Tuesday, 22 December 2015

How much code should Open Source leaders write?

Writing Code
Which is more effective for building an open source project? Do you write code, or engage with the community?
My team are regularly asked variants of this question. Typically when reviewing software systems and extensions which have been out-innovated by the open source community.
Just writing code leads to a development team of one. It works, but is slow. The illusive promise of open source is the potential to attract external developers. But to attract and retain developers you need to connect with them, talk with them, support them, encourage them. You need to help them achieve their goals, which might be only slightly related to yours. And hopefully, after all that, they might contribute back. It is a tough ask, which is probably why 5 out of 6 open source projects are abandoned.
So what percentage of time should be dedicated to communication in order to build a successful open source community? My gut feeling, after decades contributing to open source, is around 20% to 40%. But I'd love to find some solid research to back this up.
An extensive study by Schweik and English, sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation, researched the factors that lead some open source projects to ongoing success, while others become abandoned. Key attributes identified in successful projects included:
  • A clear vision,
  • Leaders who lead by doing,
  • Good documentation and a quality web presence,
  • Fine scaled task granularity, making it easier for new users to contribute.
However, I'm unaware of studies, including Schweik and English's, which have mined communication archives, such as email lists, to correlate communication styles with project success. Why is that? Communication is the lifeblood of any organisation, so you'd think that by now there would be evidence based guidance on optimising our communication techniques. Especially considering how much value could be easily mined from these archives.
Here are some indicators I'd like to see mined from communication archives and then correlating with project success rates:
  • What is the frequency, response-rate and response-time to conversations?
  • What is the proportion of experienced verses in-experienced people initiating and responding to topics?
  • What is the "signal to noise" ratio? Do people write concisely? 
  • Is communication constructive? Do topics lead to practical actions or implementations
    ?
  • Is communication respectful and supportive? (This might be hard to measure, but I'd argue that practicing mutual respect is key to community building.)
  • How much time do people spend coding compared to the time they spend communicating? (This could be roughly calculated based on lines of code written vs lines of email composed).
  • Which communication mediums are more effective? Email, IRC, twitter, blogs, other?
  • What styles lead to communities becoming more or less engaged?
I'd expect the results of analysis would reinforce what we learned when building the OSGeo-Live project. Namely, I'd expect to discover that successful open source projects:
  • Have core contributors responding quickly to community questions
  • Have a community who are supportive of each other, resulting in many community members having the confidence to answer new user questions
  • Having new ideas being initiated, discussed and then implemented from many members of the community

Monday, 23 November 2015

Starting build cycle for OSGeo-Live 9.5

We are starting the build cycle for version 9.5 of the OSGeo-Live DVD/USB/VM which will be released in March 2016, ready for several special events, including FOSS4G-NA, FOSSGIS (Salzburg, Austria), among others.

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.

Key Milestones

  • 11 Jan 2016 All new applications installed, most old applications updated
  • 01 Feb 2016 Feature Freeze (all apps updated)
  • 15 Feb 2016 User Acceptance Test (all apps installed and working)
  • 21 Mar 2016 Final ISO sent to printers

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-live is a Lubuntu 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, 30 September 2015

Noracle

My employer provides commercial support for the open source PostgreSQL database, and as such, I regularly rub shoulders with a lot of organisations stung by an Oracle database license audit, and impassioned to do something about it. One such organisation went as far as naming their migration project "NORACLE".

Another organisation used the same title when outlining migration justifications to their management:



As background, PostgreSQL is an established and robust open source relational database, and Oracle database compatibility is available as an extension through EnterpriseDB's Postgres Plus, along with extra enterprise grade tools.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

OSGeo-Live 9.0 Released

Version 9.0 of the OSGeo-Live GIS software collection has been released, featuring over 50 open source, standards compliant geospatial applications.

Release Highlights

64 bit architecture support
We are now providing both 32 and 64 bit architecture support. The Virtual Machine version has moved to 64 bit architecture.
Moved to Git
We have moved from subversion to git for our version system.
Debian packaging
We have steadily been moving more of our projects to .deb packaging, which makes it easier to install programs on debian based systems such as OSGeo-Live, and allows application of post-release fixes if required.
Applications
32 geospatial programs have been updated to newer versions.

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB flash drive and Virtual Machine, pre-installed with robust open source geospatial software, which can be trialled without installing anything. It includes:
  • Over 50 quality geospatial Open Source applications installed and pre-configured
  • Free world maps and sample datasets
  • Project Overview and step-by-step Quickstart for each application
  • Lightning presentation of all applications, along with speaker's script
  • Overviews of key OGC standards
  • Translations to multiple languages
Homepage: http://live.osgeo.org
Download details: http://live.osgeo.org/en/download.html
Post release glitches collected here: http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Live_GIS_Disc/Errata/9.0

