The Map Is Not The Territory

A blog by Christian Willmes.

My summary of the FOSS4G 2016

| categories: conference, open source, geospatial, osgeo, research | View Comments

Last week I attended the FOSS4G 2016 conference in Bonn. I am still digesting my impressions, because there were a lot of them.
First, the location was really great. The new WCCB around the former german Bundestag parliament building is just beautiful, the technical facilities are brand new. I never sat in more comfortable chairs during a conference before. :-) See the FOSS4G flickr group photos to get an impression of the location (also embedded at the end of this post).

Then, the weather was just amazing, all three conference days with temperature of above 30°C, the venue is directly located at the river front, so you could just step outside and enjoy the weather with a beautiful view on the ships going on the Rhine river.

Besides this perfect boundary conditions for a successful conference, the presentations and talks were of very high quality and quantity too. The programm was very well selcted.

But one of the most remarkable thigs about FOSS4G 2016 is, that the video streaming and recordings of every talk of the conference were just perfect. I think this is because the @c3voc from the famous Chaos Computer Club (CCC) was in charge. Which is just priceless, or in other terms I know of no company you can hire to deliver such a video streaming setup, besides (maybe) a professional bradcasting company. You can find all the recordings from here, enjoy!

Additionally, I had two talks which went pretty well I think.

PaleoMaps talk

My first talk was on the first day of the conference, Wednesday 24th August, 15h at the Fireplace Room. The talk was about a new project we started within our Collaborative Research Centre, titled PaleoMaps: SDI for paleoenvironment GIS data".

Semantic MediaWiki @ OSGeo Wiki talk

My second talk was on the second day of the conference, Thursday 25th August, 12h in the Plenary Office. This talk was about my endeavours to improve the OSGeo wiki for collaboratively storing and handling structured information and data. The talk is titled "SMW @ OSGeo Wiki – How semantics improve the wiki and facilitate a collaborative database for OSGeo".

The conference

The rest of the conference was even more awesome. I was really happy to see the rising amount of talks concerning Linked Data and the Semantic Web. Here is a short list of talks I recommend you to watch the recordings:

  • How Linked Open Data finds the bar near you (Rob van Loon): Abstract | Video
  • Integrating the spatial web with linked open data using GeoDCAT-AP (Paul van Genuchten) : Abstract | Video
  • Spatial data and the Search engines (Paul van Genuchten): Abstract | Video
  • Leaflet.annotate - Semantic markup for geographic web maps in HTML (Malte Reißig): Abstract | Video

The talks on GeoNode and on CKAN were also very interesting to me, because I use those applications as Backend and Middleware for the Research Data Infrastrucutre CRC806-Database, that I develop, build and maintain during my research job at University of Cologne.

  • The Evolution of the GeoNode Community (Jeffrey Johnson): Abstract | Video
  • Implementing Open Geospatial Data Portals with CKAN, pycsw and PublicaMundi: the case (Angelos Tzotsos): Abstract | Video
  • A RESTful API for linking geodata (Francesco Bartoli): Abstract | Video

And one talk, I really want to recommend, is the last Keynote given by Peter Küsterer. The talk was titled: "Sahana as an indispensable tool for disaster management", and it told about the application of the Sahana software to manage the refugee situation in late summer of 2015 in Germany, when >1.000.000 refugees made their way to Germany.

And finally there was the closing ceremony and there were some Awards. The most important award, the Sol Katz Award went to Jeff McKenna, who could not attend the conference, but was able to send thanks and acceptance of the award through a great video message. Jonas Eberle got the best presentation award from the the Academic Track, the award for the best Poster went to Lorraine Barrythat was awarded with 500,- €, and Evan Rouault won the best developer award, that is recognized with 1000,- €. And here you can enjoy the many fotos, that were collected in the FOSS4G flickr pool:

And next year Boston!

The organizing team of the upcoming next FOSS4G 2017, was showing a "wicked awesome" video presenting the next hosting location of the conference series. I am really got fixed to the idea of going to Boston next year. Need to come up with a new idea or project, that I can present there to get my travel fundet by my University. :-)

Have fun!


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Preparations for FOSS4G 2016 in Bonn

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FOSS4G Conference

I am very much looking forward to participate in the 2016 FOSS4G conference taking place in Bonn, Germany this year. FOSS4G is one of the conferences I try to participate every year because I really like the spirit of the Open Source Geospatial community that gathers on this international conference series once a year during the dog days. My first FOSS4G was 2010 in Barcelona, then I was in Nottingham 2013 (my blog post about 2013 FOSS4G), 2014 I also attended at FOSS4G in Portland, about which I also blogged. So this year will be my fourth FOSS4G participation! And best is, it will be just around the corner from my home town Cologne, so I can stay at home during the conference and do not need to book travel and a hotel, which is quite weird for participating in an international conference :), but also quite comfortable and indeed cost saving. I will give two talks and will chair one session, on which I introduce some details in the following.

