Monday, 28 July 2014

OSGeo-Live UAT in one week: Testing and doc updates required

In this OSGeo-Live 8.0 development cycle we have seen major upgrades: moving to the light weight Lubuntu distribution, moving to a new Long Time Support release (LTS), and moving even more applications to make use of Debian packaging. It should be our best distribution yet. But this has impacted our schedule, as the Ubuntu LTS has only become stable within the last week (14.04.1 release), and we need help in order to deliver OSGeo-Live to FOSS4G-PDX with our usual high level of quality and reliability. In particular, we need help:
  1. Testing to verify everything works in this new system and fixing bugs. Download alpha1 here [0].
  2. Updating version number in your Project Overview (if changed), and possibly mention a new feature or two. Doc howtos [4].
  3. Re-running the Quickstart and ensure each step is still valid, and screenshots match the implementation.
  4. Updating status of the Project Overview and Quickstart to "8.0draft" in our status sheet. [1]
Due to our tight timelines, we might need to hide applications which we can't get stablised, tested, or docs updated in time. Please check our current list of open issues [2][3] to verify that your project is working as expected.

Schedule

  • 27 July 2014 Alpha4 released [3]. Please verify all applications work and fix bugs.
  • 03 August 2014 Beta1 release - start taking screen shots with new background.
  • 07 August 2014 Community Testing Sprint (UAT).
  • 07 August 2014 English docs complete.
  • 14 August 2014 Translations complete.
  • 17 August 2014 OSGeo-Live 8.0 sent to the printers.
[0] http://osprey.ucdavis.edu/downloads/osgeo/gisvm/gisvm/8.0alpha4/osgeo-live-mini-8.0alpha4-i386.iso
[1] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Al9zh8DjmU_RdGIzd0VLLTBpQVJuNVlHMlBWSDhKLXc#gid=13
[2] http://trac.osgeo.org/osgeo/report/10
[3] http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/live-demo/2014-July/009274.html
[4] http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Live_GIS_Disc#Documentation

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Inclusive OSGeo Charter membership - invite your team

In response to community suggestions in previous years, the OSGeo board has updated the voting process for OSGeo Charter Membership to be more inclusive. In particular, there is now no upper cap on the number of new Charter Members who can be voted in. This will avoid the disappointing situation where we our process denied respected community members from charter membership because we didn't have enough slots.  Now, new charter members need only demonstrate positive OSGeo attributes as confirmed by existing Charter Members.
The official responsibilities of Charter Members is very light, consisting of voting in the OSGeo Board and other OSGeo Charter members. However, it is also a way we officially acknowledge the number of volunteers who help out in many ways with OSGeo activities.
So now the process is updated, I encourage existing Charter Members and community leaders to be proactive about nominating people from their community.
Here is an email I sent to people within the OSGeo-Live community:
OSGeo-Live contributors,
As you have probably seen, the voting process for new OSGeo charter members has changed in order to ensure OSGeo charter membership is more inclusive and representative of the greater OSGeo membership.In line with this new direction, I'd like to nominate all active OSGeo-Live contributors for OSGeo Charter membership.I believe all active contributors that I've worked with meet the recommended membership selection criteria [1] which includes:
  • Previous participation in or support of OSGeo activities (you have contributed to OSGeo-Live) 
  • The person should already have made a contribution to free and open source geospatial software, education or open data. (you have contributed to OSGeo-Live)
  • The person should be willing to put in time and effort on the Foundation, perhaps joining committee(s), or volunteering in some other way that gets the Foundation going. (Do you wish to continue contributing?) 
  • Members should believe in the general goals of the Foundation. To support and promote the use of free and open source geospatial software, education and data in a collaborative manner. (I expect this is the case, as you have committed to OSGeo-Live license requirements) 
  • Members selected should provide a diversity of geographic regions, diversity of projects, diversity of programming languages and diversity of interests e.g., corporate, hobbyist, educational, scientific. (Lots of project, language and geographic diversity in OSGeo-Live)
  • Members should be prepared to work constructively and positively towards the goals of the Foundation. Good teamwork skills are an asset. (All OSGeo-Live contributors I've worked with fit this criteria)
If you are ok being nominated, then please email me to let me know. Ideally, can you please also point at your OSGeo Advocate profile which I can reference when nominating you. (You might need to create your profile first).
[1] http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Membership_Process#Positive_Attributes
[2] http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/OSGeo_Advocate#Process_for_becoming_an_OSGeo_Advocate

Monday, 5 May 2014

Starting build cycle for OSGeo-Live 8.0

We are starting the build cycle for OSGeo-Live 8.0 which will be released in September 2014, ready for the global FOSS4G conference in Portland. We would like to hear from anyone wishing to add new projects, anyone wishing to extend or add extra translations, or anyone who wants to contribute in code, testing or ideas on how we should shape the upcoming release.
Also, could all projects please reply to us with which stable version of their software should be included in this release. Ideally, projects should provide debian packages for this release.

Key Milestones

08 Jun 2014 All new applications installed, most old applications updated
07 Jul 2014 Feature Freeze (all apps updated)
27 Jul 2014 User Acceptance Test (all apps installed and working)
17 Aug 2014 Final ISO sent to printers
... full schedule

Moving to Lubuntu 14.04 LTS

OSGeo-Live 8.0 will be built upon the recently released Lubuntu 14.04 Long Term Support release (it was previously based upon Xubuntu 12.04 LTS).
  1. Lubuntu, which is a LXDE based Ubuntu linux distribution, is light weight. This means it runs faster, with less memory and disk requirements which will improve the OSGeo-Live user experiences and allow us to fit a little more onto a DVD.
  2. Moving to the 14.04 LTS release will help bring all applications up to the latest software, but will likely result in a number of applications needing to apply updates to address new dependency issues.

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB thumb drive or Virtual Machine based on Lubuntu, that allows you to try a wide variety of open source geospatial software without installing anything.

Friday, 14 March 2014

OSGeo-Live 7.9 Released

OSGeo today announced that the OSGeo-Live GIS software collection version 7.9 has been released, featuring more than fifty open source, standards compliant geospatial desktop applications, web applications and frameworks.

Release Highlights

This release is a modernization update to last year's 7.0 release including new versions of the software but preserving much of the core build and operating system. In addition we've added a number of small fixes and updated document translations.
OSGeo-Live Lightning Presentation
The OSGeo-Live Lightning Presentation which explains the breadth of OSGeo software is now bundled with OSGeo-Live. It is often presented by conference organisors, or keynote speakers. The presentation may be given as is, or modified to align with time constraints, presenter's interest, or conference focus. http://live.osgeo.org/livedvd/docs/en/presentation/

Applications
Twenty two geospatial programs have been updated to newer versions. The core geospatial stack has also been upgraded from UbuntuGIS, and the base operating system has been updated to Xubuntu 12.04.4 LTS, including all the latest security and bug fixes, and web browser updates.

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB flash drive and Virtual Machine based upon Ubuntu Linux. OSGeo-Live is pre-configured with a wide variety of robust open source geospatial software. All applications can be trialled without installing anything on your computer, simply by booting the computer from a DVD or USB drive, or running in a Virtual Machine environment. Each featured package is accompanied by both a publication quality one page descriptive summary and a short tutorial on how to get started using it. http://live.osgeo.org OSGeo-Live includes:
  • Over sixty quality geospatial Open Source applications installed and pre-configured
  • Free world maps and geodata
  • One page overview and quick start guide for every application
  • Overviews of key OGC standards
  • Translations to multiple languages

Credits

Over 180 people have directly helped with OSGeo-Live packaging, documenting and translating, and thousands have been involved in building the packaged software. Developers, packagers, documenters and translators include:
Activity Workshop, Agustín Dí­ez, Aikaterini Kapsampeli, Alan Beccati, Alan Boudreault, Alessandro Furieri, Alexander Bruy, Alexander Kleshnin, Alexander Muriy, Alexandre Dube, Alexey Ardyakov, Alex Mandel, Amy Gao, Andrea Antonello, Andrea Yanza, Andrey Syrokomskiy, Andry Rustanto, Angelos Tzotsos, Anna Muñoz, Antonio Falciano, Anton Novichikhin, Anton Patrushev, Argyros Argyridis, Ariel Núñez, Assumpció Termens, Astrid Emde, Barry Rowlingson, Benjamin Pross, Brian Hamlin, Bruno Binet, Bu Kun, Cameron Shorter, Christophe Tufféry, Christos Iossifidis, Cristhian Pin, Damian Wojsław, Dane Springmeyer, Daniel Kastl, Daria Svidzinska, David Mateos, Denis Rykov, Diego González, Diego Migliavacca, Dimitar Misev, Dmitry Baryshnikov, Dominik Helle, Edgar Soldin, Eike Hinderk Jürrens, Elena Mezzini, Eric Lemoine, Erika Pillu, Estela Llorente, Etienne Delay, Etienne Dube, Evgeny Nikulin, Fran Boon, François Prunayre, Frank Gasdorf, Frank Warmerdam, Friedjoff Trautwein, Gavin Treadgold, Giuseppe Calamita, Grald Fenoy, Grigory Rozhentsov, Guy Griffiths, Hamish Bowman, Haruyuki Seki, Henry Addo, Hernan Olivera, Howard Butler, Hyeyeong Choe, Ian Edwards, Ian Turton, Ilya Filippov, Jackie Ng, Jan Drewnak, Jane Lewis, Javier Rodrigo, Javier Sánchez, Jesús Gómez, Jim Klassen, Jing Wang, Jinsongdi Yu, Jody Garnett, Johan Van de Wauw, John Bryant, Jorge Arévalo, Jorge Sanz, José Antonio Canalejo, José Vicente Higón, Judit Mays, Klokan Petr Pridal, Kristof Lange, kuzkok, Lance McKee, Lars Lingner, Luca Delucchi, Lucía Sanjaime, Mage Whopper, Manuel Grizonnet, Marc-André Barbeau, Marco Curreli, Marco Puppin, Marc Torres, Margherita Di Leo, Maria Vakalopoulou, Mario Andino, Mark Leslie, Massimo Di Stefano, Matthias Streulens, Mauricio Miranda, Mauricio Pazos, Maxim Dubinin, Michaël Michaud, Michael Owonibi, Micha Silver, Mike Adair, Milena Nowotarska, M Iqnaul Haq Siregar, Nacho Varela, Nadiia Gorash, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Ned Horning, Nobusuke Iwasaki, Oliver Tonnhofer, Òscar Fonts, Otto Dassau, Pasquale Di Donato, Patric Hafner, Paul Meems, Pavel, Pedro-Juan Ferrer, Pirmin Kalberer, Raf Roset, Regina Obe, Ricardo Pinho, Roald de Wit, Roberta Fagandini, Roberto Antolin, Roberto Antolí­n, Roger Veciana, Ruth Schoenbuchner, Samuel Mesa, Scott Penrose, Sergey Grachev, Sergio Baños, Simon Cropper, Simon Pigot, Stefan A. Tzeggai, Stefan Hansen, Stefan Steiniger, Stephan Meissl, Steve Lime, Takayuki Nuimura, Thierry Badard, Thomas Baschetti, Thomas Gratier, Tom Kralidis, Toshikazu Seto, Trevor Wekel, Valenty González, Vera, Xianfeng Song, Yoichi Kayama, Zhengfan Lin

