Watch Your Back, World Wind

NASA's mission statement has been modified. Look out for the Kiss of Death in a form like this:

President Bush today praised the NASA World Wind project, calling it an "amazing new way of discovering our environment".

How Rigorous is OSGeo Software Incubation?

It pains me to have to continue to write about what I consider to be faults of the new OSGeo Foundation, but as an unaffiliated developer of open source geospatial software, it's the only influence I have. I want these faults to be addressed. OSGeo must succeed, if only because its failure would wreck the wider open source geospatial domain. I've got friends who are deeply involved, and I'd like success for their sakes. I'm also worried that in this early stage, before it really finds its feet, our gentle OSGeo giant is going to stumble around and break things, or tread on worthy, but less ambitious software projects.


As Rigorous as we want it to be :-)

Author: Jody Garnett

For the first round of projects we are setting our own benchmarks and taking stock of the result. Some projects like GeoTools are raising their own bar fairly high resulting in a marked improvement. So far on our list is: - (C) to OSGEO (to pack IP check) - User Documentation with complete Coverage (something we have not had in 10 years) And I expect many more requirements will surface as we look at what these initial projects accomplish: - marketing materials - documented release cycle

Re: How Rigorous is OSGeo Software Incubation?

Author: Frank Warmerdam

Sean, You raise some interesting points. I was a bit surprised to read "but as an unaffiliated developer of open source geospatial software, it's the only influence I have." You were on the committee, and could have stayed there, and veto'ed graduation till you felt reasonable steps had been taken. I would claim that OSGeo is a do-ocracy, and you could have had a direct influence if you had wanted to. Second, the Mapbender PSC does have a functioning, albeit lightly used Sourceforge bug tracker. In a Mapbender PSC meeting they discussed it and agreed to encourage use of the bug tracker in the future. I'll agree this isn't quite the same as demonstrating a culture of using the bug tracker, but we made a call that this was a reasonable step in the right direction. Third, while two of the GDAL's PSC have subcontracted to me in the past, I don't think they are terribly dependent on me. However, I did select the initial PSC I did based in part on them being folks I felt were comfortable with how the project works, and I could work with fairly well. In the past I have described this as "packing the PSC with my cronies". In the Apache process they stress the need to take "ability to cooperate effectively" as an important criteria for their equivelent of PSC membership. In other venues I think I might deliberately try and include a wide diversity of views in a democratic group, but I don't feel especially constrained to do so for software projects PSCs which need to have quite a degree of mutual trust and respect to operate effectively (IMHO). I do feel that each of the members brings experience and a unique view point even if they aren't dramatically divergent. And they have all been willing to beat me into more progressive approaches in the past. Best regards,

Patently Silly

Via All Points Blog: are all geo patents this dubious?

21. A storage medium for storing computer code to encode a computer system that plots a boundary on a map from a metes and bounds description and to generate latitude and longitude coordinates of corner points of said boundary by performing the following steps: generating bearing and distance information with respect to the location of a cursor on said map; displaying said bearing and distance information; using said bearing and distance information to generate said boundary from a metes and bounds description; generating UTM coordinates from said boundary; generating latitude and longitude coordinates from said UTM coordinates.

22. An electrical signal for encoding a computer system to plot a boundary on a map from a metes and bounds description and to generate latitude and longitude coordinates of corner points of said boundary by performing the following steps: generating bearing and distance information with respect to the location of a cursor on said map; displaying said bearing and distance information; using said bearing and distance information to generate said boundary from a metes and bounds description; generating UTM coordinates from said boundary; generating latitude and longitude coordinates from said UTM coordinates.

They invented a new storage medium and a new electrical signal? I'm a bit skeptical.


Re: Patently Silly

Author: Frank

Actually, it's all PATENTS that are this dubious. They write them as broadly as possible, but they're not claiming to have invented every element in the entire patent. Often, it's the combination of non-patented items in what the "inventor" thinks is a new way that constitutes the invention. Usually, the listing section lists all the required elements of the invention. For a Franklin stove (which Franklin never patented), you would describe the legs and the chimney, which have always been part of stoves, as well as the improved metallurgy and ventilation, which were the innovations the Franklin stove introduced.

