FOSS4G Opening/Lightning Talks

The opening session of FOSS4G (OSGeo’s open source for geospatial conference) being held this week in Victoria started with an interesting sight: a large well-packed room, two large video screens, and people looking for seats. Conference chair Paul Ramsey of Refractions Research noted the attendance at 670, about twice that of the last such conference I attended two years ago in Minneapolis. Last year in Lausanne, Switzerland the total was 535. Paul offered up his theme/advice for the remaining three days: make a connection to help grow the community. That’s not so different than ideas suggested at other conferences, but I always find it easier to do at this event.

Autodesk as a platinum sponsor got the first slot and Geoff Zeiss offered what I consider the Autodesk party line about standards, failing infrastructure, aging workforce, convergence, dis-enfranchised field staffers (who use geodata but have no real input in its update/quality)... He also noted Autodesk’s client San Fransiscos’s urban forest project, a MapGuide Open Source implementation. This was the first time I “got” it was a public participation site. Somehow I think that got lost in the initial media sweep. He also noted DM Solutions’ Fusion, a framework that will allow editing from the field, among other things. The announcement of the acquisition of Mentor Software and the plan to turn its coordinate transformation libraries open source as an OSGeo project was a yawn for most. I explain why it’s important at Directions Magazine.

Peter Rushforth of GeoConnections followed up with insight from the CGDI, the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure. Much of the work in open source geospatial comes from Canada in part because of “directed innovation” funding from GeoConnections. The bottom line is that GeoConnections doesn’t favor open source, but does continue to support players who support CGDI by supporting standards.

Next up were eight 5-minute lightning talks. Several were frankly forgettable. Others were focused and raised interesting ideas/provided new information. The formal gists are documented on the progam website

My takeaways (paraphrased):

- New individual memberships in OGC will be available next month. OCG will be partnering with OSGeo. (Raj Singh,OGC)

- Those who suggest what Google/Microsoft are doing is not what we do are deluding themselves. (Peter Batty)

- Lots of “hacked” tools can be used to created geodata including Nike+, kite aerial photography, pollutions sensors on phones, open “Street View,” open “Photosynth,” pigeon aerial photography, etc. He offered a tag but I didn’t write it down fast enough - got it. I’d already heard of most of these, but apparently others had not as his images got lots of response. (Andrew Turner, High Earth Orbit blog)

- No one wants 3/8 Inch Drill Bits - they want 3/8 Inch holes! That is, focus on the problem and creative solutions. Or another way: don’t confuse tools with solutions. (Ed McNierney [Topozone])

- Much success in “>OSGeo projects in Google Summer of Code: 12 project complete. (James McGill, Google)

- Consider the “polluter pays model” for geodata. That is, those who make changes in our space (our world) should have to provide documentation (that is geodata) of it. Unrelated but well-quoted later in the day: Be sure to get people to pay for the work you do for OSGeo. (Arnulf Christl, WhereGroup/MapBender)

- The analysis of content of the program reveals some interesting categorizing of topics (some of the 12: participatory GIS, community talks, data access, Java, Web mapping, earth observation). The seven dimensions were equally interesting: (five of them: software vs. use case, Java vs. C, neogeography vs. GIS, platform vs. tools, analysis vs. practice. (Schuyler Earle) [Note: It’d be great to do his analysis of previous year’s programs and those of other geo conferences for comparison. Also, I have no idea what analytics he did to get these, but the maps were cool…]

Published Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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