Sponsoring organisations

  • The Open Source Geospatial Foundation OSGeo provides the primary development and hosting infrastructure and personnel for the OSGeo-Live project, and infrastructure for many of the software projects themselves. http://osgeo.org
  • LISAsoft provides sustaining resources and staff toward the management and packaging of software onto the Live DVD. http://www.lisasoft.com
  • Information Center for the Environment (ICE) at the University of California, Davis provides hardware resources and development support to the OSGeo Live project. http://ice.ucdavis.edu
  • Remote Sensing Laboratory at the National Technical University of Athens, provides hardware resources and development support to the OSGeo-Live project. http://www.ntua.gr
  • The DebianGIS and UbuntuGIS teams provide and quality-assure many of the core packages. http://wiki.debian.org/DebianGis and https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGIS

Friday, 24 January 2014

Update OSGeo-Live 7.9 Project Overviews and Quickstarts

Now that we have a feature freeze for OSGeo-Live 7.9, could all OSGeo-Live projects please ensure their Project Overviews and Quickstarts [0] are up to date. This should be quite painless for most.

  1. Update the version number in your Project Overview (if changed).
  2. Possibly mention a new feature or two.
  3. Re-run the Quickstart and ensure each step is still valid, and screenshots match the implementation.
  4. Update status of the Project Overview and Quickstart to "7.9draft" in our status sheet. [1]

Schedule:

14 February 2014 English docs complete
28 February 2014 Translations complete
7 March 2014 OSGeo-Live sent to the printers

[0] https://svn.osgeo.org/osgeo/livedvd/gisvm/trunk/doc/
[1] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Al9zh8DjmU_RdGIzd0VLLTBpQVJuNVlHMlBWSDhKLXc#gid=13

Friday, 20 December 2013

Starting build cycle for OSGeo-Live 7.9

Starting build cycle for OSGeo-Live 7.9

20 December 2013
We are starting the build cycle for version 7.9 of the OSGeo-Live DVD/USB/VM which will be released in March 2013, ready for several special events, including the OSGeo Code Sprint in Vienna, Spanish FOSS4G, French FOSS4G, FOSSGIS Germany, among others.
Our aim for this release is to focus on .deb packaging, which will make projects simple to install on all debian and ubuntu based distributions.
We would like to hear from anyone wishing to add new projects to OSGeo-Live, anyone wishing to extend or add translations, or anyone who has ideas on how we should shape the upcoming release.
IMPORTANT : Could all projects please reply to us with the preferred, stable version of software to be included in this release.

Key Milestones

14 Jan 2014 All new applications installed, most old applications updated
31 Jan 2014 Feature Freeze (all apps updated)
21 Feb 2014 User Acceptance Test (all apps installed and working)
14 Mar 2014 Final ISO sent to printers
... full schedule

OSGeoLive 7.9 Alpha1 released

We have released the first alpha version of OSGeo-Live, which builds upon Xubuntu 12.04.3 release along with updated versions of applications from UbuntuGIS repository. Feel free to start testing your applications in the latest release. Download Alpha 1

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-live is an XUbuntu based distribution of Geospatial Open Source Software, available via a Live DVD, Virtual Machine and USB. You can use OSGeo-Live to try a wide variety of open source geospatial software without installing anything.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

"How to publish maps" - at Envirohack

At the upcoming Envirohack  event, I'll be compressing weeks worth of LISAsoft's Open Source Geospatial training material into a 10 minute lightning overview on how to publish geographic maps. I confess that I'll need to skimp on a few details, but it will give attendees direction on where to start, and where to look for more information.
Envirohack is a one day hack-a-thon being held 29 November 2013 in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, aimed at building prototypes of application prototypes which make use of  Australian geospatial datasets.
Datasets include:
  • Administrative and statistical boundaries
  •  Hydrography
  • Transport, Utilities
  • Geocoding and reverse geocoding
  • Terrain, elevation, land use, ...
  • Climate change, health, ...
  • Imagery

Friday, 15 November 2013

A Call to Action: Digitize Imagery for the Philippines

Request from the World Bank:
Typhoon Yolanda has had a devastating impact on the Philippines.  Thousands are feared dead and many more have been affected by one of the strongest storms on record. The work required to respond and recover from this event will be massive.

One way that you can help is by contributing to OpenStreetMap (OSM).  OSM is a free and open map of the world that everyone can access and contribute to. Right now, hundreds of volunteers from all over the world are working together to digitize roads, buildings, and other features from satellite imagery made freely available by Microsoft and the US State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit. With the coordination of our partners at the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, the geographic information they are creating is already being used by the Red Cross, the United Nations and other responding organizations working in the Philippines. There is more work to be done and the Understanding Risk Community is uniquely positioned to help.
To get started, you can:
Image available under creative commons.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Ideas4OGC - the phoenix rising from the "GeoServices REST API" ashes

You may remember the contentious proposal for the GeoServices REST API to become an OGC standard? After strong community concerns, largely focused on duplication of existing standards, the motion to approve the proposed standard was withdrawn. The fact that the proposal progressed as far as it did, to the point where it was almost ratified as a standard before being blocked, was a primary driver leading the OGC to initiate an "Ideas for OGC" (Ideas4OGC) review, aimed at re-baselining OGC priorities and processes.
Re-assessing OGC priorities and processes was timely. The OGC is almost 20 years old. OGC standards are now addressing broader and more complicated use cases than OGC's original focus, including mass market, mission critical and production uses. This leads to greater complexity, pressure to maintain consistency between standards, as well as higher requirements for robustness, quality, and clear documentation.
These drivers were fed into the Ideas4OGC initiative, and I've been impressed with the initial set of recommendations which clearly and concisely address OGC's revised priorities and objectives. Highlights include:
  • ... any [standard] coming to OGC .. should go through an “early” evaluation process to test the validity of adding it to the OGC baseline. ...
  • Early evaluation of [a] new domain's [uniqueness], usefulness and applicability  to OGC ...
  • ... strongly encourage internal harmonization of OGC standards  ...
  • Routine harmonization through regular standards maintenance. ...
  • Develop concise overviews for each standard for managers, architects and programmers. ...
  • Develop a set of accessible, concise summaries of OGC rules, policies and procedures ... 
  • Provide engineers/architects with [a] well-defined collection of guidelines, templates and tools  ...
  • Consistent editorial review ...
The next challenge for the OGC will be to re-prioritise sponsor focus on improving core quality over features. It is exactly what is required, but is a tough sell, as the value is much harder to quantify and justify than developing a standard for a specific use case.

Monday, 2 September 2013

OSGeo-Live 7.0 Released

OSGeo-Live DesktopThe OSGeo-Live geospatial software collection version 7.0 has been released, featuring more than sixty open source, standards compliant geospatial desktop applications, web applications and frameworks. A complete installation kit and high-quality sample data in multiple industry standard formats are included. The OSGeo Live will be officially launched at FOSS4G 2013 in Nottingham, UK, 17-21 September, 2013.

Release Highlights

Projects new to this release include:
  • GeoNode -- a web-based application and platform for developing geospatial information systems (GIS) and for deploying spatial data infrastructures (SDI)
  • Leaflet -- a modern, open source JavaScript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps
  • ncWMS -- a Web Map Service (WMS) for geospatial data stored in CF-compliant NetCDF files
  • netCDF dataset -- daily maximum temperature and rainfall, worldwide
All geospatial applications on the disc have been updated to their latest stable releases.

