Conference Options 2014

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Future organisation of FOSS4G has been discussed at FOSS4G 2014 then followed onto OSGeo emails lists (Conference, Discuss and Board lists).

This wiki page aims to collate background information, options, options, and recommendations in order to facilitate making decisions about guiding the future management of FOSS4G events.

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All are encouraged to add to this wiki. Opinions (rather than facts) should be prefaced with your name:

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The international FOSS4G conference has grown from 100-200 attendees when it started 10+ years ago, to ~ 800 attendees now in 2014. Some regional events are also attracting large numbers. Extra attendance leads to extra effort required to coordinate, leading the OSGeo Community to consider options on how to move forward.

Options for focus

The official event policy states an OSGeo event must contribute positively to the OSGeo Mission, which is a) to support the development of open source Geospatial Software, and b) to promote its widespread use. Focus for any OSGeo can balance between these 2 goals: focussing on the support of the developement probably targets on a smaller well-known inner circle, whereas focussing on promotion of its use aims at a broader audience.

Focus on supporting the development of open source geospatial software


  • Foss4g as a "meeting of tribes" promotes cross platform activities
  • Attracting new committers is a goal for projects joining a software foundation.


  • Ratio of developers/users at foss4g does not support this activity

Focus on the promotion of use of open source geospatial software



Consideration of remaining OSGeo goals

FOSS4G touches on all foundation goals:

  • To provide resources for foundation projects - eg. infrastructure, funding, legal.
    Funds raised by foss4g support OSGeo operation.
  • To promote freely available geodata - free software is useless without data.
    Topic of interest in the foss4g program.
  • To promote the use of open source software in the geospatial industry (not just foundation software) - eg. PR, training, outreach.
    Foss4g presentations and workshops are not limited to foundation projects.
  • To encourage the implementation of open standards and standards-based interoperability in foundation projects.
    Topic of interest in the foss4g program.
  • To ensure a high degree of quality in foundation projects in order to build and preserve the foundation "brand".
    Handing out OSGeo Live (and the marketing opportunity of foss4g) helps encourage an annual release for foundation projects.
  • To make foundation and related software more accessible to end users - eg. binary "stack" builds, cross package documentation.
    Workshops and presentations promote accessibility. Cross project presentations (benchmarks) less common - perhaps worth funding.
  • To provide support for the use of OSGeo software in education via curriculum development, outreach, and support.
    Topic of interest in the foss4g program.
  • To encourage communication and cooperation between OSGeo communities on different language (eg. Java/C/Python) and operating system (eg. Win32, Unix, MacOS) platforms.
    Foss4g is billed as the "meeting of the tribes" - this has gradually dissolved boundaries leaving a solid focus on spatial rather than language or platform.
  • To support use and contribution to foundation projects from the worldwide community through internationalization of software and community outreach.
    Foss4g is our largest outreach effort, the selection process encourages the event to be held in a range of locations world wide.
  • To operate an annual OSGeo Conference, possibly in cooperation with related efforts (eg. EOGEO).
    Foss4g acts as our annual OSGeo conference.
  • To award the Sol Katz award for service to the OSGeo community.
    Announced at foss4g.

Options for management of FOSS4G

Following are options which have been identified.

Same as before

For a number of years, the LOCs for large FOSS4G events have hired a new Professional Conference Organiser (PCO). This PCO is usually local and knows the city where the event is being held.


  • Minimal effort (for the board) to set up.
  • A local PCO likely has local experience.


  • Loss of knowledge between events and associated risk of failure.
  • Significant stress put on LOCs.


  • -0 CameronShorter
  • -1 Darrell: This model simply doesn't scale. The idea that local knowledge is required for the PCO position is, quite simply, false. (I find it amazing that we can operate a global organization on a small budget, but are unable to conceive that others are also able to.)

Engage a long term (for profit) PCO


  • Institutional knowledge. The conference knowledge carries on in the organisation, and is hopefully not entirely imbued in one person.
  • Simplicity.


  • How would an OSGeo exit out of the arrangement with the PCO if the relationship sours?
  • It is in the vested interests of a PCO not to share information with community, such that we become reliant upon the PCO.


  • -0 CameronShorter. I'm nervous about an exit strategy if things go sour.
  • +1 Darrell. It's simple, the contract is renewable on an annual basis. If either party isn't happy with the arrangement, it can be ended. Put into the contract what knowledge is to be shared and how.

Hire a staff person to be the organiser

This is more risk, but also offers more potential.

Jeff McKenna proposed this option formally to the OSGeo Board in 2011. A full job description and rates are outlined on the wiki page: FOSS4G Advisor Role


  • Having a staff person allows OSGeo to be more flexible in organising conferences. Is there a budding regional conference that needs some assistance? We can help with that. Would OSGeo like to foster growth in regions without a local FOSS4G event? OSGeo can do that.


  • You would only have one staff person, which means more risk of losing institutional knowledge if that person leaves.
  • Potential for being seen as less of a a volunteer led organisation.
  • Hiring is hard, and takes time, especially to find a good autonomous person to take on this role


  • +0 CameronShorter
  • +0 Darrell: I think this is a good idea, if and only if OSGeo has a clear vision of how they want the organization and the role to grow. Right now, I don't see that they do.

Partner with LocationTech


  • LocationTech works in the same space, has contacts, and the Eclipse Foundation already runs conferences
  • Retention of knowledge between regions
  • Potential for future, deepened partnerships


  • LocationTech works in the same space, has contacts, and the Eclipse Foundation already runs conferences, so there’s a potential for conflicts of interest
  • If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, future partnership opportunities might be lost
  • Potential OSGeo Brand dilution due to obvious prominence of LocationTech taking responsibility. Eg, publicity emails would come from a LocationTech email address.
  • Reduction in OSGeo income.


  • -0 CameronShorter. I think the OSGeo/LocationTech relationship discussions have further to go first. Also concerned about loss of OSGeo income and branding.
  • -0 VasileCraciunescu. Mostly because I'm concerned about the dilution of OSGeo brand and values.