Goodbye AAG

Dear AAG,

It’s not you, it’s me…

For the first time in eight years I will not be renewing my membership to the AAG.  It’s not that I’m moving away from my roots as a geographer, it’s that I really have no use for being a member of the AAG.  I’m no longer an academic geographer and I can’t justify paying for the general services they provide.  I haven’t attended an annual conference in a couple years, I barely skim the PG and Annals when I get my copy, and their jobs section leans heavily towards academic searches.  At this point I don’t have an active membership with GITA or URISA, my membership to AAG will expire soon, and I haven’t paid my dues to GTU in 7ish years…

Now, this brings up a larger question.  What is the point of being a member of these professional geo-societies?

Traditionally these organizations have provided a variety of “perks” to their members such as job listings, publications, the latest industry news, and hosting regional and annual conferences.  They also lobby on a number of topics (remember MAPPS), for their members and the greater industry.  However, I never find myself  going to these organizations for the latest news and industry trends, the best job listings, or attending their conferences.

So, what can a geo-professional do to stay “in the loop”, while saving a few hundred bucks?

  • Where do I go for my latest industry news?  I follow a number of these organizations on twitter and I read the industry blogs.  This avenue is much more active than the monthly newsletter.
  • What do I do for conferences?  Well, I go to the Esri User Conference, but I have found more value in attending a number of local GIS/spatial/technology conferences and meet-ups.  I tend to believe that smaller conferences and meet-ups have a much larger impact on their participants, as people tend to participate and contribute more in smaller, more focused groups. Side not: I know it’s larger than what I am talking about here but I’d like to go to FOSS4G someday.
  • If I need a job, where do I go to for the best listings?  Well, I’ve been out of the job search game for about two years now, but when I was searching, and when my friends are searching they are using Linkedin, following the GIS listserves (which seems a little old school now-a-days), and following the social networks.  Also, making those personal connections at the smaller conferences and meet-ups can’t hurt!
  • What about publications? As a reformed academic, part of me still wants to publish some of my more technical work (papers are coming in 2012!).  But, with many researchers having their own blogs and websites, much of the research is becoming freely available.  Even though many sites (including this one) may contain non-refereed material, more people have read through these websites than will ever read an academic journal.

The question still remains.  What is the the point of being a member of these organizations, or any geo-spatial industry group?  At this point I don’t believe any of them carry any weight.  Does being a member of these groups mean anything anymore?  Is there an organization worth being a member of that will actually help me professionally?

If you have the answer let me know (post a comment or retweet!).  I want to know!  These organizations may be great for many, but unless I’m convinced otherwise, I’ll be a geospatial free agent this year.