[OSGeo-Discuss] Where to, OSGeo?

Ari Jolma ari.jolma at gmail.com
Sun Sep 12 08:12:47 PDT 2010


Thanks for a fine FOSS4G conference again to all who organized and 
participated. I wrote the text below after the board f2f
(http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Face_to_Face_Meeting_Barcelona_2010) to 
clear my head and also to perhaps give to the broader community an idea 
of what the board discusses and to present some opinions of mine. I wish 
luck for the new board in its work.

Best regards,

Ari Jolma

Where to, OSGeo?

I've seen, heard, and discussed now twice Tyler's (Tyler Mitchell, OSGeo 
CEO) presentation on OSGeo strategy. First in Nottingham in June and now 
in Barcelona. The presentation is a mind map, and it introduces the 
phases organizations go through as they evolve. OSGeo has clearly been a 
success so far with several successful conferences in a row, growing 
number of foundation projects, and a community that is recognized and 
respected. The question Tyler asks, is, where OSGeo wants to be in, say, 
5 years from now, and how do we know if we have reached our goals.

What I present below draws from those meetings and others and I don't 
claim that any of the ideas below is mine or even new in any way. 
Opinions are mine of course.

OSGeo surely wants to live, and to live means to grow and evolve. Grow 
older, stronger, or bigger? Stronger, think I.

OSGeo is mostly a voluntary organization, which relies on working 
together and openly. Sometimes this means not so efficient decision 
making and confusion. That's ok, but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't 
try to improve our institutions. For example confidentiality is 
sometimes an issue. Who receives the next Sol Katz award can't be 
discussed openly. But what if somebody comes to us and makes a proposal? 
I feel that it is the business of the proposer to make it public unless 
something else is agreed together. Board is well-defined and it has 
mechanisms for private conversations, but what if the issue should be 
taken to a committee. Committees are not always well-defined. Our 
openness needs to be communicated to others but delicate issues must be 
handled with care.

OSGeo needs funds for its operations. Both growing stronger and bigger 
require money. Some say a lot of new support money can be found, we just 
need to try harder or be more skilled in asking for it. Some say our 
members and partners in the broad sense (subscribers to this list for 
example and perhaps companies) can give money on a voluntary basis. I 
must say I believe more in the latter (but don't dismiss the first) and 
I personally feel more comfortable with it. Another idea is to create a 
new revenue stream from events or other new products.

The concept of "a product" is interesting, although it is business 
terminology. What is the product of OSGeo? And who are its clients? 
Currently OSGeo has, IMO, two main products: FOSS4G conference and it 
itself, and two main clients: the community (i.e., OSGeo itself) and 
donors. I point out that I don't see the clients or users of the OSGeo 
software projects as clients of OSGeo (unless they are or want to be a 
part of the community). The projects are more like clients and OSGeo 
provides service products to them. How much revenue should play a role 
when new products are considered? If OSGeo wants to grow stronger, then 
the new products should be planned and "sold" with partners, maybe OSGeo 
itself having only a small role (OSGeo members can have a much bigger 
role). This then would mean that OSGeo needs a more clear idea of what 
an OSGeo partner is (and who can be a partner) and what kind of 
contracts or memorandums to sign with them.

OSGeo is, at least its core is, a foundation for FOS software. How much 
OSGeo should care and work for FOS data, FOS educational content, etc? 
IMO, the baseline is that OSGeo should, and it is already very much 
doing so, feel very deeply about standards-based access to data. This 
will also sometimes mean authenticated access to non-free data. OSGeo 
should also feel very deeply about FOS geospatial software having at 
least an equal footing in educational institutions, both in teaching and 
in research, and both in the sense of using software and software as a 
result of research. OSGeo should encourage going beyond the baseline, 
but that should not be in its main mission.

On a train to Davos, Switzerland,

Ari Jolma
charter member 2006->
board member 2008-2010

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