FOSS4G Quick Hits

I had the distinct pleasure of attending my first FOSS4G conference in Denver last week. Having not attended one previously, I can only rely on the opinions of others that this has been the best FOSS4G yet. For me, this was best geospatial conference I have attended. I’ll probably blog in more detail about some of the things I saw but here are my high-level observations:

It's time to refresh your thinking about open-source geospatial tools.

1. QGIS – I didn’t attend many QGIS sessions but I didn’t need to. It had everyone talking in hallways during breaks. Remember a few years ago when the desktop was the weak link with open-source GIS? Forget about that.

2. Vizzuality is doing great things to deploy usable mapping applications on the web with open-source tools. Every session they led was standing-room only, with good reason.

3. CartoSet and CartoDB – from the aforementioned Vizzuality. These open-source tools are designed to help speed the front-end and back-end development of a web application respectively. These are at the top of my list of things to check out.

4. One of the key characteristics of most of the open-source tools discussed in sessions I attended is that they originally grew out of the need to solve a problem. They were not just built on spec, hoping someone would find them useful. As a result, these tools tend to already be proven within the problem set for which they were built.

5. PostGIS – If open-source geospatial is a flowering field, then PostGIS is the water that hydrates it. The amount of tools that support it is staggering (including CartoDB). The importance of a robust, open-source, spatial data store cannot be overstated and the role PostGIS plays as a foundation technology is pivotal. As for PostGIS 2.0, Michael Weisman sums it up best here:!/mweisman/status/115163092207403010

6. Javascript mapping libraries – there are now more ways to get an interactive map into a browser than I can keep track of. Those based on Javascript and/or HTML5 are proliferating like wildfire. The “I” in “RIA” now stands for “intranet”.

I’m still organizing my notes and thoughts about what I saw at FOSS4G. It’s impossible to describe the richness of the information that was available. The only real downtime I had was that which I sought for myself. I’ll follow up these quick observations in the near future as I begin to dig into the new tools I was exposed to.