Calling all Gurus

You know what the geo blogosphere really lacks? Gurus. Seasoned, opinionated, frankly critical, highly credible people writing about implementations. Experts in technology or methodology, writing with good style, clarity, and a sense of humor. Where are our Martin Fowlers, Tim Brays, Paul Grahams, Mark Pilgrims, and Joel Spolskys?

Geoff Zeiss has potential. His photo reminds me of the older fisherman I'd see back when I was a hack fly-caster. The kind of guy who could step up to a hole that I'd whipped fruitlessly to a fine froth, and tease out a trout on the first cast. But he's expressing the Autodesk viewpoint and not implementations in general.

Don't be fooled by his twenty-something looks (on display in his blog banner); Ed Parsons is a seasoned industry vet. He's written some provocative posts, but identifies more with CxO bloggers than we techies.

Charlie Savage and Matt M from Let's Push Things Forward bring a lot of the nitty gritty I crave. If they'd write more about data, and spice it up, I think they could be future gurus.


Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: James Fee

I don't think you can be a guru and use blogger. You gotta draw the line somewhere.

Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: Jeremy

I vote for Brian Flood. I also like Matt from LPTF, but you are going to have a hard time getting him to talk about data...

Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: Jeremy

Oops...Forgot about Dave Bouwman and Matt Perry.

Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: Dave

Thanks for the props Jeremy, but I think have a ways to go yet on the "writing with good style, clarity, and a sense of humor" side of things. And my posting frequency is pretty low... Speaking of which, I have been meaning to write more "implementation" related posts. But the water runs deep in this area, and the posts get really long and require a lot of background info. Many of our clients are state govt or military, so there is concern about security. Curiously, these are mainly forest managment systems, so I'm not sure where the security issue is - maybe some squirrels getting the low down on some good Oak stands? And we have some other clients who don't want us talking about the details of what we did for them, which is bummer b.c that's the cool part!

Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: Sean

I appreciate the comments. Without a comments RSS or email notification, I'm lucky anybody even bothers. I should get a babysitter and spend an evening hacking those into this crappy blog software. I'm setting a higher bar for Guru. Ideally the person would not be bound to a particular platform. Consider Pai Mei (pictured): he can kick your ass in a hundred ways and means. Fist, foot, sword, rolled-up newspaper, slice of american cheese ... all are equally deadly when deployed by the master. A true guru would have insights that weren't restricted to .NET, or Arc*, or Python.

Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: Tom Kralidis

Good point. My first guess is that many of the geo-gurus are already up to their ears :) Having said this, I like Jody's blog as it goes into the weeds from time to time, as opposed to always discussing 'the scene'.

Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: Ed Parsons

20 something looks ?? Such are the wonders on internet comic artists. I guess I used to me more of a techie, and could still write about some painful recent experiences connecting a oracle 10g spatial cluster through a infiband switch to our corporate LAN - but then you know I don't think many of my readers are "real" technologists. ed

Re: Calling all Gurus

Author: Charlie

Thanks for the plug Sean - at least I'm not alone in having to spice it up :) Curious what you have in mind about data? If you want a data guru, I'd say talk to Donnie, he's full of all sorts of intersting stories from Digital Globe and other places he's worked. I'm just a programmer at heart...

There Goes the Neighborhood

Crap, there goes the neighborhood. Please, unless you bring your own lifetime supply of water (and some to share), or are going to start an old-world bakery, or an affordably priced enoteca, don't move to Fort Collins. I'm begging you.


Re: There Goes the Neighborhood

Author: Chris

It's like the old Eagles song says, "you call some place paradise, you can kiss it goodbye". I was glad to see my town, Charlottesville, VA is not on this list. We've been on many similar lists and our traffic and sprawl just keeps growing. Of course I've only been here 5 years and everyone wants to be the one who shuts the door behind them once they arrive...

