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Conferences OpenStreetMap

Open Source GIS is from Mars, OpenStreetMap is from Venus?

I’m going to a couple of conferences in the next few weeks – the 1st Open Source GIS UK (OSGIS UK) conference at Nottingham University, and State of the Map 2009, the 3rd OpenStreetMap conference in Amsterdam.

On the face of it, one might expect an overlap between the two conferences. In both cases, it is about a community geared towards developing and using open source (“free”) geo-applications to further understanding of spatial issues or “do cool things”.

But OpenStreetMap (OSM) is not in the title of any of the talks on the OSGIS agenda.”GIS” appears just once in the SOTM agenda titles – “Bridging the GAp: Using OSM Data with GIS Tools” by Jochen Topf should be an interesting talk.

I suppose the two communities are really separate, coming from two different sources, operating on two levels and with two aims.

  • The open source GIS community comes from academia, particularly Geography, and is interested in having the power to develop applications to advance research, without facing the user interface and functionality challenges of the big proprietary GISes, not to mention the expensive licensing costs. They already have the data – they’ve collected it, or negotiated academic rates for access to the national mapping agencies.
  • The OSM community comes from IT and just wants to do cool things with the data – but doesn’t have the willingness to pay commercial rates for the data – so they are more focused with getting the data in the first place. Once they have it, they are not willing to learn (or aware of ) GISes, which are complicated bits of software, at best, instead generally scripts for specific bits of functionality.

Two worlds, it seems, with “open” goals but seemingly little overlap.

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