What do you get when you write software that becomes the basis of just about every geospatial application out there? You get perspective. Frank Warmerdam has been authoring, improving, supporting, and shepherding Shapelib, libtiff, GDAL and OGR for the past 15 years. Frank believes that by sharing effort, by adopting open, cooperatively developed standards, and avoiding proprietary licenses, adoption of open technologies could be supercharged. And lucky for us, he is right. To paraphrase him, open standards facilitate communication, capture common practice, and externalize arbitrary decisions.
Frank has done it all — worked as an independent consultant, for a proprietary remote sensing company, for a large search engine and mapping company, and now for a small, innovative space hardware maker. But most importantly, he has been a leader in the open geospatial world, at the helm of the Open GeoSpatial Foundation (OSGeo) that I myself have been involved with as long as I have personally known Frank, that is, for a good part of the past decade.
While OSGeo has faced a number of challenges, it has also enjoyed tremendous success through growing number of projects and chapters, local conferences, being perceived as a legitimate player, and recently, getting representation in its Charter Membership from 37 countries.
Frank says working on data libraries is a grungy job. Everyone wants ’em but no one wants to work on ’em. We relate to that as licenses are kinda like that, an essential infrastructure play that require getting the legal and technical details right, yet are most effective when they recede in the background and make us enjoy the content to the fullest.
Per Frank, the next set of challenges revolve around getting open geodata with easy to understand, interoperable license terms. As micro-satellite imagery becomes ubiquitous with frequent imagery collects, the resulting flood of imagery may lead to more ready adoption of open terms, perhaps even a current, live, or almost-live global, medium resolution basemap for OpenStreetMap. We can dream, and with my friend Frank to lead us with his quiet actions and measured wisdom, our dreams will come true.