Re: There Goes the Neighborhood

Author: glenn

Indeed, usually these lists are full of crap but actually, this one makes sense. I just returned and Ft Collins is amazing (always has been in my opinion). But I have to ask, where are all the people expected to come from? I've never seen so much new development in my life.. incredible! See you in Ft. Collins soon Glenn

Thrilling TdF Stage 16

What an thrilling stage 16 today in the Tour! Rasmussen goes off early and stays away to win. Sastre catches Landis out, and Pereiro regains the Maillot Jaune. Although Valverde was my favorite to win at the start of the race, I've been haboring hopes for Carlos Sastre. His huge stage 13 win in 2003, with the pacifier for style points, made me an instant fan. And there's yet one more mountain stage left. Sorry, Armstrong fanboys, this year's race is the most fun in a long, long time.

Map Librarians Are Real

Since I have no academic background in GIS or Geography (was all Physics), I've been skeptical about GIS or map librarians (such as mapz). To me, this position seemed a bit mythical -- like the jackalope or sasquatch. But then recently I met Celia Pratt, maps librarian at What's more, since I'm telecommuting to the AWMC's office on the 5th floor of the UNC library and working on the data model for a major reference work, I'm getting pretty close to map librarian territory myself. The intersection between Geography and the Humanities is a fine place to be.

The figure in the photo is not a map librarian.


Re: Map Librarians Are Real

Author: GeoMullah

"Yes Virginia, there are map librarians." Not very many, but if you're a GIS professional, cartographer, researcher, or map hacker it helps to know these people. Typically, they're well versed in sources, data types, and many tools. Unfortunately, map libraries can be on the bottom of a Library or Universities funding list. At many libraries, data is still in hardcopy form and the cost to turn the information into bits is time consuming and very expensive (due to labor.) Also, metadata capture, copyright, and indexing are big issues too. You may be able to look at a map, but you can't copy it and take it out. Or there are licensing issues with digital data the library may hold. Sticky wickets for everyone. Still, map libraries are great resources and it takes their users to support them. Using your map library can even help; useage is one metric that keeps them alive. Unfortunately, I've learned that some large universities have been closing or reducing their map libraries. Find your's and find out how you can help them. As a tip, I highly recommend the Maps & Geography Division of the Library of Congress. A great staff with an immense amount of information. They have current maps, complete series, a ton of historical maps (like ones hand drawn by Geo. Washington.) Whenever you're in DC, and you're a geogeek, check this place out.

The Future of the Past

If you're interested in a historian's take on Wikipedia and the impact of the Wikipedia process on scholarship, check out Roy Rosenzweig's excellent essay: Can History be Open Source? (via The Stoa Consortium). It was the talk of the History blogosphere around the middle of June after appearing in The Journal of American History, but I missed it due to my newness on the scene and preparation for our first Pleiades meeting. The essay is enormously relevant to the Pleiades project, and we'll be disseminating it to all our potential users.

After a brief history of Wikipedia and an analysis of its accuracy (pretty good) and prose (generally mushy), Rosenzweig considers what a Wikipedia-like peer production process might achieve with the participation of professional historians:

If the Internet and the notion of commons-based peer production provide intriguing opportunities for mobilizing volunteer historical enthusiasm to produce a massive digital archive, what about mobilizing and coordinating the work of professional historians in that fashion? That so much professional historical work already relies on volunteer labor -- the peer review of journal articles, the staffing of conference program committees -- suggests that professionals are willing to give up significant amounts of their time to advance the historical enterprise. But are they also willing to take the further step of abandoning individual credit and individual ownership of intellectual property as do Wikipedia authors?

The AWMC wants to preserve individual credit. Absolutely. But it's still going to be tricky. We'll need a lot of finesse to deal with perceptions about the big step.

Giving Back

Yesterday Hobu chastized successful MapServer users ZedX for apparently giving little back to the MapServer community. A soybean rust tracking web app developed by ZedX, using Linux and MapServer, recently made a splash in the All Points Blog. I think the fact that a company can put MapServer to use in a good sized contract without the need for paid consultation with core MapServer developers, or the need for feature enhancement, is a nice indicator of the maturity of the MapServer project. Touting their use of Linux and MapServer is also good for us all. Hobu knows as well as any of us how hard it can be to get an agency like the USDA to embrace open source. Hopefully ZedX will ice the cake and give their programmers a little time to share their new expertise with MapServer users through the mailing lists or IRC.

