Get the eff out of FOSS4G

Free – thanks to Brad Stabler

This week I spent 2 days at the OSGeo UK Chapter event in Nottingham. OSGIS 2012 was a fun combination of workshops and presentations.

OSM-GB ran a workshop showing how to use their WMS and WFS in QGIS and even though I thought I knew how useful the services could be I was impressed by the simplicity of filtering and querying against the WFS, one of the attendees came up with a neat business use case that they were taking away to test. More on that in another post soon.

On the second day Ian James gave an inspiring talk about Ordnance Survey’s adoption of Open Source Geo in parts of their business. Rather than attempting to summarise, this slide from his deck captures the key reasons.

Why Open Source GI? Why now? – slide from Ian James of OS

One bit that prompted quite a bit of discussion after the session was

  • Cost Savings (but it’s not free)

Whenever comparisons of open source and proprietary business models come up it seems that the “It’s not free” line will get in there pretty quickly (you can guess who might raise that one). Well of course open source isn’t free when used in an enterprise environment, it’s just that the commercial model of the businesses providing services around open source is different to that of proprietary vendors. Potential clients have a choice to make and Ian James outlined some of the factors that were influencing Ordnance Survey’s adoption of open source.

In the coffee break I suggested that perhaps the open source geo community should consider dropping the F in FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geo) to avoid the potential misrepresentation of the Open Source business model. Although OSS4G doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Arnulf Christl (past chair of OSGeo and now on a temporary assignment at Ordnance Survey) suggested that we might be using the word free in the wrong way as in beer not speech and that perhaps we should be using it as in Freedom. That set the wheels spinning for FOSS4G 2013 and the kick off session that we were holding the following day. You will have to wait for some more info in the next couple of months but I think “The Freedom to ….” might feature in our plans.

Just in case the twitter storm hasn’t reached your corner of the world FOSS4G, the international conference of OSGeo, will be in Nottingham from 17th to 21st of September 2013. If you want to keep track of what we are planning have a look at

  • The FOSS4G web site which is a bit thin at the moment but will be flourishing and sparkly within a few weeks
  • The FOSS4G pledge site where you can volunteer to help – web stuff, action groups, outreach, academic reviewers, you name it we need it
  • The bid that the UK team submitted is here
  • The FOSS4G 2013 Wiki which has minutes of our meetings
  • For regularish updates and discussion join the FOSS4G 2013 mailing list
  • Follow us on twitter at @FOSS4G

A year of planning has started so that you will have “The Freedom to …”