G. I. O.: A Real American Hero (FOSS4G-NA)

Whew! What a conference! All the classic FOSS4G stuff was there, from why the breaks in version for PostGIS (serialization + more…) = 2.0 rather than 1.6, to “here are the new combinations of existing technology stacks”, to the “tribes” of Open Source GIS.

I will confess: when I went to FOSS4G 2011 in Denver, I was a little terrified to actually meet and interact with the minds and persons behind the ecosystem of Open Source tools that I use and follow. This time, FOSS4G North America, I was a little more comfortable in my own skin. I had some nice conversations with lead developers and other cognoscenti on some of my favorite projects, including GeoServer, JTS, PostGIS, and CartoDB. This remains a remarkably accessible and down-to-earth group, in spite of the rapid growth of Open Source Software in the GeoSpatial sector, with warm and knowledgeable personalities.

Subtitle: FOSS4G-NA– send in the Bureaucrats!

The thing that was different about this conference was the preponderance of bureaucrats. Making the list were Michael Byrne from the FCC and Keith Barber, from the NGA, plus a few from DOD that were at the vendor session on Thursday. Later I’ll create a blog, likely called Straw-Hat-Hacker on my thoughts on Peace, Social Justice, and Anabaptism and my thoughts on the interaction between technology, FOSS, FOSS4G and the military industrial complex. For now, I’ll just state there is a strong connection, and that connection was represented at the start and end of the conference.

Speaking-wise, the highlight from The Bureaucrats was Michael Byrne, the Geographic Information Officer (GIO) for the Federal Communications Commission. It was an entertaining, well structured, and informative presentation, advocating for RESTFul, transparent, paperless, as well as cost-effective governance, with tangible examples from his own work within the FCC, including getting his hands dirty with a MacBook Pro and MapBox TileMill for quickly provisioning great “enterprisey” products for decision-makers and the public. I look forward to re-watching it when the videos become available online.

Given all the politics we watch from outside The Beltway, it was really nice to see that genuine effort goes into informing decision makers by very talented and genuine characters like the FCC’s GIO. Bravo.

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