[OSGeo-Discuss] Are there any thoughts on how organisations can work with OSGeo projects?

Frank Warmerdam warmerdam at pobox.com
Thu Sep 27 08:40:19 PDT 2007

> Some initial examples of issues that I can see (excluding funding) are:
> - Communication and liaison with the relevant open source community. We may
> have a block of work that we'd like to see developed, however this may
> potentially take a project in a direction that the community does not want
> to go in. How do we address this?


There is always the fallback option of a fork if plans are too divergent
but that should be a last option.  I think most projects are open to substantial
new features that aren't the core teams priority if there is some assurance
that the added parts will be maintained by the contributors, and are perhaps
optional (plugins, etc).   Ultimately though, if a direction is strongly
opposed by the core team, it may be a bad idea to proceed.

> - A shortage of developers with the required skills in a particular project.
> While we could put resources towards this problem, it will take time for the
> developers to get an understanding of the products and build the necessary
> credibility within the community. In the meantime, we have the problem of
> getting some early wins to ensure sufficient funding for the longer term.

The obvious solution is to involve experienced consultants familiar
with the project.   Many of the projects have contributors who are
independent consultants or who work for consulting organizations.
Longer term, though it is desirable to have "inside expertise".

> - Project based funding is typically focussed on a deliverable. The
> deliverable may well be an enhancement to an OSGeo project. How can a
> development team get that enhancement accepted into an OSGeo Project's code
> base in a timely manner? Can they be confident that the enhancement would
> not be removed at a later iteration of the OSGeo Project?

Working closely with one or more core contributors is quite helpful
in this regard.  Being clear up front with the team at large about your
plans is helpful (to avoid blind-siding).  And be prepared to make
compromises on how integration takes place.  Try not to leave integration
to late as the longer you wait, the harder it will likely be.

I will note that when I write a contract proposal to a client for a
substantial addition to GDAL or MapServer, I include a section explaining
that the approach will be contingent on agreement of the team via an
RFC process.  I generally take the risk on myself in the sense that if
a contribution were refused I would not charge for it.

As for a contribution being removed in the future, that cannot be
entirely insured against, but it helps a great deal to be actively
maintaining it in some fashion.  When I add a feature on behalf
of a client, I generally consider it to be part of the project to provide
ongoing maintenance of that feature (within reason) for years to

Note: there are no guarantees in other contexts either (as a rule)
such as working with proprietary software vendors, building stuff as
an academic project, doing it all in house, or contracting it out.
Basically, if you want the feature to last a long time, it helps to
provide ongoing support for it in some fashion.  In an open source
project context this can be fairly low overhead.

> - Where is the best place to discuss issues relating to a program of works
> that may span several OSGeo projects?
>   + If the discussions were to take place on individual projects'
> development lists, then the overall 'Program' context may be lost. Also
> other OSGeo project developers may not be interested in the additional
> 'noise'.
>   + In the first example above where it relates to a National program of
> works, it may be better to discuss these issues on the country's local
> chapter mailing list. At least this would still be visible to interested
> parties.
>   + In the second example where it relates to an international program of
> works, perhaps a dedicated chapter could be established under OSGeo?
>   + what would be the best way to coordinate the aims of a program of works
> and the aims of various OSGeo communities.

I think a targetted (and reasonably well advertised) email list would
be the most appropriate place for discussion of a substantial cross
project initiative.   There is no mechanism in OSGeo to have a "chapter"
for such an effort.

Best regards,
I set the clouds in motion - turn up   | Frank Warmerdam, warmerdam at pobox.com
light and sound - activate the windows | http://pobox.com/~warmerdam
and watch the world go round - Rush    | Geospatial Programmer for Rent

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