November 13, 2014 / by John

Reversing GIS Entropy

Our team is always looking for new ways of tackling geo-analytical problems and finding new perspectives on open environmental application development. Usually our days are working on a never ending list of project deadlines but when I saw Vladamir Agafonkin’s presentation title at this year’s FOSS4G conference, I put everything on hold to watch it.

Vlad’s talk demonstrates how GIS software is becoming increasingly entropic. As we continue to cram new features into a single package, the software grows in complexity for the end user. As most environmental professionals have experienced first hand, growth and adoption of GIS intensive projects can be a tall order. This is often because the learning curve of Desktop software requires a specialist and in some cases, expensive licensing. GIS is also known for a “not invented here” culture that can undermine growing communities around data. Having spent a disturbing number of hours behind both proprietary and open source software packages, Vlad’s point is valid. As analysts we have a limitless number of tools for problem solving and converting geographic data into information products. However, other creative individuals - designers, developers, and tinkerers, constantly lose the battle against software bloat and clutter.

Being an optimist, I’m confident that GIS will slowly evolve from a complex technology into something everyone can use. Open source projects like Vlad’s Leaflet JS, have forever changed how maps find their way into the applications we use every day. If we want to make GIS easily available for everyone, it will require being open to new code based approaches and workflows.

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