Cosas que aprendí en la GeoCamp

Publicado originalmente en el blog de GeoInquietos Sevilla.

Año tras año, la GeoCamp se consolida como el geosarao imprescindible para hacer brainstorming sobre las últimas novedades en geocosas.

Todo el mundo tiene sus cinco minutos de fama, incluso si no llevas nada preparado, raro será que no participes en alguna discusión.

¿En serio todavía  hay alguien que no conozca el Libro Libre de SIG Libre? Pues sí, los hay.

¿Sientes que deberías darle un empujón a tu karma pero no eres capaz ni de abrir el ordenador para ayudar con HOTOSM? Pues también tenemos una solución para ti: el tinder de los mapas:

Apunta bien este nombre: Mapillary. Si no lo conocías, ya estás tardando. Son la vanguardia del mapeo, la colaboración y la interpretación de datos para construir modelos 3D. Y más.


Tuvimos incluso apariciones etéreas de seres mitológicos.

La fuerte presencia de Carto en la GeoCamp no es casualidad: es que su nuevo Builder merecía un hueco destacado.

Incluso la charla más sesuda puede ser divertida, siempre y cuando lo pongas en el título.

Las mapping parties son cosa del pasado, ahora lo que se lleva es el mapeo ágil:


Pero, sobre todo, lo que aprendí en la GeoCamp es que puedes hablar de lo que te dé la gana. Siempre habrá alguien que lo encuentre interesante.

JIIDE 2015 – Sevilla

Last week I attended the JIIDE conference, that took place here in Sevilla. This is the official conference for both portuguese and spanish spatial data infraestructures. The presentations were diverse and rich in content and there were working groups for INSPIRE and conformance running in parallel.

You could see some trends in how SDIs are evolving through all the Iberian Peninsula. Geograma explained to us that hiding data behind paywalls or registering sites makes us less compliant. But on the other hand, maybe it doesn’t matter because as José Fernández (IECA) showed us, data is going more and more open and free. Why should someone pay for data generated on a public administration? It has already been payed by taxes and a paywall is just another stone on the way of generating added value to the data. And above all this, every country has a different payment and access system, so it is virtually impossible to query the same data on different countries easily, which was one of the goals for INSPIRE.

Transparency, interoperability, quality, conflation,… keywords through all the conference. As an example of conflation and reusability, IECA was created by the union of the geospatial information department and the statistics department of the government of Andalucía. This allows them to localize statistic data that, once the privacy details are removed, can be easily shared. Creative Commons is the main license for all their products.

On a statal level, now we have the CNIG, who unifies all the data from Spain and allows us to download (or buy) data. Here, the map is not the central issue, but just another product you can use.

And still, there are many things INSPIRE has yet to solve. There are a lot of abstract requirements the nodes are not sure how to solve. All data has to have quality metadata associated to it, but, is there any quality minimum required for the data? How close the scales should be? What precision? And above all, how are the different public administrations supposed to handle all this without specific financing from Europe? Or what is worst: why do Europe ignore the conclusions reached by several working groups on different countries? Why reinventing the wheel?

There was another subject running through all the conference: why do SDIs have less users than open data portals? Is it because the type of data? Is it because we don’t focus on usability? Why do they choose data from worse quality (or not government certified)? It looks like we have to work more on usability and user interaction.

Should SDI focus on developing applications around the data? Or should they just focus on being a data repository third party companies can query to generate added value? Should we merge with the opendata portals even if that means lose part of the focus on spatial data?

Javier López, explained the problem about persistent identifiers. We have to assume that the entities generating data will not be persistent. But their data should survive those entities and we should be able to trace back who created the data and who have been maintaining it. How to achieve this without being too dependent on some specific platform? How to create a standard that survives through the years?

We also had the visit of Rodrigo Barriga Vargas (IPGH) who told us about GeoSUR, an initiative to create, conform and share quality spatial data in America. He told us how lucky we are to have INSPIRE as a gubernamental initiative to force us to follow standards.

But the best thing was to see how GeoNetwork is being used more and more and we have happy users advocating that it is the only SDI that makes sense.

FOSS4G 2015 – Seoul

Last week I had the privilege to attend the main osgeo conference: the FOSS4G. This time it took place on Seoul, Korea. Exotic place I strongly recommend to visit, but better to focus on non-cultural surprises on this post.

It’s impossible to write everything on a single blog post, as it was impossible to assist to all the interesting parallel threads that run on those short five days. But let me guide you through my steps so I can share part of my experience until we get access to the full videos of that awesome week.

First there were the workshops. I have to confess something: my first options for workshops were cancelled. But it doesn’t matter, as I had problems deciding on first place. So, I started with the WS02 workshop:

Exploring the Sensor Observation Service Standard Enhanced by IstSOS Special Features

Let me summarize it: if you want to work with sensors, take a very close look at IstSOS. Combining PostGIS, Python, GDAL and Apache you get not only a complete sensor service, but a complete sensor data management system. Easy to use, easy to install, easy to everything!


