The Guide to What Was Important at FOSS4G for People Who Didn’t Go to FOSS4G 2011

FOSS4G 2011 Logo

So FOSS4G has come and gone, in fact it came and went over a week ago. My day job kept me from posting about what happened last week, but the weekend always gives you time to write (Especially while watching Arizona State demolish Southern Cal). The near 1000 of us who attended saw all the great new initiatives around the open source geospatial community, but you probably didn’t. So here is what I see as where you should be looking in the next year before FOSS4G happens again.

  • Mapnik is King. It seems every session had at least some Mapnik component to it. Mapnik is becoming the cartography engine of GIS. I saw cartography during FOSS4G 2011 that just blew my socks off. Innovation in this space is moving so fast and Mapnik is the choice for anyone who is making beautiful, useful maps.
  • PostGIS 2.0 will come out early next year and you will have zero excuse to use any other spatial database. Much like Mapnik, most sessions had some sort of PostGIS component to them. If you don’t want to be left behind, get the book and start changing how you manage your location data.
  • Designers: One thing that has always been a knock against “traditional GIS” is that it is designed by scientists for scientists. Totally unusable for ordinary users. What I noticed at FOSS4G 2011 was how many companies are employing designers to make sure their apps and maps are usable for everyone. Vizzuality and Development Seed (Tell me that Dev Seed?s homepage isn’t awesome, I dare you.) have jumped to the lead of pushing design in front of classic geospatial front ends. Vizzuality’s CartoSet is giving users tools that they can easily design beautiful mapping applications with little or no coding. Development Seed’s MapBox suite makes it easy to leverage the powerful Mapnik engine to produce tile caches that work out of the box without any need of expensive servers software. Awesome stuff.
  • QGIS: At least in North America, QGIS is the desktop application of choice. I don’t recall seeing any gvSIG or uDIG (Is uDig dead?) presentations, but QGIS was used by almost everyone. Over the last year it has morphed into a desktop GIS tool that is now my primary choice when working with GIS data. Combining QGIS with Mapnik gives me the ability to make beautiful cartography I cannot create anywhere else. It is completely liberating!
  • JavaScript not Flex/Silverlight: Yea, it isn’t much of a surprise, open source users aren’t big Flex or Silverlight users, but JavaScript HTML5 web apps are everywhere and doing everything Flex/Silverlight can do, and work everywhere (When I refer to everywhere, I choose to ignore IE 6, 7, 8. If you’re stuck on those, find a new job). At this point it is safe to call every Flex/Silverlight location app as legacy as nobody in their right mind would be coding with those tools in 2012.

FOSS4G 2011 was probably the best Geospatial/Location Conference I?ve been to. Paul Ramsey put it best when he said:

I told some folks at FOSS4G 2011 that I thought this year’s event was the “best FOSS4G ever” (HT, Juan Antonio Samaranch) but that wasn’t just tongue in cheek. 2011 was the biggest ever, but only a few attendees more than Barcelona in 2010. Yet somehow I felt more energized, more connected, like I had more conversations, than in 2010.

That was pretty much exactly how I felt. I was connect to the attendees, I was energized by the talks and left feeling like at least a portion of the geospatial community has a future in front of it. What is best about this community it is free to join. Just bring your experiences and get started.

The Tragic Prelude

FOSS4G 2011 Logo

So FOSS4G has come and gone, in fact it came and went over a week ago. My day job kept me from posting about what happened last week, but the weekend always gives you time to write (Especially while watching Arizona State demolish Southern Cal). The near 1000 of us who attended saw all the great new initiatives around the open source geospatial community, but you probably didn’t. So here is what I see as where you should be looking in the next year before FOSS4G happens again.

  • Mapnik is King. It seems every session had at least some Mapnik component to it. Mapnik is becoming the cartography engine of GIS. I saw cartography during FOSS4G 2011 that just blew my socks off. Innovation in this space is moving so fast and Mapnik is the choice for anyone who is making beautiful, useful maps.
  • PostGIS 2.0 will come out early next year and you will have zero excuse to use any other spatial database. Much like Mapnik, most sessions had some sort of PostGIS component to them. If you don’t want to be left behind, get the book and start changing how you manage your location data.
  • Designers: One thing that has always been a knock against “traditional GIS” is that it is designed by scientists for scientists. Totally unusable for ordinary users. What I noticed at FOSS4G 2011 was how many companies are employing designers to make sure their apps and maps are usable for everyone. Vizzuality and Development Seed (Tell me that Dev Seed?s homepage isn’t awesome, I dare you.) have jumped to the lead of pushing design in front of classic geospatial front ends. Vizzuality’s CartoSet is giving users tools that they can easily design beautiful mapping applications with little or no coding. Development Seed’s MapBox suite makes it easy to leverage the powerful Mapnik engine to produce tile caches that work out of the box without any need of expensive servers software. Awesome stuff.
  • QGIS: At least in North America, QGIS is the desktop application of choice. I don’t recall seeing any gvSIG or uDIG (Is uDig dead?) presentations, but QGIS was used by almost everyone. Over the last year it has morphed into a desktop GIS tool that is now my primary choice when working with GIS data. Combining QGIS with Mapnik gives me the ability to make beautiful cartography I cannot create anywhere else. It is completely liberating!
  • JavaScript not Flex/Silverlight: Yea, it isn’t much of a surprise, open source users aren’t big Flex or Silverlight users, but JavaScript HTML5 web apps are everywhere and doing everything Flex/Silverlight can do, and work everywhere (When I refer to everywhere, I choose to ignore IE 6, 7, 8. If you’re stuck on those, find a new job). At this point it is safe to call every Flex/Silverlight location app as legacy as nobody in their right mind would be coding with those tools in 2012.

FOSS4G 2011 was probably the best Geospatial/Location Conference I?ve been to. Paul Ramsey put it best when he said:

I told some folks at FOSS4G 2011 that I thought this year’s event was the “best FOSS4G ever” (HT, Juan Antonio Samaranch) but that wasn’t just tongue in cheek. 2011 was the biggest ever, but only a few attendees more than Barcelona in 2010. Yet somehow I felt more energized, more connected, like I had more conversations, than in 2010.

That was pretty much exactly how I felt. I was connect to the attendees, I was energized by the talks and left feeling like at least a portion of the geospatial community has a future in front of it. What is best about this community it is free to join. Just bring your experiences and get started.

The Tragic Prelude

Author: James Fee

National GIS/IT Practice Leader at Matrix New World