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB flash drive and Virtual Machine based upon Ubuntu Linux (version 12.04 LTS). OSGeo-Live is pre-configured with a wide variety of robust open source geospatial software. All applications can be trialled without installing anything on your computer, simply by booting the computer from a DVD or USB drive, or running in a Virtual Machine environment. Each featured package is accompanied by both a publication quality one page descriptive summary and a short tutorial on how to get started using it.
OSGeo-Live includes:
  • Over sixty quality geospatial Open Source applications installed and pre-configured
  • Free world maps and geodata
  • One page overview and quick start guide for every application
  • Overviews of key OGC standards
  • Translations to multiple languages

Credits

Over 160 people have directly helped with OSGeo-Live packaging, documenting and translating, and thousands have been involved in building the packaged software.
Packagers, documenters and translators include:
Activity Workshop, Agustín Dí­ez, Aikaterini Kapsampeli, Alan Beccati, Alan Boudreault, Alessandro Furieri, Alexander Bruy, Alexander Kleshnin, Alexander Muriy, Alexandre Dube, Alexey Ardyakov, Alex Mandel, Amy Gao, Andrea Antonello, Andrea Yanza, Andrey Syrokomskiy, Andry Rustanto, Angelos Tzotsos, Anna Muñoz, Antonio Falciano, Anton Novichikhin, Anton Patrushev, Argyros Argyridis, Ariel Núñez, Assumpció Termens, Astrid Emde, Barry Rowlingson, Benjamin Pross, Brian Hamlin, Bruno Binet, Cameron Shorter, Christophe Tufféry, Christos Iossifidis, Cristhian Pin, Damian Wojsław, Dane Springmeyer, Daniel Kastl, Daria Svidzinska, David Mateos, Denis Rykov, Diego González, Diego Migliavacca, Dimitar Misev, Dmitry Baryshnikov, Dominik Helle, Edgar Soldin, Eike Hinderk Jürrens, Elena Mezzini, Eric Lemoine, Estela Llorente, Etienne Delay, Etienne Dube, Evgeny Nikulin, Fran Boon, François Prunayre, Frank Gasdorf, Frank Warmerdam, Friedjoff Trautwein, Gavin Treadgold, Giuseppe Calamita, Grald Fenoy, Grigory Rozhentsov, Guy Griffiths, Hamish Bowman, Haruyuki Seki, Henry Addo, Hernan Olivera, Howard Butler, Hyeyeong Choe, Ian Edwards, Ian Turton, Ilya Filippov, Jackie Ng, Jan Drewnak, Jane Lewis, Javier Rodrigo, Javier Sánchez, Jesús Gómez, Jim Klassen, Jing Wang, Jinsongdi Yu, Jody Garnett, Johan Van de Wauw, John Bryant, Jorge Arévalo, Jorge Sanz, José Antonio Canalejo, José Vicente Higón, Judit Mays, Klokan Petr Pridal, Kristof Lange, kuzkok, Lance McKee, Lars Lingner, Luca Delucchi, Lucía Sanjaime, Mage Whopper, Manuel Grizonnet, Marc-André Barbeau, Marco Curreli, Marco Puppin, Marc Torres, Margherita Di Leo, Maria Vakalopoulou, Mario Andino, Mark Leslie, Massimo Di Stefano, Mauricio Miranda, Mauricio Pazos, Maxim Dubinin, Michaël Michaud, Michael Owonibi, Micha Silver, Mike Adair, Milena Nowotarska, M Iqnaul Haq Siregar, Nacho Varela, Nadiia Gorash, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Ned Horning, Nobusuke Iwasaki, Oliver Tonnhofer, Òscar Fonts, Otto Dassau, Pasquale Di Donato, Patric Hafner, Paul Meems, Pavel, Pedro-Juan Ferrer, Pirmin Kalberer, Raf Roset, Ricardo Pinho, Roald de Wit, Roberta Fagandini, Roberto Antolin, Roberto Antolí­n, Roger Veciana, Ruth Schoenbuchner, Samuel Mesa, Scott Penrose, Sergey Grachev, Sergio Baños, Simon Cropper, Simon Pigot, Stefan A. Tzeggai, Stefan Hansen, Stefan Steiniger, Stephan Meissl, Steve Lime, Thierry Badard, Thomas Baschetti, Thomas Gratier, Tom Kralidis, Toshikazu Seto, Trevor Wekel, Valenty González, Vera, Xianfeng Song, Yoichi Kayama, Zhengfan Lin

Sponsoring organisations

  • The Open Source Geospatial Foundation OSGeo provides the primary development & hosting infrastructure and personnel for the OSGeo-Live project, and infrastructure for many of the software projects themselves.
  • LISAsoft provides sustaining resources and staff toward the management and packaging of software onto the Live DVD. http://www.lisasoft.com
  • Information Center for the Environment (ICE) at the University of California, Davis provides hardware resources and development support to the OSGeo Live project. http://ice.ucdavis.edu
  • Remote Sensing Laboratory at the National Technical University of Athens, provides hardware resources and development support to the OSGeo-Live project. http://www.ntua.gr
  • The DebianGIS and UbuntuGIS teams provide and quality-assure many of the core packages. http://wiki.debian.org/DebianGis and https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGIS

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Open Geospatial Consortium - Reloaded

One of the valuable qualities I've observed of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) during the past decade, is the extent to which they embrace feedback and constructive criticism and search out innovated ways to improve themselves. We are currently seeing another example of this following heated debate which resulted in the withdrawal of the "GeoServices REST API" as a proposed standard. The debate highlighted divided opinions around the primary purposes of standards, what should constitute a standard, and whether OGC and sponsors should be placing a greater emphasis on quality over quantity.
This has been the first time that there has been so much contention around a proposed standard, and I'd argue that it is an indication that the OGC has reached a threshold moment. Spatial Data Infrastructures around the world have been moving from pilots and non-core systems into central mission critical infrastructure. This in turn has impacted government policy, business models, and requirements of OGC standards.
In response, the OGC has reached out to OGC membership to help re-define the OGC. Mark Reichardt , President and CEO of the OGC, called on OGC membership to help redefine and strengthen the OGC:
... I have asked Geoff Zeiss and Jack Pellicci from our board to join me in establishing a leadership group to solicit your ideas and concerns, and to produce a slate of recommendations for action within 90 days. If you have an interest in working with us as part of this group to represent the interests of the OGC membership please contact me as soon as possible. An online forum will also be created to provide an open and accessible environment for members and the public to participate. We will be setting up a series of online meetings in the coming weeks, with a first meeting scheduled on 2 July for OGC members only. Registration details can be found here. A meeting open to the public will be scheduled for 11 July with several follow-up sessions for members and the public planned for late July and early September. We’ve also set up a wiki and email address to receive your feedback. My commitment is to have resulting recommendations brought to OGC membership, staff and the OGC Board of Directors for action as part of our upcoming September TC/PC meetings in Frascati, Italy. ...
So what should be on the OGC agenda? I suggest:
  • Consider redirecting OGC sponsorship to provide a greater emphasis on Quality over Quantity. In particular, improve criteria for understandability through better documentation, improve testing frameworks, ensure robust implementations are in place before declaring a standard production ready.
  • As governments around the world start embracing Open Government principles, they will find they need to take greater responsibility for protecting the principles of Open Government, and be empowered and confident enough to write something like this statement, and help take a leadership role within the OGC.
  • Revisit the definition of an Open Standard, and ensure it meets the goals of SDI champions (primarily governments).

Thursday, 30 May 2013

OGC heed community pressure regarding "GeoServices REST API"

Following on from signification discussion and concern from OSGeo and OGC communities, members of the OGC have withdrawn the "Geoservices REST API" candidate OGC standard.
Thank you to all the people who have voiced their concerns, thank you to those who provided detailed reasoning and analysis, and thank you to the OGC and OGC members who have acknowledged and have started actioning this reasoning. You are contributing toward a better OGC for us all.

Carl Reed, CTO and Executive Director of OGC Standards Program made the following announcement:

On Tuesday of this week, the GeoServices REST API Standards Working Group (SWG) voted to approve the following recommendation to the TC Voting Members:
The GeoServices REST SWG recommends the Technical Committee (TC) approve withdrawal of the motion to approve the OGC GeoServices REST API documents as an official OGC standard.
Moved: Keith Ryden. Second: Clemens Portele. There was no objection to unanimous consent.
The following is the reason for requesting the motion to approve the candidate standard be withdrawn:
“Considering the breath of discussion both internal and external to the OGC process since the vote announcement, the SWG members feel that the vote cannot continue until the many questions raised have been addressed. Issues regarding OGC process, vendor advantage, duplication of capabilities, etc. have now overshadowed technical discussions of the merits of the specification. By withdrawing the OGC GeoServices REST API candidate standard, the necessary discussions regarding OGC process, policy, and position can continue separately.”
The SWG further discussed the need for OGC Members and staff to debate, clarify and potentially amend a number of policy and procedural issues before the SWG can decide to either disband or to resume technical work on the candidate standard.
Today or tomorrow the TC Chair (me) will be asking the TC Voting Members to consider the GeoServices REST API SWG recommendation. The motion is:
"The GeoServices REST API SWG recommends that the GeoServices adoption vote be withdrawn.  If there is no objection to unanimous consent in the next 10 calendar days, then the motion is approved. If there are objections, than a two week e-vote will be initiated."
Over the coming months there will be opportunities for OGC staff, members and the general public to engage in discussions related to policy and procedures, such as clear statements on openness and interoperability, overlapping standards, backwards compatibility and so forth. The idea is to begin a dialogue as part of the virtual meetings this and next month with a goal to address the issues raised and recommend changes at the upcoming September Frascati meetings.
I would like to thank the SWG for all of their hard work on the candidate standard. I would also like to thank everyone who contributed to the conversation.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Will OGC’s standards meet government purchasing guidelines?

In what has become the OGC’s most contentious vote to date, OGC members are being asked whether the proposed "Geoservices REST API" should be accepted as an OGC standard. A summary of concerns are listed in an Open Letter from the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) to the OGC. However, the crux of contentions hinge around the definition of an Open Standard and whether the "Geoservices REST API" qualifies as one.
When measured against government’s policy drivers of interoperability, fair competition, and economical use of government funds, the evidence is overwhelming. "Geoservices REST API" fails on all accounts. In fact, we should be questioning why our OGC processes haven’t identified and then addressed these issues much earlier.

