MS RFC 10: Joining the Open Source Geospatial Foundation

Date:2006/02/06
Author:Howard Butler
Contact:hobu.inc at gmail.com
Author:Frank Warmerdam
Contact:warmerdam at pobox.com
Author:Steve Lime
Contact:sdlime at comcast.net
Status:passed

Abstract

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) presents a unique opportunity for MapServer in that it can provide an umbrella organization that can provide benefits and possibilities that a project by itself simply cannot provide. This RFC will outline what those benefits can be to the project, define MapServer’s role in participating, and describe the unique process of how we propose to decide to join.

MapServer’s Participation in the Foundation

The OSGeo bootstrap meeting of February 4th, 2006 was attended by Steve Lime, Frank Warmerdam, Pericles Nacionales, Howard Butler, Tom Burk, Dave McIlhagga and others from the MapServer community. By their participation in this meeting, these individuals are part of the initial group of members in the OSGeo foundation. A thorough, thoughtful, and stimulating discussion about how the OSGeo foundation can help to alleviate issues that an individual project cannot overcome took place. Many projects that were represented at the meeting, including GDAL, OSSIM, MapGuide Open Source, MapBuilder, and GRASS decided immediately to participate in the foundation. The folks represented by MapServer at the meeting stated that they would also like to participate, contingent on approval by both the MTSC and the community at large.

In this RFC we are proposing that MapServer join the foundation as one of the founding projects as this is a unique opportunity for MapServer to influence the direction that the foundation will take, and in the end get a foundation that will better suit its specific needs.

Expected Benefits of OSGeo to the MapServer Project

OSGeo provides a unique and necessary structure for the MapServer project to solve some of the issues an Open Source project by itself cannot. One of the most important ones is the idea of an umbrella organization that can take on issues like infrastructure, branding and visibility, outreach, solicitation of sponsorship, and more formal project organization. While the MapServer project has done some of these things by itself in some form over the years, a formalized structure that has its mission to do so provides a more attractive solution. Here are some expected benefits, described by Schuyler Erle, who also attended the meeting:

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation, or OSGeo for short, will seek to provide roughly the same kind of function for the F/OSS GIS community that the Apache Software Foundation provides for the Apache development and user communities, with the primary difference being that, where Apache started as a single project and then branched out, the OSGeo Foundation is attempting to weld together the overlapping but sometimes disparate interests of different projects with different communities. The Foundation will hopefully serve as an outreach and advocacy organization for the community; a forum for improving cross-project collaboration; a unified professional front for large government and corporate users; a source of shared infrastructure, like code and documentation repositories; and as a legal entity to help protect developers and users of Open Source geospatial software against greedy patent lawsuits or unscrupulous license infringements. In general, the object of the Foundation will be, in the words of Mark Lucas of OSSIM, to „help us do what we love” – which, for most of us, is building useful tools for digital cartography and geospatial analysis, and solving interesting problems with them.

Deciding to Join

The MTSC’s charter, specified in MS RFC 1, clearly states that it is only to concern itself with technical matters in the project. In our opinion, deciding to join OSGeo presents a special case in that it affects both the technical and non-technical. In this case we propose that the MTSC go through its decision process, and if approved, the community will be solicited to provide their input via a non-anonymous website poll. If both groups are in agreement - via the normal approval process from the MTSC and a majority from the community - the motion to join OSGeo will be considered passed.

Considerations

As MapServer joins the foundation some changes are anticipated in the project. There will need to be a copyright review of the existing code base, ensuring that it is all legitimately contributed under the existing license. All MapServer committers will need to sign some sort of committer agreement providing assurance they are not adding encumbered code. MapServer may have to consider moving its project infrastructure (CVS, website, lists, etc.) to the foundation at some point. We will also need to establish a MapServer Project Committee within the foundation. This may just be the MTSC or it may be broader, including other stakeholders.

For the time being the MTSC will continue to operate under MS RFC 1: Technical Steering Committee Guidelines if the motion to join OSGeo is passed. Additional RFC(s) will address any changes in process deemed necessary as a result of joining the foundation.

Voting history

Passed +7. February 6th, 2005.