Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend Open Street Map's "State of the Map" conference in Portland, OR. It's been a while since I've really done any work with OSM and I found the conference to be both a reminder and an inspiration. It reminded me that this really is the only project out there that will make it possible for the "little guy", like me, to roll out stand alone Location Based Services applications. Honestly, this effort in the US should be funded by the taxpayers as a common good. This data should be available to everyone for free as it is so essential to studying just about anything with place. In the meantime, it's absolutely amazing to see how far this effort has come with crowd sourced data. By the people for the people.
Politics aside, it was an inspirational conference. There are some very beautiful maps being made with Open StreetMap data these days. The tools for handling the data has improved tremendously over the past few years, and there is more and more commercial support for the project. For me, the inspiration was the cartography. This isn't an Open Streetmap thing per se, but it's what affected me the most. I started out my career as a GIS Analyst where I had the opportunity to make many maps. At the time, everyone was always saying, "GIS is more than just maps". I got sucked up into this and went on to grad school to learn Spatial Statistics, geospatial data structures, geospatial database design, and geospatial application architecture…. on to Autodesk to become a professional geospatial software developer. Somewhere along the line, I lost that pure love of creating beautiful maps. Sure, I've been involved in projects to improve the capabilities of our software in support of beautiful cartography, done all sorts of geospatial scientific visualization projects, and spent weeks creating software user interfaces that make map interaction easier, but I lost the "I love to make maps" somewhere along the lines. SOTM re-ignited that flame for me.
Good conferences leave you inspired; changed. I left SOTM and WhereCamp PDX with enthusiasm and a clarity of professional purpose. Simply put...
I want to help my customers by making beautiful software with beautiful maps:
- OS X, iPhone, and iPad Software Development
- Geospatial Open Source Software Integration
This isn't a radical shift in what I've been doing. What it does do is to remove many of the other areas where I often spend my time so I can focus on what I really love; what I'm best at.