Why is it so hard?

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Why is it so hard?
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2019
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English

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Nyall, Em and Nathan's talk was the first talk in the "FOSS4G Adoption" session at FOSS4G SotM Oceania 2019, organised by OSGeo Oceania and held at The National Library in Wellington, New Zealand from November 12-15 2019. FOSS4G SotM Oceania is the coming together of Oceania's geospatial open source and open data community - with four days of workshops, presentations, a community sprint and social events.

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but I just want to point out we've got a few people here who are doing like a joint presentation this morning it's fantastic that this is kind of up up early in the conference just to start some discussions going we have we come
from a kind of wide range of different backgrounds and industries and disciplines and such and we thought we'd kind of get together and just share some of our kind of collective experiences about open source adoption and specifically sort of focusing on difficulties um so just start by saying
like open source you know it's I don't really need to preach this to you but it's fantastic like this open source projects like Linux you know the Android Open Source Project Postgres NPM various
jobs now web renders Python like they just dominate their field you know they're so well respected they're kind of like I'm just taken over the world really these large heavy canoe projects I'm an in the geospatial world it's kind
of no different we've got some really great projects again I don't need to preach this to you but um we've got we've got software that's you know fantastic it's mature its stable it's been it's been around for a long time sort of proven itself so the question that we're kind of asking today is like why hasn't it taken over the world you know why is it still so hard to get adoption for open source geospatial and you know why is like if we take it to the extreme why is there even still a thing as proprietary geospatial software when we have we have programs that are so good and the open source little
disclaimer to start so again this is this is kind of based on our experiences we really want to use this as just a start of the discussion we don't have all the answers we have some suggestions for some of these points that we're going to raise but mostly we we basically want to advise people of things that we see the issues is kind of weaknesses or strengths or opportunities maybe you want to say in this kind of field and like I said start the discussions over the next couple of days amongst yourselves you've all got heaps of input you can put into the same sort of topic as well but also just because we think that you know being aware of issues before they come up is always a good thing like you let you manage that risk and sort of manage let you prepare answers and responses in advance right so let's get started so the first thing I want to
just bring up as a you know as a there's a point that's often raised against open-source software I'm bringing out the song first because I think it's actually really easy to dismiss so there's kind of this this history what we're seeing in in different workplaces and enterprise and such where you bring up open source and this this point is raised where if you go open source you get no support you know there's no no channels for support it's all kind of volunteer based and maybe you get a mailing list or a chatroom or some sort of like ad-hoc thing this one I think is actually really easy to dismiss because we've seen sort of time and time again that actually it's a it's a it's a myth there's a it's the myth of no support to use like a project like you just that Nathan and I are kind of intimately aware with on the cutest website if you do a search on google queue just commercial support there's like dozens of sort of organizations worldwide that offers support for open source software like huges and you only have to walk out into the foyer there and you'll see you know there's this heaps of avenues available for that sort of commercial support just the same as you'd get from a proprietary vendor so that one's kind of easy to dismiss it's it's a little bit of an outdated our point that's raised often another big issue that we
kind of see have like holding back adoption of open source software is that in many ways our competitors they've got
this you know they've got people who work full-time as marketing executives they've got the budget to have someone who is employed with that as their specialty they also have you know
they've got the funds for their marketing they might have multi-million dollar funds in their their advertising budgets I don't know any open source
projects we've got you know full-time sales people who go out there to wine and dine the the middle management but they're the proprietary vendors do you know they've got people who are employed they've gone to university to study that kind of thing and what have we got we know we've got a bunch of developers who are really good what they do we've got a bunch of other sort of community members who are really good at what they do but the
reality is that you know developers aren't aren't advertising executives we're not you know we're not salespeople but that's what we're kind of up against this one we don't really have any easy answers for I don't really see you know this changing anytime in the future so I guess it's a this one is one of those big kind of threats that we have one thing that we can do that's that's kind of manageable and it's sort of we know we can actually address as open source communities is at least addressing our
websites so website is something that we're I guess is kind of close to our you know sphere of knowledge we can make sure our websites a sort of informative right from the first to thing so that someone coming in cold into open-source software actually gets a good experience by looking at our web sites this is the old GTA website they realize this and they actually revamped it as a result and we've seen quite a few example service as well if you kind of look at the history of open source geospatial websites the old ones are pretty pretty embarrassing really but fortunately we're kind of seeing a movement towards actually improving those putting some effort into making our websites like look attractive on a
fair cross - I don't actually got one more point - right it's actually um my
