FOSDEM 2018: the Geospatial devroom


Sunday, February 4th, was the second day of FOSDEM and the day dedicated to the Geospatial devroom. Back from the times when I was active in OSGeo, I co-organised a developer room focused on mapping technology, that hosted presentations for the whole day.


This year we had 15 talks about a broad variety of topics:


Intro Geospatial devroom Johan Van de Wauw
Join the FREEWAT family
FREEWAT (FREE and open source software tools for WATer resource management)
Pieter Jan Haest
Bicycle-sharing stations: profiling and availability prediction Raphaël Delhome
Pronto Raster: A C++ library for Map Algebra Alex Hagen-Zanker
GDAL Tips and Tricks
GDAL installation, Python usage, and Cloud GeoTIFFs
Jeremy Mayeres
GRASS GIS in the sky
GRASS GIS as high-performance remote sensing toolbox
Markus Neteler, Moritz Lennert, Markus Metz
GeoPandas: easy, fast and scalable geospatial analysis in Python Joris Van den Bossche
Open source Big Geospatial Data analytics Marc Vloemans
Spatial Support in MySQL 8.0 Norvald H. Ryeng
Distance computation in Boost.Geometry Vissarion Fysikopoulos
Building Rock Climbing Maps with OpenStreetMap Viet Nguyen
Building OSM based web app from scratch
How to find the way through the open source jungle
Nils Vierus
Privacy aware city navigation with CityZen app
The free open source app that let’s you explore your city and contribute to OSM
Redon Skikuli
Every subway network in the world Ilya Zverev
Rendering map data with Mapnik and Python Hartmut Holzgraefe
Efficient and interactive 3D point cloud processing
Combining the strengths of pdal, ipyvolume and jupyter
Mathieu Carette
AMENDMENT Mapping FOSDEM for accessibility Johan Van de Wauw
If you are interested in these talks, you can watch the video recordings and browse the slides used during the presentation. They are available in the pages linked to the table above.

FOSDEM 2018: the talks I followed


As promised, here is my post about the talks I managed to attend at FOSDEM this year. I must say that I was interested in only two talks when I went through the schedule, and both were part of the Community devroom. It was sort of expected for me, as I am currently not active in software development. But when I entered the Community devroom (after a long queue!) I decided to stay for a few more talks, that proved interesting and thought-provoking.

The first talk I followed was “What community can learn from marketing”, by Matthew Revell. My take home message is manyfold:

  • Marketing and  FOSS community management differ on a few but crucial fundamental principles. Therefore it makes sense to apply marketing’s lessons learned only when the core principles of FOSS projects are respected.
  • Marketing has done great work on the analysis side. Applying its tools to a free and open source projecs can help refine its goals and target userbase.
  • Similarly, marketing puts a lot of importance into planning future development. This attention can prove useful for FOSS projects too.
  • Matthew has been careful in wording his talk with variations of “if you do X, Y will likely happen” rather than “you have to do X”. It helps me filter the possible actions according to their consequences instead of following a protocol.

Then it was the turn of “You’ve Got Some Explaining to Do! So Use An FAQ!” by Simon Phipps and Rich Sands. It was great to listen to them unwind the topic together, with ease and humour! Here are the messages I brought home:

  • FAQs are great to showcase the project’s ideas, and are going to be read and tested by the developers, who will inevitably ask the project to make clear and precise statements.
  • FAQs require the ideas and principles to be transparent to the reader. It must be clear to all project members, especially the leadership, that showing transparency builds trust, even if it is not always easy to do.

I moved to the large La Fontaine room for “Python 3: 10 years later” by Victor Stinner. I’m ashamed to say that I never learned Python 3 properly, and I was so surprised to read that this version is around since so long. The release strategy was not really made to push for the new major version, so a lot of production code has not been migrated. Given the growing amount of user-provided packages, and the multiple options for distributing a Python app, the actual drop of Python 2.x doesn’t look imminent, but hopefully will be done more easily than before.

Overall, I got the impression that more speakers than last time were mentioning empathy, and more in general the importance of positive human interactions in the softtware development environment. I think it helps including more people, first of all the users, in the discussions, especially in this time where software users are the majority of the population, and therefore represent a wide variety of personalities and backgrounds. I am hopeful for the future of FOSS, in any form it will take, if it will be considered part of human culture as a whole.

Welcome to FOSDEM 2018! keynote – slides from the volunteer organiser

Telling your story – content vs. presentation

When you explain something or tell a story, two things are needed to make it interesting for others: the contents and the presentation. (That is quite obvious.) What is not obvious to me is the tipping point – when presentation becomes the main interest of the story, and the content alone would be mildly uninteresting:

I found this video very well done, all the presentation tricks are there: great music! stunning camera angles! dinosaurs! adventure! space! charismatic wildlife! suspense! Then, rewatching it, I started to see more and more little mistakes in the text and the image manipulation, and I saw beyond the tricks, and there was only that shabby old car. I still smiled, because I appreciated the effort in making such a great presentation.

This other video is a similar feast of presentation, over a generally niche and behind-the-scenes topic – system administration on SUSE Linux servers. I couldn’t imagine how to make a cool video out of it – but there it is (and the text is a gem, for IT-savvies!):

On a different set of topics, a great example of successful presentation skills is spoken word. In this case, content is chosen by the speakers among issues of their lives and their surroundings, mostly on social and racial inequalities. This video from Guante introduced me to spoken word, and it became viral last year:

That’s a bold, clear, resounding, thought-provoking performance. It’s about acting, rhetorics in the good sense – not in the one that filters and bends content according to presentation requirements. But how much of the virality has been generated by the topic, and how much by the great presentation skills? I don’t know, it’s hard to evaluate, but the important thing is that this content gained a lot of attention. In this case, I see that a strong presentation is functional to the content, and the intention of the speaker.

What worries me is when significant content suffers from a mediocre presentation, and fails to gain the attention that it should deserve. I can’t accept that the presentation is a necessary tool for any content to be considered at all. Does it deserve to be ignored because it is not able to advertise itself?

With that in mind, I just finished reading a collection of life summaries by people on their deathbed: Dieser Mensch war ich. They were not filtered to pick up the cool ones, the ones with a message for others – no, they were all there: the sad ones, the ones of people who think they made mistakes, the ones of people who felt guilty and miserable. The language was plain, simple, unpolished, confused sometimes. The presentation was barely visible, I felt it was almost pure content. How many of these stories would not be discussed outside of this book, just because they look uninteresting, because they have no hooks to the usual presentation tropes? And on the contrary, how many plain stories make it to the news, overdecorated with presentation?

I have subscribed to a storytelling course, but with these doubts I can’t make use of it. I would feel desperate if I understand that people listen to me just because I am able to sell my story, not because my story has a value in itself.