Background

As background, the "Geoservices REST API" describes the interface to a dominant vendor’s web service (ESRI’s ArcGIS Server), and overlaps substantially with OGC’s existing suite of web service standards.

What is an Open Standard?

Most government purchasing guidelines, such as the United Kingdom Open Source, Open Standards and Re­Use: Government Action Plan, now include clauses such as:
The Government will use open standards in its procurement specifications and require solutions to comply with open standards. The Government will support the development of open standards and specifications.
Consequently, government contracts typically specify use of standards when purchasing systems. This places a responsibility on standards organisations to protect government policy when selecting and defining the standards baseline.
Superficially, the "Geoservices REST API" meets the European Interoperability Framework minimal definition of a standard:
  • The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.).
  • The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee.
  • The intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
  • There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.
However, the "Geoservices REST API" falls short of addressing government policy drivers for the creation of standards. These are summarised in the Guideline on Public Procurement of Open Source Software, written for the European Commission:
Public sector consumers of software have an obligation to support interoperability, transparency and flexibility, as well as economical use of public funds. When it comes to public procurement, the principles applied to the public sector require them to support (and certainly not to harm) competition through their procurement practices.
Good practice eGovernment services should provide access based on open standards, and in particular, never require citizens to purchase or use systems from specific
vendors in order to access public services: this is equivalent to granting such vendors a state-sanctioned monopoly.
Lets address these issues point by point.

Costs and Interoperability

Regarding when to create new standards, the United States Open Technology Development (OTD): Lessons Learned & Best Practices for Military Software has the following advice:
... use/modify/create open standards, in that order.
Unfortunately, the "Geoservices REST API" would create new standards rather than use and/or extend existing OGC web services. Emphasis on reuse of standards is important for increasing interoperability, as duplication of standards typically results in:
  1. Implementation costs to support multiple standards increases.
  2. Consequently, organisations and/or applications may choose to only support one standard, or only support one standard fully.
  3. Sponsors (such as governments) who require compliance with standards will discover that applications don't communicate together, due to applications supporting different standards that essentially do the same thing.
  4. After a while, in order to solve interoperability issues, a respected international organisation or program will likely take the initiative to mandate one prefered standard for all agencies to follow. To date, the OGC has provided this leadership.
  5. One standard taking prominence over the other will likely lead to the other being neglected or deprecated, resulting in many OGC compliant systems becoming legacy systems in the process. This should be considered an undesirable outcome for a standards organisation.
Costs increase, interoperability decreases.

Fair competition

ESRI’s ArcGIS Server is currently the only server which provides a full implementation of the "Geoservices REST API", as you would expect when an API is derived directly from a product. As such, if the "Geoservices REST API" were to be included in the OGC baseline, and government contracts continue to reference the OGC baseline in contracts, then governments would be giving one vendor a significant market advantage while other vendors wear the cost of developing matching implementations for the proposed standard.
Further, ESRI may continue to use its market dominance to promote use of the "Geoservices REST API" at the expense of existing OGC web services. (As described in ArcGIS Server documentation, support for OGC’s W*S services are disabled by default while GeoServices REST and KML are enabled).

Where are the Open Source implementations?

Another test for identifying open standards is defined by the United States Open Technology Development (OTD): Lessons Learned & Best Practices for Military Software:
Verify that the standards used are open; a simple test for openness is to determine if the standard is implemented by open source software.
Currently, very little open source has been developed to support the "Geoservices REST API" and there is wide opposition to the proposed standard from the Open Source community.
Open Source implementations referenced by proponents of the "Geoservices REST API" include immature implementations, partial implementations and a library application. That is: a roadmap document for GeoServer, a sandbox implementation of an Openlayers client, a 52North SOS extension to ArcGIS Server and the GDAL translation library.
By comparison, there are multiple production grade, client and server, open source implementations, which cover the full breadth of existing OGC standards, which have matured over the past decade, and there are open source reference implementations for most (all?) current OGC standards.
So by the Open Technology Development definition, The "Geoservices REST API" hasn’t yet reached the maturity of an Open Standard.

Where are OGC’s gatekeepers?

There are 481 OGC members, with close to 100 of them with voting privileges, yet regularly, less than 40% of these voting members actually vote on proposed standards. This is a concern if these members are being relied upon to uphold OGC values, and we should question why voting is so low. A key factor in low voter turnout is likely the complexity and volume of material voters need to understand in order to make an informed decision. Gatekeepers just don’t have the time to be abreast of all the issues, and current standards are hard to read. The increase in the breadth and application of OGC standards has led to a stronger need for integration of standards, architectural overviews, and clearer implementation guidelines.
Maintaining and verifying quality best addressed by defining and following development and validation processes, and OGC processes should be improved to match the complexity of the systems they represent. In particular, OGC should revisit goals and requirements for quality standards, then resource technical writers and reviewers to work against such requirements. Approving a standard is therefore simplified to verifying the process is valid and has been followed. This would require OGC sponsorship priorities changed to provide greater emphasis on quality over quantity of standards.

A blueprint for moving forward

Lets expand on the steps involved in deciding on the value of a standard:
  1. Governments policies should embody government best practices. Many countries have already taken this initiative.
  2. Standards organisations, should embrace such government policies.
  3. A clear definition of an "open standard" is required, which addresses government policy requirements of interoperability, fair competition, free access to government services, and economical use of public funds. This should be expanded into clear guidelines to be applied by OGC Gatekeepers and standards developers. The OGC should revisit the "open standards" definition, and in particular, ensure the definition extends beyond the technical to include policy implications.
  4. Suitable training should be available to OGC Gatekeepers and implementers of OGC based solutions. LISAsoft provides an Effective Software Selection course which closely aligns with such training requirements.
  5. The OGC and OGC sponsors should consider realigning priorities. In particular:
  • Place a greater emphasis on quality over quantity of standards. This includes: harmonising competing standards, improving quality of writing to support understandability and implementability, and extend testing to verify standards are implemented correctly.
  • Provide simple and clear descriptions of standards. The OSGeo-Live project has addressed similar issues by providing a concise one page project overview, plus a ten minute quickstart, translated into 11 languages, for fifty of the best geospatial open source applications.

Summary

As the success of the OGC increases, the OGC will need to be mindful of business and policy implications associated with adopting established interfaces as standards. Specifically, accepting the currently proposed "Geoservices REST API" as a standard will have detrimental impacts on interoperability, fair competition, and economic use of public funds. Instead, the positive aspects of the "Geoservices REST API" should be harmonised and incorporated into the existing OGC baseline of standards. Also, as the breadth of technology covered by OGC standards increases, it is becoming more difficult for gatekeepers to monitor the quality of these standards and consequently it is becoming more important to focus on quality and understandability of these standards. In moving forward, the OGC membership should revisit OGC priorities, and consider placing a greater emphasis on quality over quantity.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Starting build cycle for OSGeo-Live 7.0

We are starting the build cycle for the 7.0 OSGeo-Live DVD/USB/VM which will be released in September 2013, ready for the global FOSS4G conference in Nottingham, UK. We would like to hear from anyone wishing to add new projects to the live DVD, anyone wishing to extend or add extra translations, or anyone who has ideas on how we should shape the upcoming release.
Also, could all projects please reply to us with which stable version of their software should be included in this release.

Key Milestones

17 Jun 2013 All new applications installed, most old applications updated
15 Jul 2013 Feature Freeze (all apps updated)
05 Aug 2013 User Acceptance Test (all apps installed and working)
26 Aug 2013 Final ISO sent to printers
... full schedule

OSGeoLive 7.0-alpha1 released

We have released the first alpha version of OSGeo-Live, which includes an update from Xubuntu 12.04 to 12.04.2 along with updated versions of applications from UbuntuGIS repository. Feel free to start testing your applications in the latest release. Download Alpha 1

About OSGeo-Live

The OSGeo Live demo DVD/VM/USB is an Xubuntu based distribution of Geospatial Open Source Software, available via a Live DVD, Virtual Machine and USB. You can use it to try a wide variety of open source geospatial software without installing anything.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Last chance to reject "Geoservices REST API" standard

Next Wednesday, the OSGeo Board will deliver an Open Letter to the OGC and OGC voting members, with multiple signatures, demonstrating the large number of people concerned about the negative consequences associated with making the "Geoservices REST API" an OGC standard.
The "GeoServices REST API" was initially developed by ESRI and implemented on the ArcGIS Server platform before going through the OGC process. It significantly overlaps with OGC's existing W*S services, but isn't based upon these existing standards.  Consequently, we have grave concerns that the two competing sets of standards, which essentially cover the same use cases, will have far reaching, detrimental impacts on interoperability, complexity, and costs within the spatial industry, including being bad for Geospatial Open Source software.

Many people, including leaders of OSGeo and related communities, have already signed this letter. Thankyou. If you agree that "Geoservices REST API" will be bad for OSGeo and/or the greater spatial community, then please help us deliver this concern to OGC voters before they vote. Add your signature to the Open Letter before we deliver it on Wednesday 15 May 2013, and forward this message onto other OSGeo communities. (I notice that messages from this thread are being forwarded to the Spanish OSGeo email list. Thankyou.)

