OSG Conference Closing Session

After last year's conference there was some discussion about whether or not the MapServer/Open Source Geospatial community needed a Foundation to look out for the software, its users, and its developers. Some saw the Apache Software Foundation as a model, and were able to bring its current President, Dirk-Willem van Gulik, to tell us all about the ASF and compare the community of Apache users to our own fledging open source community.

We learned that open source GIS projects have asked to join the ASF. They were not enumerated by van Gulik, who simply stated that they had all been quickly rejected. The ASF's great success at promoting and defending the Apache brand is the result of extremely rigorous code requirements which our community's projects cannot, apparently, meet. This shouldn't be seen as invalidation, because the ASF model is not for every community. It arose from the very specific needs of the Apache users who had to find a way to work through the chaos of the internet boom and bust. Competition between their employers was far more cutthroat than we experience in the open soure GIS community, and extreme measures were needed to protect the Apache code.

To me, van Gulik's talk was right on. Instead of bringing answers, he reminds us of questions that we should be asking not of him, but of each other. Which brand is it that we want to promote and defend? Do some of our projects need to be more open? Is our community one of individuals, or of corporate bodies? There are lessons from the ASF, but we are really going to need something more organic.

Update: For those of you coming from mappinghacks.com, I have a follow-up.