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, Alex Mandel, Alexander Bruy, Alexander Kleshnin, Alexander Muriy, Alexandre Dube, Alexey Ardyakov, Amy Gao, Andrea Antonello, Andrea Yanza, Andrey Syrokomskiy, Andry Rustanto, Angelos Tzotsos, Anna Muñoz, Anton Novichikhin, Anton Patrushev, Antonio Falciano, Antonio Santiago, Argyros Argyridis, Ariel Núñez, Assumpció Termens, Astrid Emde, Balasubramaniam Natarajan, Barry Rowlingson, Benjamin Pross, Brian Hamlin, Bruno Binet, Bu Kun, Cameron Shorter, Christophe Tufféry, Christos Iossifidis, Cristhian Pin, Damian Wojsław, Dane Springmeyer, Daniel Kastl, Danilo Bretschneider, 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, Fabian Schindler, 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, Hirofumi Hayashi, Howard Butler, Hungary, 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, Ko Nagase, Kristof Lange, kuzkok, Lance McKee, Larry Shaffer, Lars Lingner, Luca Delucchi, Lucía Sanjaime, M Iqnaul Haq Siregar, Mage Whopper, Manuel Grizonnet, Marc Torres, Marc-André Barbeau, Marco Curreli, Marco Puppin, Margherita Di Leo, Maria Vakalopoulou, Mario Andino, Mark Leslie, Markus Neteler, Massimo Di Stefano, Matteo De Stefano, Matthias Streulens, Mauricio Miranda, Mauricio Pazos, Maxim Dubinin, Micha Silver, Michaël Michaud, Michael Owonibi, Mike Adair, Milena Nowotarska, 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, Robin Lovelace, Roger Veciana, Ruth Schoenbuchner, Samuel Mesa, Scott Penrose, Sergey Grachev, Sergey Popov, 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, Zoltan Siki

Sponsoring organisations

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Where is the Universal Code of Conduct?

Diversity image: [source]
OSGeo has adopted a Code of Conduct for use across events and projects [Press Release].
It draws very heavily upon upon prior work. In researching, it was interesting to see how Code-of-Conduct iterations have been steadily improving over time [200120102012201220142014]. Positive language has replaced authoritative tones; edge use cases are covered; and a gradual escalation process helps communities self police most infringements in a non-confrontational manner. Unfortunately, no one, has been collecting these improvements into a Universal Code of Conduct. It would have been really nice to simply reference an Industry Code of Conduct, similar to the Creative Commons Licenses for data, or Open Source licenses for Software.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Starting build cycle for OSGeo-Live 9.0

We are starting the build cycle for version 9.0 of the OSGeo-Live DVD/USB/VM which will be released at FOSS4G in Seoul, Korea in September 2015.

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.

For this release we will be moving our version control system from subversion to git. This is currently getting set up and we will be providing details shortly. Git migration discussion is happening on our mailing list. Feel free to join!

Key Milestones

  • 21 June 2015 All new applications installed, most old applications updated
  • 13 July 2015 Feature Freeze (all apps updated)
  • 16 August 2015 User Acceptance Test (all apps installed and working)
  • 30 August 2015 Final ISO sent to printers
... full schedule

About OSGeo-Live

OSGeo-live is a Lubuntu 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.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Esri's claim at being good "Standards" citizens is questionable

I'm calling Esri out on their claim to be good "Open Standards" citizens. Esri is again abusing their market position to compromise established Open Spatial Standards, as described in an Open Letter from the OSGeo community. It starts:
We, the undersigned, are concerned that the current interoperability between LiDAR applications, through use of the open "LAS" format, is being threatened by Esri's introduction and promotion of an alternative "Optimized LAS" proprietary format. This is of grave concern given that fragmentation of the LAS format will reduce interoperability between applications and organisations, and introduce vendor lock-in. …
To be clear, Esri has extended LAS to create "Optimized LAS" which provides near identical features and performance to the existing and open LASzip format, both of which provide faster access and smaller file sizes to the LAS format. However, rather than collaborate with the open community, as has been repeatedly offered, "Optimiszed LAS" has been developed internally to Esri. It is neither published, nor open, which provides both technical as well as legal barriers for other applications reading and/or writing to this proprietary format. This creates a vendor lock-in scenario which is contrary to the principles of the Open Geospatial Consortium, the OSGeo Foundation, and many government IT procurement policies.

Esri responded to the open request to avoid fragmenting LiDAR standards with the following motherhood statement, which doesn't actually answer the key questions:
Regarding Dr. Anand’s concerns and the referenced letter below:
Esri has long understood the importance of interoperability between systems and users of geographic information and services. Esri has participated in the development of national, information community, OGC, and ISO TC 211 standards from the development of the US Spatial Data Transfer Standard in the 1980s through the development of OGC Geopackage today. As a sustaining member of ASPRS and a Principle member of OGC, Esri would gladly participate in efforts to further the development of open LIDAR and point cloud standards. Keep in mind that ASPRS owns and maintains LAS, along with other spatial information standards, and would have the lead in moving it into  OGC or ISO TC211 for further work if they so desired. Esri will continue to support and use the ASPRS LAS standard; the Optimized LAS (see FAQ at https://github.com/Esri/esri-zlas-io-library) is not intended to replace LAS but to enhance access to remotely stored LIDAR information for our users.
Lets refute Esri's statement line by line:

Esri has long understood the importance of interoperability between systems and users of geographic information and services.