last point that I want to raise before a cross to Emma is another thing where we're up against is actually like active warfare so we've seen examples where the proprietary vendors actively fighting against open source I'm gonna I'm gonna
cheat a little bit here jump across to this actually this is just slide here so
something that we've found in the QGIS project there's this this issue that keeps coming up again and again on the cutest mailing list and kind of discussion groups where people ask the question they'll be like I was told that I can't publish any Maps my bike you just in academic journals is this true and you every time that that question comes back up it's this everyone's like where does this come from like who is spreading this rumor it's kind of been mostly traced back to one vendor over in Europe who was who was actively spreading this rumor but it's kind of just migrated everywhere and there's actually you know sort of present for pervaded the cutest community now is that people have this view that if you use open source software you actually can't you can't use it in academia you you know you can't use it for professional work it's propaganda this one here so this guy
kept man K I'm actually gonna borrow a little bit of his story Kurt was he was a user of one of the the proprietary vendors software and he was a big fan of it he really liked the software he found it was great for his work um he started doing different sorts of work where he needed to actually branch out into open source software just to address some some things look augment his toolkit and over time like he was an active member of the local user groups he he kind of organized these early user groups in his region of America he did a little presentation one day of like actually I'm gonna I'm gonna showcase in my local user group that I've organized and been a sort of integral member of about some of these open-source tools I've been using and he ended up actually getting actively ostracized from those groups due to active warfare from the proprietary vendors he's he's kind of written up all
his experiences in this blog series which is a better place to go till you actually get the full story and directly from the person who's telling that story ketamine K from bird's eye view GIS the funny thing with this is by kind of engaging in this active warfare the
vendor it's backfired on the vendor they've taken someone who was previously a fan of their software and was kind of like a software whatever you know I'll use whatever tools get for purpose um and actually turn someone into like a proactive fan of open source software who's now actively you know a member of the community um so my takeaway there is
we shouldn't be the opposite we shouldn't be part of this sort of software tribalism where we ostracize people from using up a non open-source software because it actually backfires and presents it's in a really bad light so this tribalism is quite important sorry my computer's just gone
why does it always happen to me happen last year too
No is there anything up there that's it give me your give me your software I
will test it I can break it somebody once said I had too much metal in my body all right so this tribalism that now talks about has been alive and well for quite a while and is actively pursued in educational pathways and this includes your primary to high schools your tapes and your universities even your military services training courses although I hear they might be changing them in and it sometimes appears as a political minute manifesto by departments directing educators to use a proscribed software even though they may want to use another software the results of this is that the students are learning whilst wearing blinkers and know nothing more and they believe what they hear today's educator is time poor educating the educator on new developments is a hard task and that's after the fact that approval has been finally been granted from governing bodies to use open source okay so this opens up the opportunities for preparatory marketing budgets to meet the need for making it easy to access and providing educational resources and don't forget the geospatial world is vastly unknown to educators and the rest of the world out there you know but you may as well say you big data or something like that to a lot of people I want to think about the opportunities as well so let's add to the educational model let's not go from just I'm the end user who's using it but also the creative via development tasks for those students who lean that way let's harness the passion of the youth that we've recently seen in the climate protest and format that matter harness the passion of all everyone has a reason and a passion and it's a rare place where you can pursue your individual passion which in turn contributes wholly to the project and let the control loosen up in these organizations some of the university causes out there are already encouraging the students to choose whichever software they wish to use for particular projects this is a big one
and I think it's already been touched on before by Edwin as well you know why changed the current state there's a distinct idea of leaving things how they are and the idea and large organizations of needing to pay for a service because that is always how it's been and we may lose our budget if we go somewhere else there's also all the existing relationships as well such as middle management trust patterns with vendors dinner events activities networking opportunities the opportunities here are switching from the culture of faceless consumerism to the culture of community exchange that you're in contact with the creators much like a village market move the spending on the money from a one fits all product to creating your tailored geospatial ecosystem that might just benefit others
finally let's galvanize where's the action happening where is the change happening is in small organizations local government councils small company industries where budget is everything it's happening with the creatives we need to harness the influences giving opportunities to potential new unit users to solidify their experience with the open source community through great programs such as the tgp program presenting at focus discipline events outside of this area here and conferences like education engineering environmental water geology water and geology are really great areas for this open source and finding the champions in those disciplines for us as I just said it's geology and water at my company
