September 12, 2007

Publishing and open source

Filed under: Open source — ubikcan @ 7:32 pm

As readers of this and other geospatial blogs know full well, there is tons of interest right now in how the geospatial landscape may look after the impact of open-source geospatial and geoweb tools has made itself felt.

In a previous post, which was widely if mistakenly tagged as the “death of ESRI” (it said no such thing) I discussed two recent developments. One concerned the book publishing program at ESRI. Two, the rise of open source geospatial solutions and tools and its effects on traditional GIS and governments.

The second is by far the most interesting, certainly over the long run. ESRI can no doubt speak for themselves about their publishing, although they did not respond to several attempts to contact them.

As someone with over 15 years of professional experience in the geospatial field, the rise of open-source tools is fascinating and worthy of comment. I would expect and hope that there is room for both traditional GIS and open-source. Another intriguing possibility is that these two fields will merge or integrate in some way–for example through the further development of Google Earth converters for GIS data layers (and vice versa). Or through distributed, communally-populated data provision mechanisms (ESRI’s Geography Network, for example) that can provide much richer data sources than confined or single-source providers (sometimes called “crowdsourcing“).

In this light, developments such as the announcement today of a census to KML converter are part of the ongoing story.

Who knows what will happen but there are undoubtedly different visions of the future. In one we will have GIS Professionals, Bodies of Knowledge and professional certification to guarantee GIS expertise. In another, we will have bottom-up creation of small open source tools that integrate across a wide variety of media (flickr, YouTube, Google Earth) sharing a common grounded focus on location. At the moment the geospatial field seems intent on going in these two directions (and maybe one is even the result of the other?) and presumably both will have to make some accommodation of the other. Maybe there is room for both.

The best we might say at the moment is that the ride ahead appears bumpy.


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