Near the end of his post, Hobu writes:

It is my hope that OSGeo will be able to provide a clearinghouse for contributions to its member projects and solves the issue of "great, I have some money/time/resources to contribute, who do I give it to?" Also, the ability to pool contributions together for larger efforts is something that is sorely needed. Those efforts are just getting off the ground though, and time will tell if that approach will be any more successful than individual-to-individual or individual-to-project contributions.

I'm in 100% disagreement with Hobu here. I don't think OSGeo is a good place for a company to invest modest amounts of money in open source projects. Look at the money being wasted now (yes, wasted) paying Collabnet for consulting on community building and open source development. Nothing against Collabnet, but the OSGeo projects already have communities and infrastructure. Direct contribution to individual projects remains the best way to make small to medium investments count.


Re: Giving Back

Author: JL

I agree with Howard to an extent but... - It did cost at least a little money for ZedX to distribute a nationwide press release and they didn't have to mention the use of Mapserver in their high-profile project with the USDA. - The Mapserver community needs to make it easy to do the right thing. The MS Plone site needs a "Donate" or "Tip Jar" button on the front to at least plant the idea for visitors of showering money all over Mapserver via PayPal or by credit card. Where should checks be sent? - OSGeo is too indirect. It is big change for the MS community but the growing number of generalized software integrators who are just looking for a web mapping solution to finish a project are unlikely to make that political connection. And even if they did the link to OSGeo is buried after the "IRC" and "Mailing List" links on the "Community" page and not under the "Home", "Download", or "Documentation" tabs where the eyes of wealthy, big-hearted, programmers are likely to locate it. Mapserver has matured to the point where a little guerilla marketing outside the open-source geospatial community is in order. Tyler Mitchell has put MS and related technologies on the mainstream tech radar and we need more of that. Most of the government agencies are very open to OS solutions. I can verify firsthand NOAA and the U.S. Navy are heavy into Plone. Linux and just about everything Apache makes are also very popular in the scientific branches of the federal government. If these agencies saw how Mapserver or PrimaGIS fit into their ESRIfied infrastructure they would adopt it quickly. A lot of people use ArcIMS but very few if any love it.

Re: Giving Back

Author: Gary Sherman

Our experience has been that a "Donate" button results in few, if any donations. Either people don't see the button (not likely) or the mindset of many users of "free" software leads them to believe a project doesn't really need financial support. Perhaps they believe there is a big financial backer behind the scenes. A project with a user base in the 1000's to 10,000's should reasonably expect a little support from the community, not to mention corporate users. To date we have not experienced that. Maybe its a marketing issue...

Re: Giving Back

Author: Sean

I'm not sure that a PayPal link will benefit the Python Cartographic Library or PrimaGIS projects, but then we're still at the early stage where clear and interesting use cases, detailed bug reports, and sprint hosting (best of all!) are way more valuable than cash. Sometimes it seems that the more mature and pervasive the open source software, the fewer the small monetary contributions. Rhetorical question: when was the last time you sent $20 to the GCC project, or Vim? In my case, it's never (although I do subscribe to a civic-minded ISP that does a ton for the Linux cause, for what that's worth). Maybe MapServer has made it across such a threshold.

Re: Giving Back

Author: Allan

I have donated to,, FSF, and EFF. Not a lot, but I figure every little bit helps. If I'm willing to spend the odd $20 on Mac OS X shareware, I ought to be spending the same amounts for the open source stuff I use. So why have I not donated to Mapserver, etc.? Simple: No paypal button. It's easy enough to set up, but in the case of mapserver, the question may have been, who manages the money? With osgeo, there might be some overhead, but at least I would expect any donations to be put to good use. I think the users need to be educated. We may not want to build nagware, but an awareness campaign of some sort might not be a bad idea.