PaleoMaps talk

My first talk will be on the first day of the conference, Wednesday 24th August, 15h at the Fireplace Room. The talk will be about a new project we started within our Collaborative Research Centre, titled PaleoMaps: SDI for paleoenvironment GIS data". Strikingly (to me), the talk has the ID #555 in the conference system :). Here is the abstract of the talk:

Paleoenvironmental studies and according information (data) are abundantly pub-lished and available in the scientific record. However, GIS-based paleoenvironmental information and datasets are comparably rare. Here, we present an OpenScience approach for collecting and creating GIS-based data and maps of paleoenvironments, and publishing them in a web based Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI),for access by the archaeology and paleoenvironment communities. The Open Science approach to the publication of data, allows to properly cite the published datasets as bibliographic sources in research that builds upon these data sets.This paper has its focus on the implementation and setup of the Free and OpenSource Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) based SDI, and on the workflow for compiling and publishing the GIS data.

I submitted the talk for the FOSS4G Academic Track, on which I also volunteer as a reviewer and as a Track Editor, about which I will explain further below some more.

Semantic MediaWiki @ OSGeo Wiki talk

My second talk will be on the second day of the conference, Thursday 25th August, 12h in the Plenary Office. This talk is about my endeavours to improve the OSGeo wiki for collaboratively storing and handling structured information and data. The talk is titled "SMW @ OSGeo Wiki – How semantics improve the wiki and facilitate a collaborative database for OSGeo". Coincidentally, the talk has the ID #111, which also bugs me a bit :). The abstract of the talk is given in the following:

Recently, the OSGeo wiki was updated from an ancient version to the current LTS release of MediaWiki. This update broke the functionality of the first OSGeo wiki usermap implementation, dating back to 2008. The map shows the location of OSGeo members on a web map integrated into the wiki. A new version of the usermap [1] was implemented based on Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) [2] to replace the first usermap [3]. This presentation will describe the new features and possibilities that SMW adds to the OSGeo Wiki. After a short introduction to SMW, based on the OSGeo member model, that recently replaced the old usermap, a basic data model and its use in the wiki, as well as major features of SMW are explained. The data model development approach, using mobo [4], applied for implementing the OSGeo Members map will be explained briefly. Additionally, simple examples for bootstrapping smaller semantic models are given too. The presentation concludes with ideas for further applications of SMW in the OSGeo wiki, like the already implemented Advocate and Board lists pages, as well as possible applications, for example a collaboratively maintained OSGeo/FOSS4G service provider directory, or even a collaborative open geospatial data directory are proposed or suggested.

Session Chair

I also volunteer as Session Chair on the third day of the conference, Friday 26th August, Tunnel. The session will host two very interesting talks by well known members of the OSGeo community. The first talk will be given by Pirmin Kalberer on "Using and extending GeoPackages". And the second talk will be given by Sean Gillies on the topic GeoJSON and the IETF.

Academic Track

Additionally, I volunteered for organizing the Academic Track, together with Franz-Josef and Pradeepkumar. I was involved in three paper reviews as a reviewer, and in seven contributions as Track Editor, assigning reviewers and overseeing the review process.


I am sure, this will be a great conference. It will take place at the newly opened World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB), which is build around the former German Bundestag building, including the former Parliaments Plenary Chamber and further facilities of the Bonner Bundestag. It will be a great experience to meet at this historic, and also architecturally interesting place. As said, I am really looking forward to experience this special place, as well to meet all the great people of the Open Source Geospatial community.


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A 32c3 blog post, from someone who was not there

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As it is now almost tradition for me to follow the CCC Congress via video streaming between the years, during major years end home cleanup and holiday chill, I want to take note about some interesting talks and recommend you to see the recordings of this talks, embedded in this post.

First off, the video streaming, recording and its web publication delivered by the CCC Video Operation Center is top notch! It is possible to follow every talk, some of them even simultaneously translated and with sub texts in several languages. The videos were live streamed in several formats, embedded HTML5 video, or video streams to play from video player applications, such as VLC. Later on the video are published on the servers, without ads and without tracking. Good services for embedding and sharing of the videos are provided too. It's really awesome and most important it's rock solid and professional. I am really looking forward to FOSS4G 2016 in Bonn, where these guys will be doing the video recordings for the FOSS4G Conference.


