Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Back From AGI Geocommunity 2008, Part One

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I’m just back from the AGi Geocommunity 2008 conference in Stratford-upon-Avon. A very enjoyable time was had by all I think! I would have posted from the conference itself, but the hotel wifi wasn’t keen on playing with my linux laptop.

I’ll talk more in other posts about the actual presentations, but this is just some of my general thoughts about the conference.

My overall thought was that the AGI got it right with this event. I went into it with some reservations, partly because I was talking about open source at a conference full of software vendors, and partly¬† because I am pretty new to the AGI and didn’t know what to expect.

From talking to people throughout the event, as well as the entertainment that they put on, I really did feel that they were trying to get a sense of community, breaking down barriers between vendors and users. I also felt that if open source gis software is to become more widely used, it needs to engage with that community on a professional level, rather than scratch around on the edges, or out and out refusing to come to the party.

I got to chat with a lot of people from proprietary software companies, and from the Ordnance Survey, all of whom were actually really interested in engaging with open source, and open access to data.¬† Again, more on the specifics later. It was suggested at one point that the concepts of open standards and open source are totally separate, and therefore to make the open source case better it is important not to mix the two, and I have been thinking about this ever since. From the perspective of Oxford Archaeology’s desire to adopt an “open ethos”, the two concepts are inextricably linked, but I do see that in some cases this might not be true. The standards people might not always want to be linked with open source because they need to engage with the proprietary people too. Something to think about as we continue to promote open source GIS within the UK.

On that note, I spoke to a few people about the idea of setting up a special interest group (SIG) for open source software within the AGI, and about arranging an OSGeo/AGI SIG conference within the UK next year some time. Both these points will need some expansion so I’ll leave it at that for now…