Re: Giving Back

Author: Sean

Allan, I need to be convinced that OSGeo will put modest donations to good use. There's no link to a budget at, and the closest thing to a budget ( suggests to me that an Executive Director position, the cost of sending the OSGeo gang to conferences, and conference hosting costs could, without extreme care, consume small donations. It's the room between the max and min for those items that suggets to me the potential to soak up donations. Even if there was a separate account exclusively for support of software development, how can a person be assured that their donation goes to their favorite projects? Better to cut out the middle man and donate directly (if possible) to a project. Now, if you have $100,000 and want to go big, it's another matter. OSGeo *might* be the place to invest a big chunk of money.

Re: Giving Back

Author: Allan

I agree with you, Sean, that OSGeo needs a good donation explanation. Maybe even allows for targeted donations. The idea of 2/3 going to projects 1/3 going to "overhead" is being batted around. I guess it will come down to whether people value the increased visibility that OSGeo can provide for Geo open source enough to want to help pay for that visibility. That, in turn, begs the question of whether OSGeo can do a better job of overall visibility increase than individual projects can. So far, I'm convinced that the answer will be "yes". The OSGeo presence at Where 2.0 was great. There's going to be a very snazzy OSGeo booth at Intergeo in Munich in October. Both booths actually did/are not costing any money, but if OSGeo did not exist, then the booths would not exist at all. "Institutional" (corporate, government, etc) people don't notice little things. They have to be hit with broadsides. Big booths at shows are broadsides. The key is to find a balance. OSGeo is a bit young to have that. Case in point, it takes time and effort to develop a budget. Should people be doing that for free? Well, maybe. But there has to be a goal. I'm in favor of an Exec. Director for OSGeo. But I'm not in favor of OSGeo becoming an organization that's driven by chasing more and more money to feed more and more overhead. That's a vicious cycle that OSGeo has to avoid.

Giving Back, I'll bite: How?

Author: matt wilkie

speaking as someone employed in government, I have tried several times to solicit specific open source geo-spatial development from the developer community, via mailing lists and forum posts, and had *zero* responses until I posted on And then the responses weren't from open source developers ("eh? what's gdal?"). My conclusion: geo-spatial open source developers aren't very hungry. They would like to be paid to follow their own interests, not work on someone elses problem. Given that choice, they follow their bliss, preferring a few tummy rumbles to an uninteresting task. Who can blame them? It's what I do! Until someone comes up with a novel way to mashup developer interest with client need, I think we're stuck with this situation. (Please feel free to prove me wrong) A generic [donation] button would not help our organisation contribute funds to a project. We need to be actually buying something specific and tangible (that in turn helps us do our work): books and cd's are okay, coffee mugs and t-shirts are not. N dollars for driver X could work too, but items like that are hard to put a fixed price on. My 2c.

Front Range Users of Geospatial Open Source

In March 2005 Donnie Marino (then at DigitalGlobe) hosted a meeting of local MapServer users in Longmont. A follow-up has been a long time coming. After consulting with Donnie and Brian Timoney, I created a new Google Group to pick up where we left off last year: the Front Range Users of Geospatial Open Source, or FRUGOS.

We're looking to promote the use of open source software in geospatial applications here on the Front Range of Colorado and build a lively regional support network. Brian is particularly interested in getting open source into the GIS curricula -- or at least into student hands -- of our local universities (Colorado, Colorado State, Northern Colorado, Denver University), an effort that I'll back one hundred percent. Check out his first post for more details. I'm interested in helping organizations find local and regional commercial support for MapServer et al, something that is often noted as a limiting factor for enterprise uptake. In my opinion, FRUGOS should definitely be about increasing business opportunities for open source users.

Please check it out if you'd like to contribute to our regional open source geospatial community.

Update: FRUGOS is starting to take off.

I was asked this morning by a couple OSGeo members what the relationship between FRUGOS and OSGeo is or will be. That's yet to be determined. There's no explicit relationship at present. I am personally ambivalent -- perhaps even leaning -0 -- about OSGeo (longtime readers know all about it), but would prefer to see FRUGOS go with the flow. If it works, why not? If it doesn't work, why bother?