alright so I'm gonna dress some community and technical stuff to finish it up and hopefully upon an end on a positive note know that slide says at least some stuff we've seen recently and obviously in the past as well as people have come into open source with a bad experience first one of them is the assumption that if it's open source it's free therefore support should be free therefore developers time should be free that can lead to some severe massive amounts of burnout speaking personally on that topic so people's assumptions on how open source works can damage our reputation so as a community have to make sure you manage that expectation there's also communities that are potentially hostile or toxic to newcomers we've already seen the diversity issues so as a community to manage that and make sure that you are inclusive if you can be technically
issues also block us quite a lot there's corporate environments like si P like custom database types like I say P and things like that which open source may not integrate with because we don't the motivation there's a lot of work so it does require people in organizations to be that bridge between the open source world and the enterprise-e world to make sure that we can integrate with those solutions we've also seen this morning
in some of the keynotes oh I probably in both keynotes there's there's a side effect of entropy in open source it's not self sufficient it does require a little bit of love a lot of love a lot of personal love sometimes you have to devote a lot of energy into it in your own personal time if you don't nurture the communities you don't make sure there's people to continue those communities and continue the project it will pretty much just collapse like we saw what happened people just lose interest they can't maintain the momentum and just falls apart this also comes back to bad experiences people that join projects right at the end when it's falling apart and then that's the about experience that leads to leave other projects and not join other open source communities
so I'll finish on this point which ties back into the entropy point that you all if you're in open source communities you are basically ian's in the companies that you work for in the communities that you are you have to make sure that you nurture people in the communities make sure that you advocate for it if you believe it's the right move the organization or for just i would like the community in general you have to be the charity in that space to push the agenda more basically but don't do the tribalism thing because that backfires on us as well so I think that's about it time's up I don't want to take take over here but there was an academic paper recent uh states two years ago which explained why the US Department of Defense prefers commercial to open source software the two authors didn't say so in the report but they worked for Oracle their response to that from the US Department of Defense as a published paper on why they use in prefer open source so there is some ammunition there as well for other ammunition people have been to foss4g overseas may have seen presentations about Paul Remzi he is a fantastic presenter and some of those explanations of how open source works why it works the economic models behind it a fantastic piece that people can reuse to explain to others how this works I was gonna say that ya met him last year at last year's foss4g and our company is sort of following that way and with we're trying to be he has a term what is the term with it we were sort of being quite ethical in that we're trying to sponsor a lot to come back and so hopefully we can be an example to other large firms um I've seen some great sort of advertising for open source and open data recently with the 30-day Met challenge on Twitter have you guys seen any other sort of things like that that gets it out into the community more of what it can do you know my understanding is that that 30-day map challenge isn't really about open source it's just stretching you know stretching yourself as a cartographer I I don't think there's a requirement is there open source um so it's definitely sorry I think that leads into your thing about they're not tribal like it is it's just community who do this thing sharing what they can do and as a part of that these people are sharing what some people have done with open source or open data in order is this thing this is the only thing you can use yes so in that case like it is you know it's a great it's a great Avenue for us to actually advertise the capabilities of open source software um and you know I don't know who organized that originally but we're kind of using something that's already in place we don't even have to set it up and just say you know hey I made this map looks great here's what I used to make it and then that kind of raises that curiosity I get some people who've never looked into open source software before and that you know that that desire to know about its actual its capabilities so yeah that's it that is a good example of the type that advertising I guess an open source community can can engage in and it's got the its kind of got skills - yeah I think open source is a community-based thing it's not a commercial based thing so that you're actually working as a community and for me personally one of the most heartwarming photos I've ever seen was at foss4g in Denver with the W meets shootout for those who don't know what it was it was a competition at foss4g where the different open source producers of WMS servers into the competition to see who could do the sort of fastest best rendering of maps etc and one of the teams of was having some trouble with the code can pick finishing the competition and there's a photo of them sitting there to solve their problem with members from competing teams helping them solve their problem possibly beating those teams and you cannot imagine that happening in any commercial environment and that to me is the fundamental differences open sources about communities it's about contributions it's about people yeah I'm just gonna do a little bit of analogy that this is very important in my life this type of you help everybody and you and you just don't close down I've been involved in rugby union for a long time and one of the reasons why I love that is that at the end of the day you're together you're in the bar drinking you're clapping someone because they've done a good try do you know what I mean like you're sharing across all types of people who can contribute from the little guy to the big guy in this case I'm an end-user I'm here hanging with dough developers so you know and I love that bit about it I love that whole idea about the market stall
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