If you are looking for a deep analysis of the issues, I suggest reading the open letter which is now draft complete: http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Geoservices_REST_API.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Design Principles of UK Government Digital Services

The UK Government have defined excellent design principles for deploying digital services, which is broadly applicable, and should be considered, by anyone developing applications for the web. They are summarised below:
  1. Start with [user] needs
    ...
  2. Build digital services, not websites
    Our service doesn’t begin and end at our website. It might start with a search engine and end at the post office. We need to design for that, even if we can’t control it. And we need to recognise that some day, before we know it, it’ll be about different digital services again.
  3. Do less
    Government should only do what only government can do. ... We should concentrate on the irreducible core.
  4. Design with data
    ... we can learn from [current] real world behaviour. ...
  5. Do the hard work to make it simple
    Making something look simple is easy; making something simple to use is much harder — especially when the underlying systems are complex — but that’s what we should be doing.
  6. Iterate. Then iterate again.
    The best way to build effective services is to start small and iterate wildly. Release Minimum Viable Products early, test them with real users, move from Alpha to Beta to Launch adding features and refinements based on feedback from real users.
  7. Build for inclusion
    ...
  8. Be consistent, not uniform
    ...
  9. Make things open: it makes things better
    We should share what we’re doing whenever we can. With colleagues, with users, with the world. Share code, share designs, share ideas, share intentions, share failures. The more eyes there are on a service the better it gets — howlers get spotted, better alternatives get pointed out, the bar gets raised.
    Partly because much of what we’re doing is only possible because of open source code and the generosity of the web design community. So we should pay that back. But mostly because more openness makes for better services — better understood and better scrutinised. If we give away our code, we’ll be repaid in better code. That’s why we’re giving away all this...

Monday, 4 March 2013

OSGeo Board priorities

A productive virtual meeting of the OSGeo Board resulted in general consensus over OSGeo's priorities, which in turn should help the OSGeo Board and OSGeo committees when guiding OSGeo into the future.
These principles are:
  • OSGeo should act as a low capital, volunteer focused organisation.
  • OSGeo should focus support on OSGeo communities and initiatives which support themselves.
Current priority areas include:
  • Global, regional and local FOSS4G related events, or events which include a FOSS4G stream.
  • Marketing OSGeo, which is currently focused around OSGeo-Live.
  • Education, which is currently focused around the network of Open Source Geospatial Research and Education Laboratories.
  • Local Chapters, as outreach initiatives are typically driven at the local level.
So lets expand on these:

OSGeo as a low capital, volunteer focused organisation

Should OSGeo act as a high capital or low capital organisation? I.e., should OSGeo dedicate energy to collecting sponsorship and then passing out these funds to worthy OSGeo causes.
While initially it seems attractive to have OSGeo woo sponsors, because we would all love to have more money to throw at worthy OSGeo goals, the reality is that chasing money is hard work. And someone who can chase OSGeo sponsorship is likely conflicted with chasing sponsorship for their particular workplace. So in practice, to be effective in chasing sponsorship, OSGeo will probably need to hire someone specifically for the role. OSGeo would then need to raise at least enough to cover wages, and then quite a bit more if the sponsorship path is to create extra value.
This high capital path is how the Eclipse foundation is set up, and how LocationTech propose to organise themselves. It is the path that OSGeo started following when founded under the umbrella of Autodesk.
However, over the last seven years, OSGeo has slowly evolved toward a low capital volunteer focused organisation. Our overheads are very low, which means we waste very little of our volunteer labour and capital on the time consuming task of chasing and managing money. Consequently, any money we do receive (from conference windfalls or sponsorship) goes a long way - as it doesn't get eaten up by high overheads. As discussed and agreed by the board, this low capital path is something that is working very well for us, and is the path we should continue to follow.

Support initiatives which support themselves

With the thousands of great initiatives and opportunities that OSGeo could get involved in, and limited budget, how should OSGeo set funding priorities? Acknowledging that our volunteer community is blessed with many talented individuals, our most effective way to tap into community potential is to welcome individuals to "help scratch their itch". Extending on this, funding priorities should follow the actions of already successful communities. (Note the difference between "talk" and "action"). If a task or project is important enough, it will attract volunteers and/or sponsors to make it happen. In practice, this will usually equate to providing co-contributions rather than outright funding.
OSGeo's focus should be on initiatives which are of value to all or most OSGeo projects, and to get best value for our limited budget, OSGeo should target initiatives which have high value with minimal investment.
With that in mind our priorities should be:
  • Cover the costs of running OSGeo: Bank fees, insurance, infrastructure, hosting etc.
  • Support marketing and out reach activities, with a primary focus on our FOSS4G global conference, followed by regional and then local FOSS4G or related events.
  • Educational type activities are a high priority, but likely will be a minimal cost activity from OSGeo's perspective.
  • Other initiatives which fit our priorities, as suggested by membership.
Initiatives which probably wouldn't quality:
  • Sponsoring core development of a particular project. (Too expensive, and only supports one project)
  • OSGeo speaker travel expenses, or booth registration costs at a conference. (If conferences/local community feel this is important, they will either: 1. pay for the keynote, 2. make use of local talent, 3. waive fees for our non-profit, 4. find a local sponsor)

Conferences and related events

Conferences are financially risky events. They need to be planned well in advance, and you are never sure how many people will turn up, or whether some global event will have a substantial impact on registrations. Consequently, conferences such as FOSS4G require financial guarantees up front in order to secure a venue. To support and enable these conferences, OSGeo will endevour to retain sufficient capital to offer such guarantees for any FOSS4G event requesting it. If OSGeo's support is requested, then OSGeo would expect these events to budget for a modest profit under conservative estimates, and for OSGeo to retain profits from such events. To date, such profits, while relatively modest, have been OSGeo's primary income source.
Other spatial conferences regularly request an OSGeo involvement, such as providing presenters, workshops, OSGeo-Live DVDs for distribution, or providing a booth. OSGeo facilitates such requests to the level we can achieve with interested volunteers, but typically expects the conference or sponsors to cover expenses.
OSGeo has limited budget set aside for code sprints, which are seen as a valuable forum for giving directly back to development teams. OSGeo will typically expect co-contributions from interested sponsors, and would prefer to support code sprints which are of benefit to multiple projects and communities.

Education

OSGeo is very supportive of educational initiatives which is helping the spread of OSGeo to students across the globe. This is currently focused around the growing network of Open Source Geospatial Research and Education Laboratories within Universities around the world.
This educational initiative is currently progressing well without requiring OSGeo's financial support.

Packaging and Marketing

OSGeo's marketing effort has primarily been focused around the packaging and documentation efforts of OSGeo-Live, and to a lesser extend, osgeo4w. In 2012, OSGeo-Live was used at 45 events without OSGeo's financial support. It has been entirely driven by volunteer labour, by 140 OSGeo-Live volunteers, and printing costs have been covered by local events or sponsors.
In the last couple of years, OSGeo has covered local chapter expenses required to purchase non-consumable items for conference booths (such as a retractable banner).
In moving forward, OSGeo hope to extend marketing reach by providing co-contributions toward printing costs of consumable items at conferences, such as toward OSGeo-Live DVDs.

Local Chapters

Much of OSGeo's marketing initiates are applied at the local level. In many cases, this is best supported through as little as an email list and wiki page. OSGeo also supports local chapters by offering to pay for an Exhibition starter pack for local chapters. Local chapters are also usually the coordinators of conferences and related events, as mentioned above.

Sponsorship

OSGeo will continue to welcome sponsorship. Due to OSGeo's low capital model, we are able to make sponsor's contribution provide substantial benefit to the greater OSGeo community. In return, we promote sponsors' logos on our website and through our OSGeo-Live marketing pipeline (which was used at 45 geospatial events around the world in 2012).
However, OSGeo is doesn't plan to either task volunteers with specifically chasing sponsors, or hire someone to chase sponsorship on OSGeo's behalf.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Should OGC re-prioritise Quality over Quantity?

There is a constant tension in development between doing less, but doing it well, verses doing more with less attention to detail.
Recently members of the Open Source community have raised concerns about the quality of OGC standards, which leads to reduced uptake and effectiveness of these standards. This should be of concern to sponsors of OGC initiatives, and I'd suggest that the OGC, and OGC initiative sponsors should assess funding priorities, and place a greater emphasis on quality over quantity.
Here is a sample of a few recent comments:
  • Daniel Morissette, board member of OSGeo, blogged: Don't upgrade to WMS 1.3.0 unless you have to, stick to 1.1.1.
  • Chris Holmes, a prominent OSGeo thought leader, recently said: "we've found that in recent years there are even more 'ideas' added to the specifications that have no true production ready working code against them. Past the surface accessibility this is the thing that has become clear to us as implementors - there is less quality control at the core of the standards process."
  • Chris quotes Justin Deoliveria, an experienced implementer of OGC standards as saying "... the geopackage spec makes me want to run for the hills".
In the last OGC OWS-9 testbed, LISAsoft was engaged as part of the CITE compliance program to test the WMS 1.3 client reference implementation. We are strong supporters of testing, but the scope of LISAsoft's recommended testing was substantially trimmed due to lack of budget. Consequently, the level of testing sponsored fell well short of what should be covered by a standards organisation. By acknowledging that testbeds like OWS-9 are vehicles for rapid prototyping, full compliance testing should probably be advanced into another forum.
Here is an exert of what we summarised in our wrap up Engineering Report:
The WMS 1.3 Client testing provided in this testbed is an excellent step forward, and is useful for checking integration between a specific WMS client and specific WMS server, however, the WMS 1.3 client testing falls short of providing comprehensive tests confirming that a client conforms with all WMS servers, under all conditions. As such, LISAsoft considers it inappropriate for the OGC to consider a WMS client to be certified as compliant based upon the level of testing sponsored to date.
For instance:

  • Boundary testing was not sponsored: Can the client send a query which crosses maximum latitude or longitude lines? ... 
  • Exception testing was not sponsored: Would the client perform suitably if the server provided a valid exception as a response? ...
  • Sponsorship only covered testing of integration with one WMS service (which only supported a subset of the WMS spec). Testing the rest of the client's WMS support wasn't sponsored. ...
The recommendations from our report explain steps to bring OGC compliance testing in line with  best practices. However, they could be summarised by recognising that:
  1. Quality of OGC standards is strategically important in reaching OGC goals.
  2. Greater focus on testing is required if OGC wish to reach this level of quality.
  3. Sponsors of OGC initiatives should adjust funding priorities to put a greater emphasis on quality over quantity.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

OSGeo-Live 6.5 released

Version 6.5 of the OSGeo-Live GIS software collection has been released, ready for distribution at a large number of geospatial conferences and workshops from around the world.

