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GeoTools was really well represented at this years Free and Open Source Geospatial conference. One of the advantages of being a library is that we can really be everywhere. The downside is that even if you attended the conference (wasn't it great!) you could not of managed to catch all that we had going on.

I am going to start with just a list of links and then try and ask the authors for a couple of comments on how their lab / presentation / demo went. I made a point of talking to people in the evenings and asking about their favourite presentations - where possible I have shared their comments.

Workshops and Labs

GIS for Web Developers

Scott Davis is a long time GeoServer power user, and generally great at abusing our software stack and sending good bug reports. Apparently the practise has warmed him up for writing full length books. As I understand it Scott used and abused a harmless GeoServer war in wonderful ways cumulating in a nice AJAX front end.

Scott's talks are always well received, now if only he cleaned up after his Lab things would of went better for me (smile) His class configured GeoServer to the point where it was not stable for my GeoTools lab later in the week.

Introduction to Geospatial Collaboration using GeoServer

These guys had a great time - I ran into The Open Open Planning Project crew after words in the pub and they were all smiles. The room was at capacity with 80 people.

A full complement of GeoServer developers showed to provide lots of personal attention. Thanks to Chris Holmes, Justin, Saul Faber, Scott Davis and Simone.

An Introduction to the uDig Open Source Desktop

This lab was great. I talked for a total of a two minuets before letting people have at it. We went through
A range of power users and developers showed up to provide that all important personal touch. The room was completely full with a couple of mac user sitting on the floor at the back - and everyone went home happy.

Thanks to Jody, Jesse, Cory, Andrea, Brock.

How to Cope with GeoSpatial - The Pragmatic Intro for the Java Developers

This was the only hard-core hands on programming lab at the conference this year. Thanks to everyone who attended! GeoTools was used to access a Web Map Server, generate a Shape file, hack away at PostGIS (using Common Query Language and Filter 1.0). Students that finished early got a chance to visualization with Images and Shapefiles.

One user commented that this was what a lab should be - not a lot of talking and all the instructions printed out. Don't tell the uDig crew but we used QGis to check that shapefiles were generated correctly. One difficulty we encountered was the local install of GeoServer had been messed up by a previous Lab.

Thanks to Jody, Martin, Brock an Melisa for pulling this one together. Special thanks to Andrea and Jesse for the code review.

Opening Plenary Session

Geoff Zeiss provided an interesting speaker; who served to underline the need to talk standards as part of a larger motion of pushing GIS into everything. Apparently some of the building standards have been tricked into adopting GML and actually placing their buildings somewhere in the world. Some interesting work ahead of us I suspect before GIS dissolves into the general grab bag of IT constructs and finally becomes just another domain. It was interested that he felt validated in the decision to go open source based on "the community" providing FDO with access to a few more formats. It is important to recognize what value people are expecting out of their open source experience; sometimes it is not what you would expect.

Tyler Mitchell was on hand to give nice little talk about community complete with interesting expanding circles that showed the connectedness of all things. Long winters in Canada make for great diagrams - he has a much better expression of what was going on here Touchdown! FOSS4G 2007 A Resounding Success

Peter Rushforth was in town representing the much respected GeoConnection program. GeoConnection has been an important source of inspiration and funding for many projects that feed off of (and into) GeoTools development. He appeared a little bit disjointed from the surroundings, one of the major themes was the Canadian Data Infrastructure which is a little bit of a tough sell to an international conference focused on software. I sometimes get the impression that Canada's funding of open source geospatial software is a bit of an accident on the way to cold hard data deliverables.

Still warm fussy software makes you feel good and GeoConnection has been the motivator for more than its fair share.

Lightning Talks

James Macgill (our honoured founder - yes he is from England so I am jolly well going to spell honoured with a "u") was on hand to talk about the extravaganza that was the OSGeo summer of code projects.

Raj Singh made use of the lightning talks to talk about how OSGeo and standards can play well together, and how OGC is sure to include an open source reference implementation for new standards as they come out. It was nice that Raj recognized the difficulties we have in cooperating around standards (even just access to them is difficult). It sounds like the combintation of OSGeo to talk for us and personal OGC membership will help address many of these concerns - here is hoping.

