[OSGeo-Discuss] Next 5 years for OSGeo

P Kishor punk.kish at gmail.com
Fri Oct 2 08:24:22 PDT 2009

I empathize with your sentiment, Ian, but disagree with your
arguments. More below.

On Fri, Oct 2, 2009 at 9:54 AM, Ian Turton <ijturton at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Oct 2, 2009 at 10:32 AM, Peter Batty <peter at ebatty.com> wrote:
>> I think that programs to encourage greater use of OSGeo products in
>> universities would be a great idea too - ESRI dominate in this area at the
>> moment, but this would be another way to get the word out to a broader
>> audience.
> Currently universities are locked in a vicious circle with GIS
> software in that the students demand we teach them on ESRI software
> because that's what employers want and employers use ESRI software as
> that is what the universities are teaching the students on.

The above is too much of a generalization. I have not come across any
students ever demanding that they be taught with ESRI software.
Students get taught with whatever software the professor/instructor
wants to teach with.

> The fact that ESRI are giving the software away for free (or nearly
> free) doesn't help.

That is a slippery slope argument. ESRI is, first, not giving the
software away for free. In my university, a fairly good-size
university, I might add, a site-wide ESRI license is $25K or something
like that (I don't know the exact number, but I am in the ballpark).
Different depts. chip in toward that site license, and then they get a
slew of licenses to use. Students can use the software in the labs
without paying anything for it, of course, or they can buy personal,
yearly or perpetual (as long as they are students) licenses. Yes, $25K
is nearly free in the context of ESRI or a large university,
neverthless, it *is* substantially more than really free software.

One issue is, and it pains me to say this, but ESRI software *is*
easier to install and get started with. I am not talking about just
installing and starting with uDig or QGIS, but the full-fledged ESRI

The other issue is, as noted above, students learn from whatever the
instructors choose to use. And, instructors choose to use what is
either available to them or what has captured their mindshare.
Instructors are not developers -- they are scientists and scholars.
They want to teach soil analysis or journalism or wild bear tagging.
They just want to use GIS as the tool, and the tool available to them
is the one installed in their labs. Sometimes they demand that a
certain tool be installed in their lab, sometimes, they use the tool
that is installed in their labs.

> I'd love to teach more (undergraduate) students
> with FOSS but first I have to find technician time to install the
> software on all the lab machines in the university (which is where
> ArcMap is provided) for just one course (and any way why can't I use
> Arc like everyone else will be the question). Of course we're supposed
> to be teaching techniques not software packages but you still spend
> most of your time sorting out the software issues.

Exactly. You have to ask the technician to install the software you
want. Once the instructors start asking for a certain software, it
will start getting installed. Once a certain software is installed,
subsequent instructors will have that as a choice.

Just yesterday I got an email from a student announcing his Master's
exit seminar thusly --

"I'll be giving an overview of my work on the winter foraging
strategies of Adelie Penguins in the Western Antarctic Peninsula
(chapter 1 of my thesis), I will focus the majority of my talk on my
work to construct a tool in ArcGIS that allows for the identification
of locations of intense foraging based upon movement paths of GPS or
satellite tagged animals.  For those of you who are addressing the
analysis of spatial data or animal movements while using ArcGIS, I
think this talk may be of specific interest to you."

Nice. You and I may care about ArcGIS v. GRASS. The student above
cares about Adelie Penguins.

> So *I* think that universities are a lost cause and we should focus on
> high schools - but in many states ESRI has got there before us and has
> signed deals with the state to provide arc in schools at no cost to
> the school. When I query teachers as to how the kids will do their
> homework they usually shrug and point out it's too hard for them to do
> on their own or that they can use the school library. May be
> elementary schools are the winnable battlefield?

I don't think universities are a lost cause. In fact, universities are
very much a winnable and winning cause. Once a substantial momentum is
reached, there will be a large enough population of users and
developers using, creating and contributing to open source as well as
proprietary software.

> Ian
> --
> Ian Turton
> These are definitely my views and not Penn States!
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Puneet Kishor http://www.punkish.org
Carbon Model http://carbonmodel.org
Charter Member, Open Source Geospatial Foundation http://www.osgeo.org
Science Commons Fellow, http://sciencecommons.org/about/whoweare/kishor
Nelson Institute, UW-Madison http://www.nelson.wisc.edu
Assertions are politics; backing up assertions with evidence is science
Sent from Madison, WI, United States

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