[open-geodata] "Why geodata shouldn't be a ghetto" blogpost - feedback apprec

Jo Walsh jo.walsh at ed.ac.uk
Mon Jun 14 15:56:42 UTC 2010

dear all,

I've been drafting the blog post on "why geodata should be not a ghetto" 
and i would appreciate any feedback on it before i throw it over the 
fence - i would like to be more constructive about what can we 
(OSGeo/OKF/[Geocommons?]) *do* to engage with domain-specific geodata 
user communities without much supporting resource...


I've heard this quote recycled so many times; without a true origin it 
has become a truism: "80% of all information [collected by government] 
is geographic". As Rich Gibson and more recently the UK Location 
Information Infrastructure Board put it - "everything happens somewhere".

Another quote from Alec Ross, an Obama campaigner now running technology 
innovation strategy at the state department:. "Technology is not just a 
slice of the pie - it is the pan." I would like to say the same thing 
about open geographic data.

We have directives and initiatives, strategies and standards bodies that 
focus solely on geographic information - but is this helping to advance 
the cause of practitioners?

Roger Longhorn articulated this very clearly in a recent post to the 
GSDI Legal Socialecon list - spatial may be special, but it is not 
*that* special. I found myself tactlessly asking this at the end of a 
European geodata quality standards meeting - "Wouldn't it be nice if 
this was all a bit less geographic?"

To say, "I'm interested in geodata" is like saying "I'm interested in 
books". There are committed niche communities who deal with the 
infrastructure of books, models to be shared, people who design and 
maintain library information systems. But their work is done for the 
benefit of people who focus on particular domains (I won't say 
disciplines, if that's unhelpful) - historians and scientists needs from 
library information systems are at least as different as they are similar.

What prompts me to write this post, which I've been chewing over for a 
while, is another burst of interest in standing up a geographic data 
catalogue for the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. I think there are 
deeper reasons why this hasn't happened in the last few attempts to 
raise momentum behind the idea.

One thing we haven't done well is articulate "user journeys" -  But to 
do this we have to be domain specific. How will an archaeologist 
interact with an INSPIRE catalogue - the answer is they probably won't 
at all; their time is better spent on services really targeted to their 
needs, like the Archaeology Data Service.

How will an evidence-based policy analyst looking at the success rates 
of health interventions use an INSPIRE catalogue? The spatial-ness of 
what they're looking for is an accident, a navigational aid. There's no 
need for a geodata catalogue here.

Reference to Gnat on catalogues and usability

With geodata specific standards we are doing ourselves a disservice.
Thus interest in OpenSearch Geo, or LocalSOLR - appending spatial smarts 
to existing things.

So as developers or analysts we should probably be asking ourselves - 
why are we building what we're building? Do we have a clear sense of 
what we want to understand? If not, that's fine too, ... serendipitously 
explore, connect, and later re-relate.

you get the general idea - i won't add much to this...

[1] http://lists.gsdi.org/pipermail/legal-socioecon/2010-May/000771.html

Jo Walsh

Unlock places - http://unlock.edina.ac.uk/
phone: +44 (0)131 650 2973
skype: metazool

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