Thursday, December 4, 2008

ESRI closes UC blog, moves to Facebook - the wrong move?

Because I live in the Inland Empire of California and work in the public safety software area, I have a natural interest in the affairs of Environmental Systems Research Institute, better known as ESRI. If you haven't heard of it,

ESRI designs and develops the world's leading geographic information system (GIS) technology. GIS is an important tool—one that helps shape the world around us.

To support their users, ESRI hosts an annual User Conference. Its 2009 International User Conference will be held in San Diego, California from July 13-17, and will occupy the San Diego Convention Center.

As those of you involved in annual conferences can appreciate, the conference itself is not something that occupies your mind for a month, and then you forget about it for the next 11 months. An annual conference requires involvement throughout the year, not only for the planners, but also for the attendees. (Have you confirmed that your 2009 budget will allow you to attend Oracle OpenWorld?)

Because of this need to keep people informed, ESRI establish a blog to provide updates on User Conference planning.

No more. This was posted today, December 4, 2008:

The UC Blog Has Retired

You can now join us on our Facebook page. ESRI has set up a Facebook group so you can communicate with other users and attendees. Go to Facebook and look for the group Official ESRI UC.

The post includes a link to, and when I went there, I was greeted with the following:

So, basically, before you can find out anything about the ESRI UC, you have to join Facebook, whereas previously anyone could access the information.

Now, in its defense, ESRI had reasons for setting up the Facebook group:

ESRI has set up a Facebook group so you can communicate with other attendees before, during, and after the conference.

Now I can certainly understand that, and I understand that you need to set up an account if you want to exchange information.

But why do you need an account to get information? And do I want to set up a Facebook account merely for the purpose of reading about a conference?

Well, it turns out that I don't have to join Facebook. A simple Google search led me to the link, which is the link for the ESRI UC Facebook group.

Whoops...wait a minute...I found a different group. This isn't the Official ESCI UC group. The "Official ESRI UC" group is at (This is not to be confused with he "Official ESRI UC 2008" group, which is at For some reason ESRI didn't link to the group on its blog post, preferring that you join Facebook and navigate instead. Unfortunately, I bet the navigation's a bit tricky, since there are several groups associated with the ESRI UC.

So, now that I've taken the back door to the Official ESRI UC group, what can I learn?

ESRI has set up this group so you can communicate with other UC attendees before, during, and after UC. This is a site for you, but the ESRI crew will be around if you want to connect with us too.

While it does seem early to begin thinking about the 2009 UC, here at ESRI planning and preparations have already begun. Check back often for important deadlines and tips to help you start planning.

See you in San Diego!

And there is already some discussion about housing for the 2009 conference.

So, if you don't want to join Facebook, you can find out about the ESRI UC by going to the easy-to-remember URL

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an RSS feed. (The old blog had an RSS feed, which is how I found out that the blog was shutting down.) Maybe I have to join Facebook to gain access to the RSS feed?

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