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2006-02-04 18:56:53
First thoughts on the Open Source Geospatial Foundation

Well after a long and productive day in Chicago, the 25 attendees (and a few dozen more from IRC) were able to establish a solid plan for the foundation. Gary Sherman at Spatial Galaxy has a good overview of the meeting outcome and has set up a very helpful IRC log of the meeting and the focus group discussions (Go Gary!). Tyler Mitchell has posted some photos of the meeting. I attended via IRC and phone for only a few hours so my understanding of the entire meeting is limited but I'll add a few thoughts on what went down.

First of all, the name was decided early on to be the "Open Source Geospatial Foundation". IMO, this name fits very well. Now that Autodesk's open source contribution has been rebranded from Mapserver Enterprise to MapGuide Open Source, I am glad to see the final chapter in the whole naming debacle!

I was also very interested in the funding discussion. The general consesus seemed to be that the foundation would generate income through sponsorships. The benefits to being a sponsor/supporter of OSGF include official recognition and the obvious PR value in addition to being able to direct your funds to a particular project. It would work something like this: 2/3 of your donation could be directed to a particular software project while 1/3 would go to the foundation itself. Of the 2/3 going to the project, the Project Steering Comittee (PSC) would decide how to best allocate those funds. There was brief discussion of doing some sort of "bounty" system that would allow sponsors to fund a particular feature but this was generally thought to be a bad idea since there are so many aspects of software development that are not "sexy" enough to generate income... like cleaning up and optimizing code, bug fixes, etc. By allowing the PSC to allocate the funds, the focus can be on a solid code base and careful feature additions. Of course those who want to fund specific features can still contract directly with the developers.

One of the ironies of the initial foundation's project membership is that Mapserver (the project that was the center of the original Mapserver Foundation) is not yet a member! While this may seem strange at first, the reasoning is so that the Mapserver community can vote on the matter. Other community-based efforts such as QGIS are likely waiting to hear from their users as well. Once the official statements from the OSGF are released, I suspect there will be a vote from these communities (and others) to decide whether they should join.

The criteria for projects to join the foundation was not entirely clear but it appears that they will be based on the commonalities of the initial projects. Requirements such as licensing and open standards are still foggy but will likely be written in such a way that they don't conflict with any of the initial projects.. a sort of reverse engineering of the criteria if you will.

There were many interesting discussions as far as the implementation of the foundation web presence, the legal protections that would be provided by the foundation, the expected costs of running the foundation, promotion and the structure of the governing board. I'll wait until the official announcement to see how these issues were resolved.

Overall it was an exciting and historic day for open source GIS. Many thanks to all the attendees and IRC participants for all the interesting and productive discussions. The future of the foundation is looking very bright and I look forward to seeing where it's heading in the coming months...

One quick update: Schuyler Erle, who deserves an extra round of thanks for his amazing efforts to keep us IRC attendees informed of the meeting, has some great first-hand insights on the OSGF.

OK another quick update: The official foundation website will eventually reside at

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