The Open Source GIS Syndicate

Tue 16 September 2014 | tags: Open Source, FOSS4G, OSGeo, -- (permalink)

I belong to a syndicate. Not a criminal one, of course, but it is the open source GIS syndicate. It has many lobes, including organizations like OSGeo and Eclipse/LocationTech, projects like GDAL, and companies like MapBox and CartoDB. It comprises a full range of users, developers, marketers, and managers. It knee-caps some niches while allowing others to flourish. Thanks to it, I have close, personal friends in over a dozen countries, and I've done business with many of them.

The only tribute I paid to participate in the syndicate is my time and my software (substitutable for time in most cases). The value of my time as the years have gone by has certainly increased, but my valuation of my software has gone down. All software sucks, mine included. Recognition of this fact is the first step on the path to redemption. Or something. Anyway, I happily give it away knowing that someone smarter and more productive can easily come along and make it way better than I might ever imagine at a pace that will spin my head to the chiropractor. It doesn't always happen, but the chance that it could is worth more than keeping my software closed.

FOSS4G is the syndicate's annual meeting. It's the New Day Co-op meeting where it's legal to take notes. People share their techniques, point out new products, and scheme to divine where the next fix will come from. It is where conspiracies are hatched, debts are repaid, and a few rings are kissed. It is where you get to belong to something larger than yourself just by being there - an infectious feeling that might mimic boosting things out the back of a truck.

I'm glad I got the opportunity to go to FOSS4G this year. I enjoyed meeting new folks while catching up with old friends. I saw plenty of new toys and even showed off a few of my own (http://plas.io and http://pdal.io). The organizing committee pulled of a fantastic show, and I'm sure after they come down from the post-conference high they'll relish their achievement with pride and scare the next group that dares to equal such an event.

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