[SeasonOfDocs] QGIS Training materials and so on

Piers Higgs piers.higgs at gaiaresources.com.au
Sat Apr 20 20:06:50 PDT 2019

Hi all,

Cameron and I had a brief discussion this morning via email, and he asked
if I'd share some of my thoughts here on the list - so I've just joined up
to do so.

I probably don't know many people on this list, but I run a little tech
shop called Gaia Resources in Australia.  You can find out more about us on
the www.gaiaresources.com.au web site, but I've had a background in spatial
tech myself, and while we're tech agnostic, we also prefer open source and
try to give back where we can.  We've been doing a bunch of things with
QGIS for a fair while now, and trying to get to events and support the open
source community where we can.  Our freely available online QGIS course
seems to be reasonably popular (more on that to come).

So some thoughts on technical writing, training materials and courses to
follow - happy to carry on the conversation here on the list or personally,
if you prefer.

*Technical writing*
I am a keen (technical) writer myself, but I am probably the most time poor
person at Gaia Resources.  While I'd personally love to be more involved in
helping with the writing and putting our names down across some of the
season of docs stuff, we're probably not going to have time to really
provide a lot of input.  We are pretty busy with the operational side of
the business, and all of us already volunteer in different ways outside of
work hours, or have families to look after.  So I'm not sure that as a
company, we could be heavily involved in the technical writing component.

We might be able to help here and there, but as a small business we often
have a lot of competing priorities, and keeping the lights on with paid
work will always trump our idealistic natures :)

*Training materials*
Our freely available QGIS training course (which focuses on the
environmental side, as per
https://www.gaiaresources.com.au/our-services/online-training/) was
released last year, which has:

* A series of youtube videos -
* A manual that has been designed around these chapters, and
* A data package that contains all the data to run the course.

All we ask is that people let us know that they want to use the course, and
then we can see who around the world is using it and to see if there is any
demand for updates.  Once we get a request, we just send a link to a
Dropbox folder where they can get the manual and data.  We also run our own
commercial training courses, but we mainly do that for clients that are
after us to train a bunch of people at once - a lot of the individual
requests are too hard to set up training courses for, so we point them at
our free training instead. Our commercial training uses our manuals and
data but not the videos, so we run those in the latest Long Term Release
(LTR), which keeps our materials up to scratch.

The videos are a different story.  They are based on an old LTR, 2.18, and
we're currently working on a new 3.4 version which we hope to push out a
new set of videos for in June.  By that stage QGIS will have probably
evolved a bit further, so the overhead of keeping these videos up to date
is a pain (the manual and data, much easier!).  Video assets are just time
consuming to maintain.

So, we do have people using our course from all over the world (a few are -
see the map at
https://www.gaiaresources.com.au/our-services/online-training/) and a lot
of what they say is that it does lower the barrier to entry (at least to
the people wanting to use QGIS), which is what I think you are all trying
to do.  To be frank, better documentation isn't (by itself) going to lower
that barrier for a lot of people who want to get started with something
more hands on and useful, rather than trying to read lots of written
stuff.  Which is why we were keen to get this course made and out there.

Our aim is to keep updating our course and making it freely available (yes,
I hate monopolies too).  We'll keep having an "environmental" bent in it,
but hopefully a few others might take this on board and start putting
together courses that cover other disciplines, such as geology, planning,
etc.  It shouldn't be too hard to set that up (if a small business in Perth
can do it... ;)  We haven't found that putting this course out there has
eroded the demand for commercial training, too - it's probably increased
it, if anything.

I don't know how this would work, but if our training materials can get
used to bootstrap something, I'm all for that (some sort of Creative
Commons licence would probably work here).

*Ongoing courses*
We are happy to run this training course at any of the FOSS4G conferences
that we attend, or get involved in those more if you like.  The last FOSS4G
one in Australia was pretty good - our team really liked it, we learned a
fair bit, and hopefully contributed enough - so we've generally got this on
our radar.  Not that we're going to be heading to every one and all over
the world - we do have to keep an eye on the return on our investment
there!  But I'm happy to have further conversations around that.

So there's a few thoughts from a small group in Perth that might help.

Happy Easter all,


Piers Higgs
Gaia Resources
p +61 8 92277309
m +61 411754006
w www.gaiaresources.com.au
e piers.higgs at gaiaresources.com.au
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