Release Highlights

Applications
Geospatial applications on the disc have been updated to their latest stable releases.
Increased quality
With each release, the quality of OSGeo-Live is steadily increasing. This release has seen a concerted review of OSGeo-Live quickstarts, ensuring the every step of quickstarts have been tested, and increasing consistency and readability of the quickstart documentation.
Translations
OSGeo-Live is now translated into Russian. Translations are available for: Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian (new), Spanish

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB flash drive and Virtual Machine based upon Ubuntu Linux that is pre-configured with a wide variety of robust open source geospatial software. The applications can be trialled without installing anything on your computer, simply by booting the computer from a DVD or USB drive, or running in a Virtual Machine environment. An accompanying collection of lightning presentations introduces the breadth and depth of Free and Open Source for Geospatial (FOSS4G).
Homepage:
OSGeo-Live includes:
  • Fifty (50) Quality Geospatial Open Source applications installed and pre-configured
  • Over a gigabyte of free world maps and geodata
  • One page overview and quick-start guides for every application
  • Overviews of key OGC standards
  • Translations for multiple languages

Credits

Over 140 people have directly helped with OSGeo-Live packaging, documenting and translating, and thousands have been involved in building the packaged software.
Packagers, documenters and translators include:
Activity Workshop, Agustín Dí­ez, Aikaterini Kapsampeli, Alan Boudreault, Alessandro Furieri, Alexander Bruy, Alexander Kleshnin, Alexander Muriy, Alexandre Dube, Alexey Ardyakov, Alex Mandel, Amy Gao, Andrea Antonello, Andrea Yanza, Andrey Syrokomskiy, Angelos Tzotsos, Anna Muñoz, Anne Ghisla, Antonio Falciano, Anton Novichikhin, Anton Patrushev, Argyros Argyridis, Assumpcio Termens, Astrid Emde, Barry Rowlingson, Benjamin Pross, Brian Hamlin, Bruno Binet, Cameron Shorter, Christophe Tufféry, Christos Iossifidis, Cristhian Pin, Damian Wojsław, Dane Springmeyer, Daniel Kastl, Daria Svidzinska, David Mateos, Denis Rykov, Diego González, Dimitar Misev, Dmitry Baryshnikov, Dominik Helle, Edgar Soldin, Eike Hinderk Jrrens, Elena Mezzini, Eric Lemoine, Estela Llorente, Etienne Delay, Etienne Dube, Evgeny Nikulin, Fran Boon, François Prunayre, Frank Gasdorf, Frank Warmerdam, Gavin Treadgold, Giuseppe Calamita, Grald Fenoy, Grigory Rozhentsov, Hamish Bowman, Haruyuki Seki, Henry Addo, Hernan Olivera, Howard Butler, Hyeyeong Choe, Ian Turton, Ilya Filippov, Jackie Ng, Jan Drewnak, Javier Sánchez, Jesús Gómez, Jim Klassen, Jing Wang, Jinsongdi Yu, Jody Garnett, Johan Van de Wauw, Jorge Arévalo, Jorge Sanz, José Antonio Canalejo, Judit Mays, Klokan Petr Pridal, Kristof Lange, kuzkok, Lance McKee, Lars Lingner, Luca Delucchi, Lucía Sanjaime, Mage Whopper, Manuel Grizonnet, Marc-André Barbeau, Marco Curreli, Marco Puppin, Marc Torres, Margherita Di Leo, Maria Vakalopoulou, Mario Andino, Mark Leslie, Massimo Di Stefano, Mauricio Miranda, Mauricio Pazos, Maxim Dubinin, Michaël Michaud, Michael Owonibi, Micha Silver, Mike Adair, Milena Nowotarska, Nacho Varela, Nadiia Gorash, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Ned Horning, Nobusuke Iwasaki, Oliver Tonnhofer, Oscar Fonts, Òscar Fonts, Otto Dassau, Pasquale Di Donato, Paul Meems, Pavel, Pedro-Juan Ferrer, Pirmin Kalberer, Raf Roset, Ricardo Pinho, Roald de Wit, Roberto Antolín, Roger Veciana, Ruth Schoenbuchner, Samuel Mesa, Sergey Grachev, Sergio Baños, Simon Cropper, Simon Pigot, Stefan A. Tzeggai, Stefan Hansen, Stefan Steiniger, Stephan Meissl, Steve Lime, Thierry Badard, Thomas Baschetti, Thomas Gratier, Tom Kralidis, Toshikazu Seto, Trevor Wekel, Valenty González, Vera, Xianfeng Song, Yoichi Kayama, Zhengfan Lin.

Sponsoring organisations

  • The Open Source Geospatial Foundation OSGeo provides the primary development & hosting infrastructure and personnel for the OSGeo-Live project, and infrastructure for many of the software projects themselves.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Happy 7th Birthday OSGeo

Image Source
As reported by Jeff McKenna, The OSGeo Foundation has turned 7. And if you wish to understand why OSGeo software innovates so quickly, it is worth looking at these OSGeo statistics which hint at the size of the OSGeo community:


  • 195 mailing lists
  • unique mailing list subscribers: 19,160
  • http://osgeo.org: 30,487 unique visitors for month of January 2013
  • http://wiki.osgeo.org: 2720 pages, 12550 users, 17 million views to date
  • 1,350,000 google hits for "osgeo"

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

OSGeo-Live Quickstart 48 hour Hackathon

Image Source
As announced, We are organising an "OSGeo-Live Quickstart 48 hour hackathon", aimed squarely at bringing OSGeo-Live documentation quality up one notch, by putting the Quickstarts through the same comprehensive testing and review that we have provided for our Project Overviews. (Credit to Javi and the OSGeo-Live Spanish community for suggesting the initiative).
The Hackathon will kick off with a one hour IRC meeting with everyone, followed by a 48 hour round the clock hangout, with people dropping in where appropriate for their timezone and work/family schedules.
Pre Hackfest:
Kickoff:
Review process:
Please let us know on the OSGeo-Live email list if you would like to join us, and we'll make sure to look out for you. Depending on numbers, we might also set up a Google Hangout. (Contact me if you want more details: cameron.shorter AT gmail .com)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Geospatial Open Source Lightening Overview

Here is a 25 minute lightening overview of the Geospatial Open Source stack, presented at the Open Source Developers Conference in Sydney, Australia. It is a cut down version of the OSGeo-Live Lightening Overview (which now takes ~ 40 minutes). For more details, refer to the OSGeo-Live Project Overviews and LISAsoft training from which this presentation was derived.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Starting build cycle for OSGeo-Live 6.5

Grass on OSGeo-Live
We are starting the build cycle for the 6.5 OSGeo-Live DVD/USB/VM which will be released in March 2013, ready for the FOSS4G - North America, Spanish FOSS4G, FOSSGIS Germany, among others. We would like to hear from anyone wishing to add new projects to OSGeo-Live, anyone wishing to extend or add extra translations, or anyone who has ideas on how we should shape the upcoming release.

Also, could all projects please reply to us with which stable version of their software should be included on OSGeo-Live 6.5.

Key Milestones

  • 10 Dec 2012 All new applications installed, most old applications updated 
  • 24 Dec 2012 Feature Freeze (all apps updated) 
  • 28 Jan 2012 User Acceptance Test (all apps installed and working) 
  • 18 Feb 2012 Final ISO sent to printers
... full schedule

OSGeo-Live 6.5 Alpha1 released

We have released the first alpha version of OSGeo-Live, which includes an update from Xubuntu 12.04 to 12.04.1 along with updated versions of applications from UbuntuGIS repository. Feel free to start testing your applications in the latest release. Download Alpha 1

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-Live is an XUbuntu based distribution of Geospatial Open Source Software, available via a Live DVD, Virtual Machine and USB. You can use OSGeo-Live to try a wide variety of open source geospatial software without installing anything.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Will Australia's CRCSI "Spatial Infrastructure" research see the light of day?

CRCSI Focus: http://www.crcsi.com.au/Research
Australia's Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Infrastructures, CRCSI, has announced its research agenda for Spatial Information in a series of workshops around Australia, and in Sydney the presentation was met with a sceptical audience.
The CRCSI have $180 million worth of research budget, and "Spatial Infrastructure" represents 1/3 of the CRCSI's core agenda, and as such there is the potential to make some great contributions to Spatial Infrastructure. So why were the audience sceptical?
This is the second 7 year CRCSI agenda. In the first there was a feeling that many of the research projects did not follow through into practical implementations. As such, the bid for this second CRCSI emphasised a changed focus toward practical research. However audience sentiment was that the recent research proposed would not see the light of day. Here are some of the reasons why:

Lack of collaboration with Spatial Infrastructure champions

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is the leading international body coordinating research, development and testing of the standards which back Spatial Infrastructure. I would ague that for a research program to be of value, it needs to advance OGC standards. However, CRCSI's current agenda mentions only the use of existing standards.
Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, CSIRO, are already world leaders in spatial research, having led development of a number of Spatial Initiatives and standards developments in conjunction with the OGC. In particular, CSIRO are currently leading the world in research into  Ontologies, Linked Data, and Catalogs which has many synergies with the the Australian and New Zealand Spatial Marketplace being promoted as a focus for the CRCSI's research agenda. However the CRCSI strategy has no mention of collaboration with CSIRO and seems to be proposing to solve similar problems themselves. Long term, this will result in the technology behind the Marketplace becoming obsolete as the rest of the world pick up and mature CSIRO's research, while Australian/New Zealand will be solely left to maintain the Marketplace.

