I'm happy to report success in both regards. I got to know the community, confirmed the rise of OS software use, & learned a few things. True, I met many more developers than users, and often felt a little lost during presentations. The word "Simple" was overused and frustrating to hear and it led me to question what it might take for me to climb up to that 'simple' place... But by stepping outside of my comfort zone I learned more about what I don't (and should) know, I have a better understanding of what is out there, and I realized that I don't have to learn all of it. This field is in a state of constant change, and I have been running in circles trying to keep up. The truth is, I'm wasting time chasing knowledge of all that is 'geospatial'. I can now focus on the problem I want to solve and finding the right tools for the job. Having knowledge of the toolbox is crucial, but knowing how to use each tool isn't entirely necessary. And more importantly, I've continued to create a network of intelligent, quirky, and fun folks that have a great attitude for the future of open source. As a bonus, people seem genuinely willing to help others and collaborate. Refreshing!
I had a wonderful time not only at the conference, but getting to know Minneapolis. The family that hosted me in Uptown was gracious and fun (Uptown is a cute suburban neighborhood within 15 minutes of downtown via the 17 or 18 bus). Transit was easy and inexpensive, and very well utilized by a wide cross-section of the population. And, as a bonus, Minneapolis has a lively music scene and some really good local brewers. All told, I look forward to the next conference!