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FOSS4GUK 2018 Musings

A look back at FOSS4GUK 2018


The whole event was great and I'm really glad I managed to go.  One person I was chatting to during one of the coffee breaks told me they were just so struck by what a friendly event it was compared to conferences they had attended - and I couldn't agree more! For me though, that manifested itself in the open and transparent way that the speakers and delegates shared their knowledge and expertise, with a real willingness to help others.  It really brings it home that the thing that is as amazing as the technology aspect of FOSS, is the real community of people who are working on it and with it.

In terms of talks and workshops (aside from all the fantastic Astun-led sessions ๐Ÿ˜Š which were great), other highlights for me were the sessions by Ross McDonald (@mixedbredie) and Tom Armitage (@MapNav_Tom), both of whom did great workshops and presentations around routing and cartographic visualisation; I used our QGIS in the Cloud environment for both workshops, and it stood up well! Oliver O'Brien's (@oobr) talk on OpenLayers 4 was also great - and Peter Batty's (@pmbatty) closing talk was thought provoking.  Other interesting news was the announcement by Ordnance Survey's Tim Martin of a beta trial of OS OpenData products in PostGIS (pgdump) and Geopackage formats, which we've taken a look at and look great!

Biggest credit of all though, was to the organising team who did a fantastic job on putting together a great event.


As always, I had a blast at FOSS4GUK and wish I could have borrowed Hermione’s time traveller and go to multiple sessions on at the same time. I hope to catch up on the sessions I missed at a later date. It was wonderful to see a lot of my friends in the geo industry and to make some new friends. As well as learning lots of exciting stuff and drinking perhaps a little too much wine.
I really enjoyed the sessions I went to and was stunned by the cartographic abilities of QGIS; that is saying something from a woman who considers herself a database gal, and used to find pretty maps not that interesting - not any more, I was in awe. Do go and check out the agenda and download all the presentations/workshops, you will be amazed.
I often use such events as an impetus to learn a new or refresh my knowledge of a topic. By having a presentation accepted, I have to do the work so I can write my presentation. This time I decided I needed to revisit Foreign Data Wrappers (FDW) and experiment with the OGR foreign data wrappers. I was amazed at how may people came to my session - or were they just interested in the PostgreSQL/PostGIS workshop following it? Still, I think I got a few people thinking that they could use them in their their projects, and one or two people certainly got very excited.


It was great to meet up with friends from all over the UK and Europe at FOSS4GUK and to put some faces to people I'd only met on Twitter before. I should probably not have submitted two talks and a workshop if I really wanted to see much of the conference. My first talk on the various ways to measure performance gains from clustering GeoServer was widely misquoted on Twitter (to the consternation of the rest of the GeoServer crew) but I think most people got the message, which was to make sure GeoServer was working well before trying to cluster it. My second talk was a reprise of my FOSS4G Boston talk on the benefits of using a Raspberry Pi to run a local WMS/WMTS cache to serve local maps in low bandwidth situations.

My favourite talk of FOSS4GUK was "GIS: Software or Solution" by John Byrne of Mapail, who showed how the application of well-understood programming methodologies could help GIS users too. He recommended the storage of scripts that processed or loaded your data in git repositories so colleagues could easily find and modify, and that anything that could be automated should be. Once your work flows are automated it becomes much easier to apply continuous integration techniques to your data upload and processing using Jenkins - with luck adding new data to your server is just a button click away.


Being a busy bee, giving a talk (OSGeo: a brief introduction), running one workshop (Getting started with git) and helping out at another (Joana from GeoCat's Introduction to Geonetwork), I didn't get to see as many presentations as I would have liked. From what I did see, I picked up a whole load of new tips and tricks, like using row and column privileges in PostgreSQL (thanks Andy Bell) and how well Docker works for delivering training.

I loved the energy of the event, and the feeling that there's now a real community in the UK around open source geospatial. It was lovely to see a lot of old and new faces, and to hear that there's a desire to run FOSS4GUK 2019. The venue and location were good, and the organising team did a great job.


I had my MapAction hat (or rather shirt) on for FOSS4G this time round, and that always opens up great discussions with supporters, prospective volunteers, and the curious. It also gave me a chance to pick the brains of the hard-core but unfailingly helpful QGIS developers in the room on the plugin I've been developing to support the MapAction publishing and metadata workflow from QGIS, which I also presented on. However it was QGIS and its impressive - and growing - list of cartographic functions that caught my eye most, and the central place given to map design, visualisation, and digital cartography in the conference was both welcome and inspiring. The Friday afternoon team of Charley Glynn, Oliver O'Brien, Ross McDonald and Tom Armitage deserve a special mention for their lovely/ clever/ fun/ elegant (in most cases all apply) stuff. It was also good to see interesting work being done in AI being applied to aerial imagery by Mathilde ร˜rstavik, and Thomas Starnes with solid practical advice on collecting and using data from UAVs - both areas with a lot of interest for MapAction in the humanitarian context.

Amongst all the socialising amongst old friends, I hope that those newer to the FOSS4G community felt welcome and engaged - a friend set a great example by wandering off from our conversation saying 'time to meet some new people', and I enjoyed doing the same. Roll on the next one, wherever/whenever that might be.


Great event with a good vibe. Some interesting presentations; highlights for me being Open Drones by Thomas Starnes (RSPB), Vector Tile Rendering with Open Source Tools and Open Data by Dave Barter (Nautoguide Ltd) and Ian's talks ๐Ÿ˜Š. I think the OpenLayers Workshop Thomas Gratier (WebGeoDataVore) and I delivered went well, I think we managed to help about 30 delegates through a good proportion of the OpenLayers Workshop ( The Postgres and PostGIS Workshop by Jorge Sanz (Carto) was excellent (material here:

Lots of good opportunity to meet new people and catch up with friends in the community.

I took on the role of Astun Social Media Manager ๐Ÿ˜‰ for the event which I think went pretty well, we there was certainly lots to talk about and plenty of people mentioning @astuntech.


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