Gap between Research and Implementation

There were serious concerns raised by both industry and government audience members about the usefulness of any research likely to be generated. You see, most of the pressing (and expensive) Spatial Infrastructure problems needing to be solved are found in the integration of systems. However, the CRCSI seem to have abdicated responsibility for tacking these hard problems, as they don't constitute "research". What would be preferable is that the success of research be judged by whether it has been integrated into Spatial Infrastructure software and processes, not by the earlier stage of being published in an academic journal.

What should the CRCSI do instead?

If the CRCSI is to heed the feedback from the Sydney meeting, the CRCSI will tackle less research topics, but will take these topics right through to implementation. The CSCSI will engage deeply with the OGC, probably leading a stream in an OGC testbed or pilot. The CRCSI would also work closer with the CSIRO and collaborate on initiatives.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

OSGeo Board and Charter members refreshed

The annual OSGeo Board of Directors and Charter Membership elections have come to a close with the first meeting of the new board, and the selection of a new executive. During the process 22 new charter members were added bringing this group to 144 charter members from around the world. During the Board of Directors election, the following new board members were elected for a two year term:

Jáchym Čepický (Czech Republic) has been welcomed onto the board for a one year term to complete Jo Cook's term who stepped down just before the elections.
These new board members will join existing members, Peter Batty (United States), Michael Gerlek (United States), and Mark Lucas (United States).

The new board is pleased to announce the following executive:
  • President: Frank Warmerdam
  • Treasurer: Daniel Morissette
  • Secretary: Michael Gerlek
As the new President of OSGeo, Frank Warmerdam brings many years of geospatial experience and has been involved in the OSGeo foundation since its inception. He is known for his work with the GDAL/OGR translation library, which has become the backbone of the spatial industry. Daniel Morissette is continuing the role of Treasurer and brings practical experience as a business owner to this key role as well as over a decade of experience as a technical contributor and community leader in the MapServer project and OSGeo. Michael Gerlek is returning to the role of Secretary and brings a passion for supporting OSGeo both locally and globally.

About his new role as OSGeo President Frank Warmerdam says, "OSGeo has a fantastic set of volunteers, projects and an energized board and I believe we can continue to move forward on many fronts in the coming year. I can't thank Arnulf Christl, our past president, enough for his tireless work. While I can't fill his shoes as a globe trotting speaker on behalf of OSGeo, I believe we can as a community continue to be everywhere."

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Analysing the downfall of FOSS4G 2012

The international FOSS4G 2012 conference, which was scheduled to be held in Beijing in Sept 2012, was cancelled. This has been a disappointing setback for our OSGeo community, and here I capture some of the key events which lead up to this cancellation, and with our hind site perspective, identify areas we can change to make future conferences more resilient and successful.
This conversation started on the OSGeo Conference email list, then moved to the FOSS4G 2012 Lessons Learned wiki page as ideas consolidated.
The following discussion ground rules applied:
  • Avoid letting the discussion break into a witch hunt, or blame game. Remember that almost all people involved in FOSS4G 2012 were volunteers, giving of their precious time freely.
  • Instead, identify an event or decision, discuss the implications of the event, and ideally follow up with some recommendations on what we can do in future. 

Host City Selection

Prior to 2012, OSGeo's Conference Committee had agreed to a 3 year rotation for the location of FOSS4G conferences, which went:
  • Europe (2010)
  • North America (2011)
  • Rest of the world (2012)
  • Europe ...
The bid process involves cities providing a light, 2 page, "Letter of Intent", followed by a comprehensive bid if the "Letter of Intent" was approved. However by Letter of Intent deadline for FOSS4G 2012 there were no Letters of Intent. The deadline was extended, and Letters of intent were received from Rome (Europe), Prague (Europe), Hanoi (Asia), and a late entry from Beijing (Asia).
This was summarised by OSGeo Conference chair,
What happened is that we did not receive any submissions before the initial deadline, and then we opened the bidding to all areas, and then we received 1 submission from the desired region and 2 from Europe, and then a second late submission from the desired region.
My opinion is that the stated desired region is in fact still the desired region, and that all OSGeo conference committee members should keep this information in their head as they vote. (meaning: all 4 letters are an option for this voting stage, but the preferred region is 'anywhere other than NA or Europe')
In the end, only Prague [Europe] and Beijing [desired region] submitted a full FOSS4G bid, and when it came to a final vote, the OSGeo Conference committee was split between a bid from a more experienced team in Prague, and following OSGeo's established rotation with Beijing. In retrospect, we should have put more emphasis on selecting the experienced FOSS4G team.
European and North American international FOSS4G events have traditionally attracted more delegates and sponsors, which makes these conferences:
  1. More financially profitable
  2. Less financially risky
  3. Reach more people (although not necessarily reaching more regions)
As we move forward, we may wish to favour selection of committees and cities with prior experience of holding local or regional FOSS4G events before being awarded an international event.

Competing regional conferences

In 2011, major regional conferences started in both Europe and North America, which competed for international FOSS4G attendance, along with some FOSS4G conferences from the region. It was debated whether OSGeo should support and encourage these new regional conferences, knowing that they would have an impact on attendance at Beijing.
As explained in a post by the Chair of the OSGeo Board:
From all that I can tell, now FOSS4G Beijing will become a local conference with support from "OSGeo international". This and no more. It will not be the Global or World conference that FOSS4G was before because we will have a FOSS4G CEE and FOSS4G North America event (plus the regular local ones) in the same year. There is no chance at all that Beijing can attract the same vibrant global participation that we had at the last global FOSS4G conferences.
The question is not whether we will have a FOSS4G in Beijing or CEE or North America. From all that I can tell we will have them all. There is no reason (and probably no way) to stop the North American or CEE initiative or both. Instead it is great to see so much interest and momentum - and we would be stupid to stifle it.
The competing regional conferences are listed here and here.

Local Organising Committee experience

Lack of Professional Conference Organiser

The Local Organising Committee (LOC) had teamed with a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO), starting from the bidding for the FOSS4G 2011 conference. However, it seems that at some point the PCO stopped helping with FOSS4G. The LOC were then unsuccessful in trying to sign up a new PCO. This was a significant setback for FOSS4G 2011, as PCO's bring significant experience in running a conference. They have experience with local venues and business, and they manage many of the day-to-day tasks which takes workload off the LOC.
From what I can gather, the PCO were not contractually engaged with the PCO up front, which allowed them to disengage later. What are the lessons? The LOC should contractually engage with the PCO very early in the conference cycle, and OSGeo oversight should ensure this happens.

Loosing key LOC members

One of the key Chinese OSGeo community members, Professor Yu, passed away shortly after Beijing was awarded the conference. This was very unfortunate, both on a personal level, and organisation level.
Loss of key committee members is reasonably common (although usually people step down for various reasons, rather than pass away). For instance, a key FOSS4G-Sydney evangelist, who promoted the Sydney event at prior FOSS4G conferences, stepped back and didn't attend Sydney's FOSS4G 2009. The original FOSS4G-Devar 2011 chair had to stand down for personal reasons shortly after the bid was accepted. These examples highlight the need for organizing committees to have strength in depth, and in particular to have a backup plan if the conference chair has to step down. This was a question that was asked of the Nottingham FOSS4G 2013 contenders, who have two backups to the conference chair, as well as a committee with strength in depth overall.

Decision Making

A conference chair is asked to make many decisions related to the conference, and the majority of the time, there is no clear understanding about the benefits or downsides of each option. Usually the only sure thing is that not making a decision will be detrimental to the conference. Consequently, it is important for LOCs to become quick and efficient at analyzing possibilities and then making decisions.
From what I can gather, the Beijing LOC would have benefited from being more efficient in making decisions. For instance, in mid-November 2012 the OSGeo-Live community asked the LOC to commit to distributing OSGeo-Live DVDs at the Beijing conference. The LOC took almost 3 months to confirm they would support this. Other conferences usually provide such confirmation within a week, often within a day or two.
I suspect delays related to decisions would have contributed to schedule slipages. The lesson here is that LOC's should be structured and resourced such that they can make decisions efficiently. A prior conference chair extended this observation to note the importance of the conference chair:
[A key lesson is the] importance of an active LOC and even more importantly an active CHAIR. Committees don't move, they can't communicate, they can't move. People can, so an active CHAIR is the single critical ingredient. And the more that person in invested in both organizing and communicating the event, the better it will be.

Schedule slip

As the deadline for the FOSS4G conference approached, there was significant schedule slip on key milestones, such as the ability to accept conference papers. This was providing a visible indication of some of the other issues listed in this analysis.
I think the lesson here is quite simple. Make sure there is an appropriately resourced project manager responsible for managing the conference schedule. (This task is usually provided by a PCO).