Quality Assurance is integrated on IstSOS to make sure the sensor doesn’t go mad. This process are sometimes done asynchronously to conflate your own sensor data with other sources. It doesn’t just return a basic boolean, but a statistic value of confidence based on previous data.

Another interesting feature is the virtual sensors, which allows you to create your “own” “sensors” based on data from real physical sensors. Useful to conflate data and offer it on a unique endpoint as sensor.

As if this workshop wasn’t good enough, we got some real arduino and sensors to play with them.


Once we finished this amazing workshop, I went to assist Florent Gravin on the GeoNetwork 3 workshop in the afternoon:


WS08 Build your own data portal using GeoNetwork 3

Besides some Windows issues (surprise!), I think that the workshop was very successful. Assistants not only built their own user interface style for GeoNetwork, but asked us about advanced features and how to implement them.


As Florent said: “We are the experts of GeoNetwork, so if you have any questions, it is now or never.” And we had questions asked.

Jet-lagged day finished after this workshop. So we went to the hotel to try to rest a bit more and start with renewed strength the following day, which I started with:

WS19 Beyond GeoServer Basics

If you already run a GeoServer, most of this workshop is already known to you. But if you don’t… bad you missed it! There were a lot of fancy features to play with, like regexp on parameters for sql layers (surprised that very few knew what regexp meant!).

And, of course, WPS already useful in production now. You can even use WPS inside SLD definitions!

After refreshing knowledge on GeoServer, I went for the last workshop:

WS21 OpenSource 3D GIS

Yes, you are right, 3D GIS has too much hype right now. But Oslandia did a great job on this workshop. If you don’t have experience with 3D, I strongly advise you to try to follow the workshop, posted on github.


We even had some docker introduction. And the second day was finished, but we still had energy to went for the last one. Or some more beers:


I was already on the first slot of the conference, during the Opening Ceremony, when I first noticed that we talked too much about open instead of free.


Besides that, Venkatesh made very clear that we need more Geo4All, specially on developing countries.

Very interesting the national SDI of Korea presentation about the workflow of open source. While I don’t fully agree with their vision, it is always refreshing to see new perspectives on this subject. Maybe we should make more clear that free software can have a professional customer support as good as any closed source software. Probably even better in most cases, as there are more companies that can offer it.

Now the conference divided on so many threads at the same time that it was impossible to follow them all. QGIS (new useful plugins to develop) and MapServer (now faster than ever) before lunch and the sensor and crowdsourcing session after lunch. There, between the ISA server for indoor spatial data, Apache Spark, Ontologies and CartoDB, we presented Cobweb. The day couldn’t finish without a very productive and promising BOFH session about crowdsourcing… and more!

Thursday was a hard day: jet lag started to go away, but taking #geobeers every night does not help much.

Alysa Wright started with a cool presentation about why and how did she start on the spatial world. We should never forget that, as a community, we come from very different places and perspectives. And still, we share a common view about freedom.

On the last session of the day, I learned about OpenDroneMap. I couldn’t stop asking myself why didn’t I knew about this incredible project before. Where drone software is even more awesome than the drone hardware.

Finally, Paul Ramsey talked about sustainability of free and open software and why we should care about who maintains it.

After the keynote, more social drinks with lots of fun:

Last day of conference is here. Friday tastes bitterweet. And not because of the food! María Brovelli starts with a keynote about crowdsourcing and VGI and how they can change our community. Because even if we don’t deal directly with the data, the software is also affected by all this.         The next keynote was from Marco Hugentobler, talking about the qGis community from a developer’s perspective. Because, yes, “developers are human and not everyone is aware of that”. What a surprise! In any case, never trust someone with the “expert” label, just trust the community.           After the coffee break, I attended a very instructive presentation from Henrik Lund Pedersen about caching fresh data. Is it possible to have a cached and updated server for GIS data?

During lunch we had some lightning random talks and I couldn’t stop myself. Please, use free and not open:

Jody Garnett talked about documentation and why we should be very careful when writing it: not only to help advanced developers but also to not scare newbies. Never use the word “easy”, for example. If you use it and the reader don’t find it easy, he will go away to look for something easier for him. And maybe the original documentation was easy, it’s just that it hasn’t been updated with new features.

Then we had another Cobweb session on the main grand ballroom, this time by Panos, talking about the mobile part of the framework.

And FOSS4G was finishing fast! But not before our president Jeff gave his vision about OsGeo and where we should focus on. Build community is the key. And shaking hands with people wearing suits.

On top of all the final party, GeoCat gave the first Most Innovative Developer Award. We hope to repeat it year after year encouraging developers in osgeo software.

Before finishing this post, I want to say a very big thank you to all the sponsors. Without them, this is not possible.

See you next year in Bonn!


Published first in GeoCat.

