Talk:Face to Face Meeting Barcelona 2010

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Where to, OSGeo?

Notes and thoughts from Ari Jolma who attended the board of directors meeting in Barcelona, Spain after FOSS4G 210. Thanks for this.

I've seen, heard, and discussed now twice Tyler's (Tyler Mitchell, OSGeo CEO) presentation on OSGeo strategy. First in Nottingham in June and now in Barcelona. The presentation is a mind map, and it introduces the phases organizations go through as they evolve. OSGeo has clearly been a success so far with several successful conferences in a row, growing number of foundation projects, and a community that is recognized and respected. The question Tyler asks, is, where OSGeo wants to be in, say, 5 years from now, and how do we know if we have reached our goals.

What I present below draws from those meetings and others and I don't claim that any of the ideas below is mine or even new in any way. Opinions are mine of course.

OSGeo surely wants to live, and to live means to grow and evolve. Grow older, stronger, or bigger? Stronger, think I.

OSGeo is mostly a voluntary organization, which relies on working together and openly. Sometimes this means not so efficient decision making and confusion. That's ok, but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to improve our institutions. For example confidentiality is sometimes an issue. Who receives the next Sol Katz award can't be discussed openly. But what if somebody comes to us and makes a proposal? I feel that it is the business of the proposer to make it public unless something else is agreed together. Board is well-defined and it has mechanisms for private conversations, but what if the issue should be taken to a committee. Committees are not always well-defined. Our openness needs to be communicated to others but delicate issues must be handled with care.

OSGeo needs funds for its operations. Both growing stronger and bigger require money. Some say a lot of new support money can be found, we just need to try harder or be more skilled in asking for it. Some say our members and partners in the broad sense (subscribers to this list for example and perhaps companies) can give money on a voluntary basis. I must say I believe more in the latter (but don't dismiss the first) and I personally feel more comfortable with it. Another idea is to create a new revenue stream from events or other new products.

The concept of "a product" is interesting, although it is business terminology. What is the product of OSGeo? And who are its clients? Currently OSGeo has, IMO, two main products: FOSS4G conference and it itself, and two main clients: the community (i.e., OSGeo itself) and donors. I point out that I don't see the clients or users of the OSGeo software projects as clients of OSGeo (unless they are or want to be a part of the community). The projects are more like clients and OSGeo provides service products to them. How much revenue should play a role when new products are considered? If OSGeo wants to grow stronger, then the new products should be planned and "sold" with partners, maybe OSGeo itself having only a small role (OSGeo members can have a much bigger role). This then would mean that OSGeo needs a more clear idea of what an OSGeo partner is (and who can be a partner) and what kind of contracts or memorandums to sign with them.

OSGeo is, at least its core is, a foundation for FOS software. How much OSGeo should care and work for FOS data, FOS educational content, etc? IMO, the baseline is that OSGeo should, and it is already very much doing so, feel very deeply about standards-based access to data. This will also sometimes mean authenticated access to non-free data. OSGeo should also feel very deeply about FOS geospatial software having at least an equal footing in educational institutions, both in teaching and in research, and both in the sense of using software and software as a result of research. OSGeo should encourage going beyond the baseline, but that should not be in its main mission.

On a train to Davos, Switzerland,

Ari Jolma charter member 2006-> board member 2008-2010