August 28, 2020

Hello and thanks for all the fish - I mean thank you Oskari community!

I have been privileged to participate in the communication coordination of Oskari software for the past three years. Gosh, how time flies! The job is soon to be passed on to someone else and I’m happy to see that Oskari is currently being used in various instances and use cases. The Community is in a good state.

My path with Oskari actually started about ten years ago, when I was coordinating the activities of regional SDI in Southwest Finland. At that time at the national level they started to develop a rival service for our lonesome geoportal - the national SDI and national geoportal called Paikkatietoikkuna. In 2014 I had to give up and surrender to the governmental forces and we adopted Oskari as the tool for providing regional viewing services for the hundreds of GIS data collected from the region.

Oskari was the first mature open source map services I encountered

At that point Oskari was one of the first open source geoportals that was mature enough to support the needs of the EU’s INSPIRE-directive (providing a view service for WMS/WFS map layers with integration to metadata service). It was also the first open source web map services I came across where you did not have to build everything from scratch from tens of different components.

When I started working for Gispo Ltd in 2016 my first biggest assignment for the National Land Survey of Finland was to tackle the “problem” of openness. You know, when the source code is open, it does not necessarily mean that it is accessible or openly communicated to everyone. So my job was to check how we could together with the Oskari network (established in 2014, now-a-days called the Oskari community) steer Oskari into a more open development and more known open source solution used also outside Finland. After the first assignment I was commissioned to continue and help with Oskari communication coordination activities for the Joint Development Forum of Oskari.

From semi-open to fully open

Back then Oskari was in my opinion semi open: the source code was licensed correctly, but the communication between stakeholders was mainly done in Finnish in closed channels, the developers had not signed the Contributor License Agreement and hence the source code could have encountered some IPR challenges. Also there were some bureaucratic hindrances that affected how to contribute, who could be part of the community and what are the roles of different groups and users. And above all, there was a lingering question about who does what and how the source code is managed.

This all might seem a bit trivial, since the product itself could be used and further developed openly already then. But I find that we need some rules and protocols at least when dealing with a huge software with multiple organisations involved. At least we need to say how the source code should be created and what are the procedures for including the code to the core and in some cases, why the code is not to be added to the core. OSGeo Foundation incubation process checklist was very useful for this process and it provided Oskari the tools to become a more open product. Although Oskari is still waiting for the verdict from OSGeo, the tasks we had to take for the incubation process were pushing Oskari to the right direction. We have now rules and guidelines on how to contribute and what is the role and tasks of the Project Steering Committee that all open source projects should have. So this process has been very valuable for the Oskari community.

If you are not familiar with the open source codes of conduct, here is a tip-list

Understanding how open source works

This is something that I think was the problem with most open source projects a few years ago. The procedure for how to build open source solutions was not clear for all the users or project owners and some of them were just waiting for somebody somewhere who would enhance the products for free. Don’t get me wrong, it is totally ok just to wait for the next release and use it as it is and never chip in code wise. But if you want something done, you usually need to pay or do it yourself. So if you are still yelling: THIS DOES NOT WORK! You should start yelling: WE HAVE RESOURCES, WE CAN FIX THIS!

I think the situation has changed and people are more actively developing the open tools they need and understand the procedures of open source better.

Oskari and friends

Oskari is an open source geoportal software and In my opinion the best thing with it is the versatile and useful tools to create embedded maps. And the amount of Oskari based map service we have at the moment is staggering! Almost everywhere in the public sector in Finland you can see either Oskari installations or embedded maps created from them. Finland is the land of Oskari. Hope your country will come along soon!

I wanted to thank all of you who have participated and actively developed Oskari especially those who attended meetups and geobeers! I have learned a lot and found really good new friends. Now it is time for someone else to continue with Oskari community coordination, I promise, I’ll be a good community member and don’t yell for someone else to fix things, at least not that much!

Virtual Hugs from Southwest Finland, Turku

Sanna Jokela

Former Oskari Communication coordinator

Working with open source geospatial solutions at Gispo Ltd