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Open Sores…

Posted on 29 Sep 2007 in loin | 2 comments

The MacBooks have been closed.(well not all those ‘sprinting’ are still open) FOSS4G 2007 is over.

I was a little worried after the opening remarks of the conference where Paul Ramsey told us to have “fun…lots of fun”, it suddenly made me nervous. Is it possible to have FUN at a conference about Open Source Geospatial Software?

However my worries were quickly put aside when Andrew Turner started to talk about pigeon data capture, and Damien Conway expressed what he new about geospatial with a picture of a penny black! That evening I met a couple of gentlemen who shall remain nameless. They told me of an encounter with a local woman at a restaurant and after telling her what they were doing in Victoria the woman responded:

“Why would anyone want to come to a conference about open sores…?” 

With that I new it was actually possible to have fun at such an event.

Firstly I should declare I’m not a contributor to any open source projects, I’m a beginner, I wouldn’t know where to start. For me coming to FOSS4G was a bit of leap of faith. (I should also declare I own a laptop, which runs windows…sorry). The fact that I attended is a mark of where FOSS GIS is, and certainly I take away from the conference the impression of an incredibly well organised and bright community of people delivering an extremely wide range of quality Geospatial technology.

There has already been some good reviews by Jo Cook and Peter Batty so I’ll try not go over the same ground, but perhaps add to those with a couple of my own personal thoughts about the conference, but this doesn’t really scratch the surface of what  went on.

Surely no one could go through the 4 days and not feel the impact that OpenLayers is having. It was fascinating to hear how both CartoWeb4 and Fusion both use aspects of OpenLayers. Both of these projects are providing richer widget based web frameworks for delivering spatial content over the web. I think I also heard that there was enough interest to take the work already done, to implement Fusion on MapServer, forward. This is great, as it will give people a choice of mapping engine to use with Fusion.

There was a theme of presentations around the use of RESTful services. Good presentations from Sean Gillies , Charlie Savage and Harris Kutagic helped to clarify some of the fundamental principles of REST, although it’s far from crystal clear! I was entertained by the ‘questions’ asked by the audiences at these presentations, sometime more statement than question. Harris Kutagic’s demonstration of editing within MapGuide using FDO and surprise, surprise OpenLayers was impressive!

I also enjoyed the odd presentation, which looked at the applied usage of FOSS GIS. It was good to hear first hand about people’s experiences. One particular statement made at a presentation was about choice. We have an increasing number of choices when it comes to using GIS and the maturity of FOSS GIS makes those choices all the more interesting. It was really positive to hear this and then listen to Paul Ramsey talk about PostGIS case studies, where evidently the right choice was PostGIS every time!

I leave the conference feeling glad I made the long journey. I have many questions, some new friends, new ideas, and yes I had fun. I want to get involved and there were many pleas for assistance, and many ways to assist. I also leave wondering about where this growing trend may end up, my feeling was that the balance of people: analysts, evangelists, developers, sponsors, supporters etc within the community is currently self sustaining, however as FOSS GIS gains popularity that balance may change and the way in which the active core responds will be interesting.

A big well done to all those involved in putting on a spiffing event


  1. Archaeogeek / September 29th, 2007 5:22

    Good overview of the conference from a beginner’s perspective. I know it sometimes feels like you have to stand up and declare that you’re not a hard core coder, and that you still run windows (I do, and I like my vista laptop a lot)! I’m not a coder either but it’s worth pointing out that there are loads of ways to contribute if you want to- that don’t involve coding. Supporting OSGEO in your area is a good place to start, then there’s always translation and documentation. They are just as valid contributions as bug tracking IMHO!
    Glad you enjoyed the conference anyhow- I thought it was superb too!


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