Sunday 28 October 2007

Path to Ubiquitous OSGeo Software and Documentation

The time is ripe to integrate our Open Source Geospatial (OSGeo) applications, and build supporting documentation. The goal:
Powerful, Simple, Integrated, Documented, Ubiquitous Open Source Geospatial Applications
Ease of installation will pave the way for mainstream OSGeo adoption, increase users and developers exponentially and greatly increase OSGeo offerings.
Here I define achievable steps to reach the goal and likely resources for each step.
Current status
We already have powerful Open Source Geospatial applications, but we still need geeks to install and then use a full stack of OSGeo software.
Our applications are often easy to install by themselves, but project release schedules are independent of each other and it is hard to keep up with which versions of software work with each other.
There has been good work getting many OSGeo packages into linux, notably UbuntuGIS, DebianGIS and liveCD. A windows distribution is needed.
Documentation and training material is in an early phase. This material needs to be cross project, and match versions of OSGeo Software.
Key Steps
Set up project version dependency matrix (OSGeoMatrix)
A table which lists, for each project version, the other project versions it depends upon. The OSGeoMatrix should be seeded by existing efforts from UbuntuGIS, DebianGIS and liveCD projects.
OSGeoMatrix would feed into the various linux and windows distributions.
Once the OSGeoMatrix exists, the onus on updating it will become the responsibility of projects and should become an entry criteria for the OSGeo graduation process.
OSGeoMatrix will require release, testing and feedback processes to maintain quality control. These processes should start from existing linux distribution projects.
For efficiency, it would help to align OSGeoMatrix release schedules with linux distribution schedules.
OSGeo Workshops & Tutorials
I see an immediate opportunity to present OSGeo Workshops at Geospatial Conferences. Agencies want to learn about OSGeo, and workshops are a great advertising tool for companies looking for OSGeo work.
Together we can collectively build quality workshops, and we have the resources (potential presenters) to develop the documentation.
These workshops require a stable set of software, so should provide volunteers to help seed the OSGeoMatrix.
Further documentation
Comprehensive documentation which has already started in the education committee should be able to tap into and get a boost from the workshops and tutorials. I'll let others comment on the path this should take.
The project dependencies I see are:

+-OSGeo Packages
..+-OSGeo Matrix Project
....+-WindowsGIS (yet to be started)
....+-Other distributions

....+- Distributions
......+-OpenSource Workshops

The effort required to achieve all the above is huge. But there are already many people working on each of these sections, and by integrating our efforts we are all going to benefit.

So I suggest the following:
1. Get buy in from the existing linux geospatial projects: LiveCD, UbuntuGIS, DebianGIS and MandrivaGIS. These projects are already doing much of the effort required for an OSGeoMatrix project and can seed OSGeoMatrix. The benefit for the linux distributions is that they will reduce their overhead by sharing integration efforts with other distributions, and after OSGeoMatrix has started, projects will maintain dependencies for their own project.

2. Start an OSGeoMatrix project. It should contain:
  • Web page
  • Email list
  • Version dependency matrix (how should we store this)
  • Build processes
  • Test processes
  • Release schedule
This project would be an excellent candidate for OSGeo Labs.

3. Have projects like UbuntuGIS, DebianGIS, liveCD use OSGeoMatrix as the core for building their own distributions, which in turn will ensure that testing, bug fixes etc all feed back into the core repository.
How to get involved?
Do you have a piece of the puzzle or some spare time or strong opinions on how to make Ubiquitous OSGeo a reality? Let yourself be known. Speak up on the OSGeo Discussion list, or IRC channel irc://, leave a comment on this article, or you can contact me directly. I want to get in touch with all the key players who are required to make this happen.

No comments: