Monday, June 21, 2004

OT: Open source GIS proves its maturity with excellent conference

ONLamp.com: Open source GIS proves its maturity with excellent conference [Jun. 17, 2004]

Jun. 17, 2004 07:46 PM

URL: http://omsug.ca/osgis2004/program.html...

I had the privilege of being part of the Open Source GIS / MapServer User Conference last week in Ottawa (June 9-11). Many software projects end up "proving" themselves by having some sort of conference themed around them. This conference was no exception. It was a wonderfully executed and very well-organized event. Kudos to the Ottawa MapServer Users Group for their tremendous effort organizing the event!

There were at least two key aspects to this conference: community building and solution showcasing.

This was a "coming out" for the community that has developed around the technology over the past few years. More than 200 delegates met face-to-face, many for the first time. In an age where you can "know" someone without ever "meeting" them, this kind of contact will help the long-term health of the community.

This was also a public showcase and hands-on learning opportunity for numerous technologies. Many of them sit quietly behind other applications in the form of libraries, databases or web services while others take an up-front role as a graphical interface or mapping engine.

The conference audience included GIS analysts and web developers, among many others. The fact that these two realms are overlapping regularly is exciting in itself. At a domain level, I met representatives from the ocean science, ecology, natural resources, health and academic communities - to name a few - many who were coming together for the first time.

What does ocean science have to learn from epidemiology and vice-versa? Everything - if it has to do with geospatial data management and visualization. We all learned that there are common problems and (potentially) common solutions to these problems.

I personally met people from Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada and the U.S. We had the opportunity to listen to presentations and participate in hands-on workshops. Both helped us learn about what others are doing with the free and open source geospatial tools that are available.

Often the main benefit of open source GIS and mapping tools appears to be the low cost, especially when compared to the commercial alternatives. However, the greater strength, we are realizing is the vibrant community support and also the power of technology that is ahead of the commercial software curve in many respects. It's great stuff all around.

I'll touch more on the specific technologies in future weblog entries.

Tyler Mitchell is a geographer - at heart and at work - and has a BA in Geography from Lakehead University.


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