Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

OSGIS 2014

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Two weeks ago now saw the return of the OSGIS conference in Nottingham, after a year off in 2013 for FOSS4G. I think there had been mixed feelings about this event; those of us heavily involved in the organisation of FOSS4G 2013 had taken a back seat this year, and with FOSS4G 2014 imminent in Portland, it was clearly going to be a smaller scale get together.

I have to say that overall, my impression is that small is good! Small allows you to chat to everyone, see everything you want to see, and generally enjoy, rather than rush around like a mad man or woman. It was nice to see some new faces, and to see a number of papers from local government and business, belying the idea that OSGIS is primarily an academic event. Thanks as always to the chaps at Nottingham for organising.

Astun had a strong showing at the event, with two workshops and two presentations. My colleague Matt Walker did a workshop on OpenLayers3 and Leaflet, and I did one on WPS and PgRouting (a beginners guide). I did a quick introduction to Portable GIS, and another colleague Antony Scott did a comparison to web servers. You can see the workshops at the Astun Technology GitHub pages. As a slight techy aside, Matt and I collectively decided to try GitBook for preparing our workshops, and we’re both very impressed. If you’re interested in a cheeky workflow for pushing a gitbook directly to GitHub gh-pages, see this gist.

Steven Feldman, another Astun employee/adviser also did a talk entitled “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, a continuation of an emerging theme in open source geospatial at the moment on getting companies to contribute more, or at the very least acknowledge and thank the open source components they use. As always this was very thought provoking (although I worry a little that making people feel responsible for the software they use might potentially back fire)– you can find Steven’s blog post on the talk here.

OSGIS has always had a strong relationship with the OSGeo:UK local chapter, but unfortunately that’s been a bit inactive since FOSS4G- sometimes it’s hard to know what to do next when you’ve fulfilled one of your primary goals! We’re going to have a go at rebooting the local chapter though now- a more detailed post on this will follow soon. The short version is, I’m back co-chairing after a two year absence, and we’ve got some good ideas going forward. Watch this space!