The second part of this talk is very interesting, the presenter of this part was able to in some way reverse engineer, or at least to successfully trace, how the variables are tuned in the Volkswagen engines, for cheating the emissions on the test stands.

A pity that the first guy took so much time, because he did not told anything new. If you read for example the Spiegel Online headlines according to the #dieselgate you know evereything he said. Sadly, the talk was aborted by the moderator in the end, when the talk was getting most interesting, because they ran out of time.

Let's Encrypt

Let's encrypt is a great new service, for anyone running a web server or web site. This service makes it possible to get TLS/SSL certificates, accepted by all the major browsers, for free! I tried it on this very web site and server, and got it installed in about 5 minutes. Really easy and a great service indeed!

Onion Tor Talks

The first talk, State of the Onion, is getting a tradition at CCC Congress. Here the lead persons of the Tor project are delivering the latest news about the project to the community. An absolute must see, for anyone interested in security, privacy and decency on the internet.

The second Tor talk is more technical, but also shows interesting statistics and has some stories about for example, how Facebook uses Tor and Onion sites to deliver its services in repressional regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia or China.

A new kid on the block

Here, Katharina Nocun delivers THE "anti Facebook" Talk of this years Congress. The new kid on the block is in this case the open source decentralized Diaspora* social network. If Diaspora* is really new, is object-able, but she has some very valid observations to share and reminds us of why it is not a good idea to trust in a central commercial entity with to much of your private informations and data. Here is also a good article in German about her and this talk.

One year of securitarian drift in France

A very interesting talk, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks and the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, was given by two French activists form the la quadrature du net, the French CCC (in some sense). The French authorities and politics are strengthen the surveillance and diminishing the freedom of speech, because they think this increases the security. The two activists tell a quite shocking story about the current situation in france.

There were of course a lot more very interesting talks, but I leave it to the many crowds of the inter webs to report on this other talks. You can find all recordings on the CCC media servers, to virtually participate in the Congress like I did.

A happy new year to you all and of course have fun!


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FOSS4G 2014 Portland recap

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I was lucky to get a talk in at this years FOSS4G academic track, which allowed me to travel to Portland, Oregon. The talk was about a project in which we applyed Köppen-Geiger climate classifications to paleo climate model simulations, using GRASS GIS. The talks were recorded and shared on vimeo, so enjoy! :).

Köppen-Geiger classifications of paleoclimate model simulations — Christian Willmes, University of Cologne from FOSS4G on Vimeo.

The slides of my talk are accessible from the foss4g 2014 slides collection on github and from the CRC 806 database.

The FOSS4G program itself was huge. Eight (8) parallel tracks plus an extra track for Invited talks and Keynotes. So it was not at all possible to attend all the talks that you had an interest in. You can find the recordings of mostly all talks on vimeo and they are also linked directly from the schedule. This great organization and technical skill which deliverd almost all the recordings in that short time to the crowd is by itself a great acheivment of this years FOSS4G hosts, the OSGeo PDX team.

I was wondering about the organization of the academic track in the program schedule, because there was none, at least to my knowledge. So I could not see which presentations in the programm were from the academic track, I could only guess based on the titles and abstracts of the talks. This was sad, because I would have liked to attend most acedemic talks to maybe network with other academics using and developing FOSS4G.

I also have a subtle feeling, that the academic track has a not so well standing for many of the core FOSS4G participants. I think this is a pity, because those pesky academics ;-) are teaching the FOSS4G tools to their students and use them for - and promote them in - their academic works. This creates new users and maybe even developers for the projects and the community can only win from this. Thus, I would strongly recommend to better promote the academic track on future FOSS4G conferences, to increase visibility and thus also the quality of the academic track. To have the oportunity of publishing the submissions in the Transactions in GIS Journal is a big advantage and makes the submissions for academics to FOSS4G attractive. And those who are bored by academic talks do not have to attend them. There is no downside of having a prominent academic track on FOSS4G conferences, as far as I can see.

On Saturday after the conference I attended the code sprint, and had the opportunity to work a bit on the planned OSGeo Journal' OJS system update and on the update of the Wiki usermap, that we/I try to migrate to a Semantic Mediawiki based implementation (which seems to be a bigger story, on which I might have an additional post in the near future). Anyway, I enjoyed to sat down there, breathe the air of an OSGeo code sprint and gave the OJS update a try, but I did not prepared anything beforehand and I ran into some MySQL level problems durig a test run of the update on my local environment, which I could not solve on the code sprint.