Aside: Schuyer Earle did his usual amazing attention span-of-a-gnat-on-speed how-long-can-you-watch-him-click-through-slides-before-you-blink and lose-context-for-the-rest-of-his-talk power hour tour of off the wall subject material. This year it was about breaking down the subject material of the conference and trying to make sense of it using only the POWER OF STATISTICS. He presented a series of really interesting scatter plots showing how the presentations and labs split up on a number of metrics. It was really very cool to see Java so well represented and recognize that GeoTools was powering a lot of the show. What a difference from two short years ago.

Presentations

A Survey of Open Source GIS

Paul Ramsey's perennial survey talk is always a hit - and every year you need to see it again. It is really with downloading the pdf from the above page - but you will have to image Paul's wry wit for yourself. In talking to people afterwords many listed this talk as the cornerstone of their FOSS4G experience; based on the survey they planned out what presentations and projects to hunt down for the remaining three days. You can always tell who attended this talk as they started categorized everything in terms of the "Java" tribe or the "C" tribe.

As far as I know this is the only presentation to get interrupted by a round of applause - for the GeoServer/Google Earth time demo (which is admittedly really cool).

Bird of a Feather Session

New Feature Model

We had a really interesting "BOF" session; initially with the mandate of figuring out the details for our upcoming cross project code sprint (GeoServer, GeoTools and uDig are moving to a standard Feature interface based on ISO19109).

Real Live Users

However when actual users showed up we quickly expanded our focus and had a good talk about what is needed (documentation!), how important is api stability (documentation!) and everyones broader experience (needs documentation!). I must thank everyone for their input on this topic - I will double back with my notes in a couple of days.

We had an interesting discussion about where patches go to die. Apparently some patches for the unsupported Oracle datastore have just stayed attached to their bug report. We talked about the need for an oracle module maintainer, and the difficulty of producing open source software against proprietary technology.

Of interest was the later arrival of gvSig developers and their difficulties in working with us. The combination of a difference in license (they are GPL and GeoTools is LGPL) and a language barrier results in a lot of forked code. It was fascinating to learn their large developer base, user interface testing department, and the availability of patched up GeoTools datastores.

Value of GeoAPI

We had a couple more interesting questions - the value of GeoAPI. In marked contrast the the keynotes standards are often viewed as a barrier to communication in an open source project. I have always thought that packaging up standards in nice friendly Java interfaces was the way to communicate at this level, but perhaps this is only an option when their is funding on the table.

Value of OSGeo

The final question was geared toward the value of OSGeo as a foundation. Here are some notes on the value of OSGeo:

  • GeoTools Developers - guidance with the few legal issues raised (how to we write a contributor agreement etc...)
  • GeoTools Users - documentation! While we could approach OSGeo for funding I would feel uncomfortable accepting money until we are through graduation.
  • GeoServer developers - contacts with other projects; in particular the #osgeo channel is well received
  • gvSig Developers - brand recognition

Demo Theatre

The Demo Theatre was very well received; and for me at least it was a great way to see what projects were while basking in the warm glow of caffine and/or lunch. There were a few standout presentations (route finder, open street maps and gvSig did really well). Most of the usual suspects were much too busy doing presentations - so this stage ended up being a good view of the exhibitors and interesting little projects.

uDig Demo

Jesse did a great job of showing off the capabilities of uDig. It was noted that uDig is going for record of 12 release candidates (edging out the previous winner GeoServer). All is forgiven as uDig makes for a great show of what is possible with the open source software stack.

In fact it was so good we had Jesse fill in for a dropped presentation; and then repeat again as we waited for Safe Software to get in the game.

Summer of Code

We had many of our students show up for the Google Summer of Code demonstrations. Thanks to Hans (sorry I could not be there buddy it conflicted with my lab). Jans had a pretty slick warping transform thing going on.

JTS Topology Suite

Martin Davis kindly gave a demo of basic Geometry operations - using JUMP. His testing app for JTS was untested on Java 5 resulting quick change of venue. While it may not sound like much; JTS is the foundation of almost all we do here - and a lot of people really understood what was going on when they coudld see spatial relationships naked on a projector (rather than dressed up with fancy styles in the middle of a web application).

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