Earlier in February 2018, Stephen Balogh and I attended the third annual Geo4Lib Camp at Stanford University. Over the years, this conference has been a wonderful chance to participate in the growing community of open source development for GIS data discovery and metadata creation. 2018’s meeting included a nice mixture of people who have shaped GeoBlacklight from the beginning and new people, who are looking to develop spatial data discovery strategies at their respective institutions. Here’s five things that we learned at the conference and un-conference sessions that we’ll be taking back to NYU.
- Open source development projects are egalitarian in many interesting and complex ways. Several sessions emerged on the idea of governance within the GeoBlacklight community. How do we reach consensus on design needs and priorities? Which voices tend to influence the direction of software development? How do people who don’t have a deep skill set in developing and coding contribute? Should there be a standard of conduct, at least, to which the community ascribes? These are questions that just about every open source project deals with. At Geo4Lib, we discussed these questions and more in several sessions. Jack Reed shared a few resources, including Jono Bacon’s The Art of Community, and the “Request for Change” process that the ember.js project uses to push ideas and work forward. He also shared some critical philosophical concepts of the Blacklight project that are helpful, such as the idea of semantic versioning and developing without pushing breaking changes. I was on an information panel that also shared some basics of contributing to the community, but I plan on blogging about this in more depth on my personal GitHub pages later. Generally speaking, the GeoBlacklight project has a fairly well-established set of norms for apportioning work and developing, but these can continue to be crystallized moving forward so that even more people contribute work and ideas.
- The community continues to develop support for index map discovery interfaces that are intuitive and visually compelling. Over the 2018 Winter Community Sprint, Jack Reed, Eric Larson, and others worked to further bolster OpenIndexMaps, a GeoJSON-based specification that allows for fluid integration with IIIF and offers seamless discovery of individual maps within a series. Stanford has already released a prototype, and other institutions plan to follow suit in their own instances of GeoBlacklight. At NYU, we recently added several index maps for large sets (see example) into our discovery interface, and we will make it a project this spring to convert these view to the new specification. It’s on the to-do list.
- You can use GIS software and tools to generate operable GeoBlacklight metadata. And I’m not talking about ArcCatalog, or other traditional metadata editors. Tom Brittenacher at UC Santa Barbara presented some great strategies for using the fishnet tool in ArcMap to overlay vector gridlines that can be used for metadata creation. Kudos to Tom for modeling this method for making metadata authoring more efficient.
- San Francisco is a city that has been mapped and contested vis-a-vis the construction of maps for hundreds of years. This was the main idea of David Rumsey’s plenary talk on the second day of the conference. David Rumsey had given an earlier version of this excellent synthesis at the San Francisco Modern Museum of Art’s Public Knowledge series. Rumsey showed numerous examples from his map collection of ways in which ideas about space, access, and communal identity have been drawn onto maps of San Francisco over time.
- Darren Hardy planned a great conference, and he will be missed by colleagues at Stanford University and beyond. Although we didn’t technically learn this at Geo4Lib Camp, Darren Hardy has recently announced that he is leaving Stanford to take another position in the private sector in Colorado. Darren is one of the original developers on the GeoBlacklight project, and his work in organizing the conference for the past three years and on software development within the community has been significant. We hope that Darren will remain in contact with our project!