  • Nice motherhood statement. Notice that Esri carefully selects the words "understood the importance" rather than "we commit to implementing".

Esri has participated in the development of national, information community, OGC, and ISO TC 211 standards from the development of the US Spatial Data Transfer Standard in the 1980s through the development of OGC Geopackage today.


As a sustaining member of ASPRS and a Principle member of OGC, Esri would gladly participate in efforts to further the development of open LIDAR and point cloud standards.

  • Nice statement, without any quantifiable commitment. Will Esri put it into practice? Track record suggests otherwise. As explained by Marin Isenburg, Esri has talked a lot about collaboration and being open, while in parallel creating a competing proprietary format. If Esri were seriously committed to open LiDAR standards, Esri would publish "Optimized LAS" under an Open License, and/or take "Optimized LAS" through a standards development process such as provided by the OGC. Esri would have also build upon the prior LASzip format rather than redeveloping equivalent functionality.

Keep in mind that ASPRS owns and maintains LAS, along with other spatial information standards, and would have the lead in moving it into  OGC or ISO TC211 for further work if they so desired. 
  • Again, if Esri had the best interests of ASPRS and Open Standards in mind (as you would expect from a sustaining member), then we'd expect Esri to donate their LAS improvements back to the ASPRS for safe keeping. Why is Esri keeping such improvements in an Esri proprietary format instead?
  • Esri would be also lobbying ASPRS to accept improvements to the LAS format. Has this happened? Lack of public discussion on this topic suggests otherwise.

Esri will continue to support and use the ASPRS LAS standard; the Optimized LAS (see FAQ at https://github.com/Esri/esri-zlas-io-library) is not intended to replace LAS but to enhance access to remotely stored LIDAR information for our users.

  • Esri is sidestepping the issue. The LAS standard needs improvements. These improvements have been implemented by the open LASzip format and also by Esri's proprietary Optimized LAS. One should be incorporated into a future LAS standard.
  • The question Esri fails to answer is why does Esri refuse to work in collaboration with the open community? Why has Esri developed their own Optimized LAS format instead of improving an existing standard format?
  • Esri's FAQ, explains that esri-zlas-io-library is stored on github under the Apache license, which would make you think the code is Open Source and hence the Optimized LAS format could be reverse engineered. This is not the case. Esri has only licensed the binaries under the Apache license such that it can't be reverse engineered or improved by the community. By the OSI definition, this is not Open Source Software
So I'm calling Esri out on their claim to being supporters of Open Standards. Please Esri, either clean up the way you behave, or come clean and admit that Esri abuses its market position to undermine Open Standards.


Friday, 27 February 2015

OSGeo-Live 8.5 released

Version 8.5 of the OSGeo-Live GIS software collection has been released, featuring over 50 open source, standards compliant geospatial applications.

Release Highlights

Added Cesium
Cesium is a JavaScript library for creating 3D globes and 2D maps in a web browser without any plugins. It uses WebGL for hardware-accelerated graphics, and is cross-platform, cross-browser, and tuned for dynamic-data visualization.

Added IPython
IPython notebooks contain a list of input/output cells which can contain code, text, mathematics, plots, maps and other media. They are a bit like a spreadsheet in that each cell can contain code or a formula, and a bit like a web page in that authors can create structured text along with easily embedding rich and sophisticated media.

Updated to GRASS 7
GRASS 7 is a major upgrade, in the making since 2008, and offers new modules, tools, analysis capabilities, optimisations, user interface improvements, new Python interface, and SQLite database driver as default.

Updated to OpenLayers 3
OpenLayers 3 is a fundamental redesign of the OpenLayers web mapping library to use modern design patterns. Applications 25 geospatial programs have been updated to newer versions.

About OSGeo-Live 

OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB flash drive and Virtual Machine, pre-installed with robust open source geospatial software, which can be trialled without installing anything. It includes:
  • Over 50 quality geospatial Open Source applications installed and pre-configured
  • Free world maps and sample datasets
  • Project Overview and step-by-step Quickstart for each application
  • Lightning presentation of all applications, along with speaker's script
  • Overviews of key OGC standards
  • Translations to multiple languages
Homepage: http://live.osgeo.org
Download details: http://live.osgeo.org/en/download.html

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, Antonio Santiago, Anton Novichikhin, Anton Patrushev, Argyros Argyridis, Ariel Núñez, Assumpció Termens, Astrid Emde, Balasubramaniam Natarajan, Barry Rowlingson, Benjamin Pross, Brian Hamlin, Bruno Binet, Bu Kun, Cameron Shorter, Christophe Tufféry, Christos Iossifidis, Cristhian Pin, Damian Wojsław, Dane Springmeyer, Daniel Kastl, Danilo Bretschneider, 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, Fabian Schindler, 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, Hirofumi Hayashi, 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, Ko Nagase, Kristof Lange, kuzkok, Lance McKee, Larry Shaffer, 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, Matteo De 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, Sergey Popov, 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, Zoltan Siki

Sponsoring organisations