. If I, as a first-timer, didn't always recognize all the "inside jokes" or "subtle humor" of a situation like that, how many other first-timers, students or professionals in attendance had a similar experience? How does that reflect on NACIS as an association and/or organization wishing to recruit new members in order to grow and prosper over the long-term? That's all I was meaning to imply. As a relative "outsider", hearing/seeing those types of comments throughout the conference did not reflect positively on the Society.

That's not me saying that any particular individual is/was "elitist" or "condescending"! That's just how it "felt" as an audience member hearing other audience member comments at several of the sessions. No more, no less.....and certainly not me trying to pass judgment upon any particular individuals.

To Michael's comment, YES, some of the biggest mapping egos on the planet lie in the "commercial" side of cartographic design and not the academic community. Without a doubt! I honestly think a lot of that revolves around the issue of fear......either fear/ignorance of the unknown OR a fear of impending obsolescence. In my experience, the more one's core client base and market share is being threatened, the taller those peacock feathers tend to stick out for people who have been in the business for quite a while.

I sometimes struggle with "ego" on the business front too.....NOT related to the quality of our designs vs. other companies (since there are literally dozens of methods to designing an effective map), but rather the fact that I have had 4+ years of studio/graphic arts training and 8+ years of business/economics classes. Most cartography programs in the United States do not require (to my knowledge) any formal studio arts training in the basics of drawing/illustration or using color and type.....nor are graduates required to have the first idea of how to take their cartographic talents and be able to translate them into running a successful cartography organization. That's where you hear people being very critical of others in a theater such as the Madison conference and you want to remind them that EVERYONE at that conference is the most knowledgeable person in the room on literally dozens of topics.....and that their being "smart" about particular things does NOT make them "better" than anyone else in attendance.

But I digress. As I have mentioned before, my overall impression of the conference in Madison was a VERY positive one....and I thought that most of the people in attendance were very talented, polite and fun to be around. It's some of that silly one-upsmanship that a few people were displaying that needs to be rooted-out though, in my opinion. That type of thing is like a cancer on an association. It's not "unique" to cartography though. Heck, if you want to see the occasional person in-action who has taken "elitism" to a nearly spiritual level, just attend a conference with a few hundred architects in the room! You can't walk 50 feet without somebody going out of their way to remind you of how "inferior" you are to them..... :lol:

Derek
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#11
Hans van der Maarel

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I spoke with a rather arrogant person at State Street Brats (NACIS night out) who was not attending the conference - just crashing the Night Out. I inquired why he wasn't interested in attending, citing the opportunity to see such great work and meet other mapmakers, and his reply was " nah, I don't need that, we crush the competition."

so, perhaps it was best he didn't attend at this point. He needs to grow up a little and lose the ego. Since I never heard of him or the firm, I'm suspect that they "crush the competition" on a regular basis.


Hmmm... So doesn't want to hang out with other mapmakers, but does crash the party? Interesting... Just wondering, did he pay for NACIS Night Out, like the rest of us?

Anyway, to throw in my 2 cents, this was only my 2nd NACIS meeting, but both of them have been very interesting for both me personally and in a business sense. The "inside jokes" in an organisation with such a long history and diverse membership are not always easy to "get" at the first (or second) time though, but I found the NACIS crowd to be a very pleasant one (after all, I didn't get pelted with tomatos at the Map-Off!).

I'll definately try and be there next year as well! B)
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#12
frax

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(moderators - maybe this should be moved to another topic, or the topic name should be changed?)

I returned back home safely last night, and I had a blast at NACIS. To tell the truth, not all of the sessions were that interesting for me personally or professionally, but the networking and the people were amazing. Great atmosphere and networking!

Cool to meet people and put some faces to you guys, although I am not sure I talked to you all (I think I missed you, herm...)

datonn -- I don't really agree with you regarding your comments. I saw tiny bits of that, but I didn't really react.

I will definately try to make it next year, but I doubt I will make it there...
Hugo Ahlenius
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#13
Hans van der Maarel

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Hugo,

Yeah, I had been thinking of splitting it. It's done now.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#14
Mike H

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(I think I missed you, herm...)


No, we met - I think it was friday night, in the hospitality suite, closer to 2 am... we talked for a while before we made the cartotalk screen name introductions. Given the hour, our memory banks were probably full.

I rarely stay up that late to socialize on any other night of the year - NACIS always leaves me sleep deprived, but creatively energized.

m.
Michael Hermann
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#15
Nick Springer

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I too had a great time in Madison, renewing firendships from last year and making a bunch of new friends. For me NACIS is all about the people. The sessions have interesting topics, but I often get more out of the hallway discussions (like hearing Jim Meachem, Mike Hermann, and Lou Cross discuss their experiences creating state atlases).

I also see differences between the academic and professional camps, but I don't see it as arogance (maybe from a few individuals on both sides of the aisle), just as a different perspective on cartography. Mike I think hit it on the head in pointing out that academics have freedom to explore the theoretical ascpects of our craft, and have the luxury to just create tools and maps without the need for a commercial payoff. This gives them a different perspective, but not a bad one. I wish I had time for that :)

I actually enjoy talking to the acedemics and had at least one discussion in Madison where my professional experiences ran counter to one of the academic presentations. Rather than thinking this was arrogance I told them about my thoughts and they were interested in the professional point of view, and who know it may influence the research.

Over all I think the NACIS mix of academic and professional cartographers is a good thing and exposes both sides to new perspectives and information.

Nick Springer

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