In recap, I had a very good time in Portland and at FOSS4G, during the conference as well as the two days before and after the conference. Before the conference, on my first day in Portland I went to the Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquake match at providence park joining the FOSS4G Timbers field trip. It was a quite entertaining match, with a final score of 3:3 (6 goals!). On this way thanks to the organizers of this field trip again! After the conference I had an awesome roadtrip from Portland, along Eugene, Crater Lake, the Oregon and north California coast, the Redwood trees, Napa Valley to the Bay Area and San Fransisco, from where my flight back home was heading.

Have fun!


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FOSS4G Nottingham wrap up

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TL,DR: FOSS4G was just amazing! This was (until now) the best conference I went to.

Things that I did

I did a presentation on: Building Research Data Management Infrastructure using Open Source Software. And I think my talk went quite well. You can find the slides of the presentation here. I had some people giving good feedback, directly after the talk or later somewhere at the conference. If you are interested in more detail on what I have presented, you can find my paper directly relating to the talk here (Please send me an email, if you can't access the paper from Whiley, it is possible to send copies to individuals).

Then, I chaired (is this the correct term?!?) two sessions. A Session which I titled Spatio-temporal Visualization, featuring Augmented Reality and WMS-V (V for Video) and a Session on 3D GeoInformation, featuring PostGIS 3D, X3Dom, W3DS, Mobile and WebGL based rendering frameworks. This went very smoothly. I was a bit nervous about this task, because I never chaired (still?) a session at a conference before. The presenters where all good in time and attendance (mostly) asked lots of questions. And best is, that got me an exclusive red FOSS4G volunteer t-shirt and a FOSS4G hero badge! :]

On thuesday evening I went with a group of FOSS4G fellows to the Nottingham City Ground, to watch the Football League Championship (by the way, this name is awkward for a national 2nd level league) match Nottingham Forrest vs. Middelsborough. The match was very entertaining, we had two penalties, four goals and a red card. Before the match we met at the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn, which claims to be the oldest inn in England. Very nice in a very historic setting right beneath the famous Nottingham Castle. And they had an awesome IPA (which you can't easily get in germany), wich I enjoyed a lot. In short it was a great experience. Thanks to Jeffrey Jhonson of OpenGeo for organizing this!

group shot
FOSS4G Football Group Photo at Nottingham City Groud Stadium. (Photo by: Jody Garnett @Flickr.)

Things that got my attention

First, I went to the geonode developers workshop. This was very interesting, because I learned that it is possible to extend the django based geonode with existing dajango Plug-Ins. This should make it possible to implement a REST API (hopefully more or less similar to CKANs great action API). I will try this in the next couple of weeks and do most probably a blog post about it (stay tuned).

Another quite new software project, that got my attention, is GeoGit. I can think of quite some very interesting use cases regarding collaborative editing of geospatial datasets for my project. Especially the GeoNode Plug-In of GeoGit, from the Rapid Open Geospatial User-Driven Enterprise (ROGUE) Joint Capability Technology Demonstrtion (JCTD) (what a name ^^) project described in a White Paper featuring "CyberGIS" [FTW! ;)], looks very promising to me. This is definetly on my agenda for upcoming development of the CRC806-Database!

FOSS4G impressions. (Photos by: FOSS4G Group @ Flickr.)

Things worth mentioning

The event was very well organized, the FOSS4G 2013 Committee did a marvelous job in preparing an running this event! This will be the reference, which upcomming FOSS4G's organizers have to look at and learn from.

The Acedemic Track organized by Barend Köbben and Franz-Josef Behr was in my opinion a great success. And to have a special issue in a well known journal like the Transactions in GIS makes it very interesting for researchers from academia to participate in the Conference, which I think is a very good thing to cross pollinate with the developer community. This just makes the whole event richer in my opinion.

Another good idea was the map contest Opening up the Map, organized by Kenneth Field. This is just a great opportunity to get visibility for map applications and also to get recognized for great work. It also is a feature to include more users of FOSS4G software projects into the conference.

The Sol Katz award was this year awarded to Arnulf Christl, what is in my opinion well deserved for his longtime high level contributions to the OSGeo cummunity. The award was directly legitimated by an remarkable speech by Arnulf, proving that he is one of the leading heads of the OSGeo idea.

The closing Keynote by Paul Ramsey was just outstanding! One of the best talks I ever attended in a conference yet. It is good to have such bright personalities in the OSGeo community!

Looking forward

I met again many old and new friends at the FOSS4G, this also one point which makes the FOSS4G / FOSSGIS conferences so valuable to me. I will definetly try (need to get some good new stuff until next year to talk about to get fundet for the trip - but don't worry ;) to get to Portland for FOSS4G 2014!

Have fun!


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