(English) SigLibre 9, Girona

The 9th SIGLibre conference in Girona starts with bad news: no wifi. But that didn’t stop us to talk about geo free stuff.

Almost all the plenary talks touched topis like smart citizens, open data, crowd data, crowd sourcing,… It is quite clear this is an emerging subject that we are going to use more and more. But, is this really a business market or is this just something to research and contribute to the community?

Malcolm Bain – IdLawPartners
“Open core, dual licensing, master subscription, commercial open source product specialists – mucha jerga para hablar de cómo hacer dinero con Open source: Hablemos de sus aspectos legales”

What makes a software free is not the code: it is the license. And that’s what is important. But Malcolm hasn’t come here to talk about licenses or patents, but about business with free software. We need to find the added value for open software so we are able to sell it. The problem is: this added value has nothing to do with FOSS. FOSS is freaky, geeky, sneaky,… How can we mix this two concepts? Where is the value position?

The added value for FOSS based business is the legal part. Open source license grants you access, modify and distribute the source code, so you can “physically” fix the bugs yourself, get a local IT supplier to support you (or support yourself) and share that support across a community. You can also have your own agenda on the versions you use. There is an unlimited license to use your free software on the life cycle you want, you don’t depend on third parties company’s planning.

And most important: you can check the code you are being sold. No seller can cheat you selling software that doesn’t do what it needs to do.

There are many strategies to sell free software:

* Dual License: two types of licenses for the same code: private or free.
* Open Core: free core but extensions are payed.
* Subscription strategy: you sell the technical support only.
* Product specialist: revenues from services (maintenance and consulting).
* Consulting services strategy: pure service model.
* Hosted strategy: Saas, cloud.
* Platform providers: for example, openstack hosting.
* Legal services: consulting legal services.

The free software is an investment on the long run, which is something that capitalists investors usually don’t like. That’s why free software is going to win: because there are no capitalists investors that want to get their interests back.

We live in a world that is designed, built and run by Open Source software. Don’t forget it!

Alberto Labarga – NavarraBioMed
“Periodismo de datos y la visualización de datos abiertos”

Alberto works on health and medical services based on free software and free hardware. As a sidenote: he mentioned that all gis software he knew was free, so it looks like we are doing marketing stuff right. He talked about open data and how to display it. Sometimes we focus too much on technology and not on how our users perceive it. Right now, everyone claims to be doing big data visualization, but very few people has real access to big data databases. So, there is a lot of fuzzy smoke on this topic.

From the crowd data perspective, there are many interesting projects like #adoptaUnSenador or #adoptaUnCorrupto, where spanish government obscured PDFs about incomings and wealth of politicians were crowd-parsed. There are other projects, like @jjelosua’s “España en llamas”, which conflates all data about fires in Spain. As this kind of projects appeared, many tools were also developed to help this type of jobs. Transparency comes hand by hand with this projects, like visualizing budget spent on each public administration.

The biggest problem with opendata right now is that there is a lot of public data still not published. And what is published is usually static or not on a useful format. Spain (and Europe) still have to follow UK on this topic and open more data so more apps and usecases can be developed.

He had an amazing presentation where he presented more usecases I can write on a summary here.

Irene Compte – Exploradora y aventurera tecnológica
“Open Smart cities: mitos y realidades”

Irene did an interactive theatre presentation showing his view about how this smartcity concept started and evolved. She has been working on this topic since the very beginning of the concept and that made her have a very close experience.

Victor Olaya – Boundless
“Algunas ideas sobre música, literatura y mapas”

Closing plenaries, Victor Olaya enphasizes the need to do good maps. We have a lot of technical people working on maps, building maps. But, do they have some studies about it? Are they prepared to present data the best way? We assume that all maps are used the same way all across the world. And that we can use almost the same style for all usecases. All this assumptions only complicates things to the user in the end.

Ed Parsons – Google
“Where is the Cathedral and the Bazaar : some musings on openness, ecosystems and bringing geo to the web”

At the end of the day, as a closing plenary, we had Ed Parsons, from Google, who talked about what is his view on future hits on geospatial. Appart from his insistence on using the word “open” instead of “free” or “libre” (they are difficult non-marketable words, he said), there is a very clear position on Google trying to go further on their attempt to control what people do. “Only if you want, the choice to have a mobile phone is yours”, as he clearly states. But is this true? Can someone live on our society without using mobile phones?

For example, Google is working on backpacks to map inside buildings as their streetview cars map cities. This way, they will have more detailed information about where people are and what they do. They claim it is for offering more detailed services. I don’t doubt it but, where is intimacy going? Will new generations know what is to have a private space where they don’t need to pose? Where they can relax because no-one is watching? Are we coming closer to a 1984 Big Brother based on companies instead of Government? Will that may be even worse, even if the company’s motto is “don’t be evil”?

A lot of questions to answer.

Original entry in GeoCat’s blog