OSGeo Oversight

A second issue is that although OSGeo had identified concerns with FOSS4G Beijing's progress reasonably early, intervention from OSGeo was late in coming. A prior FOSS4G chair noted:
We need to put harder stops in place to short circuit failure. If you don't have a call for workshops out by February, [serious questions are asked, such as should the conference be cancelled?]. If you don't have $30K in sponsorship in place by April, [serious questions]. If you don't have a call for papers out by May, [serious questions]. This [FOSS4G 2012 conference] dragged out longer than it should of because there were no hard stop points.
During the build up to FOSS4G Beijing, one of the key volunteers on OSGeo conference committee, who had previously been very active, was showing signs of burnout and was not contributing to his prior levels. This left a noticeable hole in the OSGeo conference committee which was not filled by another volunteer. The OSGeo Conference committee had previously provided checks on conferences, such as reviewing and approving the conference's budget and submitting to the OSGeo board for approval, however this didn't happen for the FOSS4G Beijing conference.
What are the lesson's here? It may be that the critical role of approving finances should be covered by a paid position, funded by profits of FOSS4G conferences. Something like this was considered as described under the No mentor section below.

Is Failure Acceptable?

There has been discussion over the level of OSGeo Oversight that should be applied to a LOC. An OSGeo board member noted:
It is still desirable to give the local organizers quite a bit of freedom and that we should accept that occasional failure is not a disaster.
Which a prior FOSS4G chair responded with:
On the contrary, I'd say that random failures are a disaster and will actually contribute to more failures. ...The success of a conference is tied to the perceived expectations. Throwing a conference is like throwing a party. Do you want to go to a lame party? No, you want to go to a rocking party. If PartyPete throws awesome parties every Thursday, you'll clear your schedule as next Thursday rolls around. If LameLou throws passable parties sometimes, and sometimes cancels them, you'll start going to PartyPete's instead. Consistency is very important.
The same thing will go double for sponsors: are you going to commit to early sponsorship and send a cheque to an event that was cancelled last year? Or will you hold on to your cheque until the last minute just in case? The uncertainty effect is going to make the financial situation of future conferences more precarious as sponsors and registrants hedge their bets until later in the calendar. This will only get worse if we embrace failure as an occasionally acceptable mode.
I'd argue that while it may be ok to experiment with some fringe elements of a FOSS4G program, occasional failure of the international FOSS4G conference should be considered unacceptable.

No mentor

A proposal was put to the OSGeo board, which was eventually approved, to have an experienced FOSS4G mentor support the Beijing Local Organising Committee. (A funded mentor was not provided to previous conferences). This proposal fell through, and although some prior FOSS4G chairs were approached (and others?), a replacement mentor was not found.
This left the Beijing FOSS4G LOC committee without some key expertise which could have been very valuable.
What is the lesson here? I think this was a good idea which fell through, and is worth pursuing again in future.

Communication

Language barrier

From what I understand, Beijing LOC were most comfortable speaking in Chinese, and had varying levels of experience with English. I observed that finding the right English words to support a conversation and convey important messages was a time consuming task, often involving decisions being made in Chinese, then translated to English. This communication overhead would have produced a significant workload on the LOC, who were already working on the difficult and time consuming task of running a FOSS4G conference.
I believe this communication gap also contributed to many of the other symptoms discussed here. Slow communication between the LOC and community would have:
  • Contributed toward slow responses to community queries, hindering the international community contributing prior experience toward the LOC,
  • Slowed decisions from the LOC resulting in schedule slip,
  • Caused difficulties getting the quality control of the website correct,
  • and reduced marketing and communication to potential international delegates.

Cultural Differences

I question whether cultural differences contributed to communication shortfalls. From my observations, it seems Chinese are more circumspect about sending public communication, often using face-to-face meetings, and waiting for review from a superior before making a public statement. This contrasts with open source communities I've observed, where many opinions are discussed publicly, both amongst senior and junior developers, until a rough consensus is reached.
The OSGeo board representative to FOSS4G 2011 noted:
For a while I attempted to play [the FOSS4G board representative] role ... Also, while I was nominally involved, in practice there was never any discussion on any mailing list I was on ...
To me, a lesson of the Beijing effort is that it is hard to be involved remotely if the LOC won't communicate by email/irc/etc. I presume all the discussions that did happen were done by private email or in person but I was left with no visibility or ability to assist.

Collective Knowledge

I believe our experience with this conference highlights how much of our collective FOSS4G knowledge is stored in volunteers' heads, and is passed between different events through our various communication channels. When we constrict information flow by introducing a language barrier, we have also constricted access to our knowledge on how to run a conference.
A few suggestions on ways to address this include:
  1. Collect our conference running knowledge in a central source, that can be handed on without the high level of communication currently being used. In particular, I'm suggesting starting to collect our processes in a FOSS4G Cookbook or similar.
  2. Set up a permanent FOSS4G coordinator role (one person, or an international PCO, or similar) who are responsible for coordinating conferences and personally remembering lessons learned between conferences. (Note the risk of this person resigning and loosing all collected knowledge)
  3. Additionally, ensure key members in the LOC can communicate fluently with the rest of the OSGeo community. In most cases at the moment, this would mean speaking fluently in English.

Response to emails

There were a number of comments that I was privately CCed on which indicated that the international community were not receiving responses after emailing the LOC. Here are some examples:
As I've told you before it has been frustrating to me to not receive any feedback from the LOC on my offer to sponsor the event. I basically had the plan to come with my whole team (5 people now), but can't afford such investment considering the state the conference and participation levels are at now. In fact we have moved focus to the Nottingham event just after Beijing because it appears to be (1) better organized (but that may just appear like it due to the lack of communication from Beijing, (2) an audience that is of interest to [company name] and (3) cheaper / closer to home.
Another from the academic lead, who later stepped down:
... [regarding email responses] from two "important players" I have had no feedback, namely from the local organizers and from OSGeo.
I think the lesson here is that the LOC and PCO should be suitably motivated and resourced, and be provided with enough delegation to respond to all community queries promptly. Every query should be responded to within one working day, even if the response is "we will have an answer to you after the LOC meets next week".

Website out of date

A conference's website is the primary form of communication with potential delegates. For FOSS4G 2012, the website took an excessively long time to be developed and brought online, and then when it was brought online, it contained incorrect information and broken links (mainly cut and paste from the prior FOSS4G website). People were having significant issues with submitting papers and registering to attend.
The FOSS4G LOC had hired an external web developer to create the website, who had done a poor job of development. It seemed that there was a lack of quality control from both the web developer, and LOC. In the past, development of the website has either been managed by technically experienced developers (as was the case in 2009), or by the PCO.
The lesson here is that the website needs to be made a priority and suitably resourced. There is the potential for website management software to be passed on from one conference to the next. (We considered this option in 2009 but found the Open Source conference management software used by FOSS4G 2008 was not going to integrate easily with the software our PCO was using). It would be worth future FOSS4G conferences revisiting this question.

Minimal "buzz"

To a certain extent, a conference is successful because the LOC says it is going to be successful (and potential attendees and sponsors believe the statement). Presenters and sponsors attend the conference because they believe there will be lots of delegates, and delegates attend because they believe there will be lots of quality presenters and sponsors. And one of the most effective ways for everyone to be convinced of the conference's success is to create lots of "buzz". I.e., lots of press releases, articles, blogs, twitter discussion and more talking about how good the conference is going to be.
FOSS4G 2009 possibly went a little too far by putting out 41 press releases. However, FOSS4G Beijing could certainly have benefited from more "Buzz", as the OSGeo Board Chair noted:
on the website at http://2012.foss4g.org/ there is still no option for submitting abstracts although the submission has been opened - apparently without notice to any of the regular OSGeo channels. Workshops submission ends in two weeks.
No international speakers have been announced and there are only Chinese sponsors listed (although interest by regulars was documented as early as December 2012).

Engaging international organisers

Compared to prior international FOSS4G events, there was minimal international involvement in organising the FOSS4G event. Of particular concern was that the international academic track lead resigned, saying:
... I regret [the LOC] did not fully support the setup I proposed. Specifically, the LOC insists on using their own deadlines and reviewing and publication plan. Of course they have every right to do so, because it is in fact their conference...
There is a significant amount of work involved in organising a conference, and it is very valuable to share tasks with the international community. This has two key benefits:
  • It allows the LOC to focus on the local issues (like sorting out the venue)
  • It facilitates knowledge transfer between years, as roles like the Academic track lead are often coordinated by the same core people over a number of years.
So lesson here is look for opportunities to make use of the international community to coordinate specific areas of the conference.

Weekly meetings

Less than 3 months before FOSS4G 2012 was due, weekly meetings were started between volunteers from the international community and the LOC. I understand that the LOC were having meetings internally, but there was little visibility of them from the international community. The extra meetings facilitated transparency from the international community into the progress of the LOC, which in turn provided opportunities for the international community to volunteer to help. Eventually, with the help of these weekly meetings it was assessed that the level of effort required to bring the conference back on track, along with the likely outcome, resulted in a decision to cancel the conference.
In retrospect, these meetings should have started much earlier, ideally from the start of the conference planning a year or so earlier such that support from the international community could have made a better impact in the earlier stages. So lesson hear is start having periodic meetings from early in the planning cycle, and invite the international community to participate if you can.

Who wrote this analysis?

The telling of history is always influenced by the perspective of the narrator, and as such it is useful to know who the narrator was. This narration was by myself, Cameron Shorter. I was the chair of FOSS4G 2009, I'm a member of the OSGeo Conference Committee, and I voted for FOSS4G 2012 to be held in Beijing. I helped volunteers add Chinese translations to the OSGeo-Live DVD, and commit to handing the DVD out at FOSS4G Beijing. I later attended weekly meetings with FOSS4G Beijing's LOC and other international volunteers, until it was decided by the LOC that the conference should be cancelled.