Dances with the GeoPython Tribe

During June 21-24, 2016 I attended the very first GeoPython Conference in Basel Switzerland. This event was organized by the Institute of Geomatics Engineering of the FHNW – University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland and PyBasel, the local Python User Group Northwestern Switzerland. In particular I should mention key-organizer  Martin Christen from FHNW. He and his team made this into a such a great event that GeoPython 2017 is already planned. About 130 people attended, most from Europe, but also from other continents.  For a TL;DR the conference website www.geopython.net  provides you all the details: not just the program, but also the “post-processing”: slides, photo’s (on Flickr) etc.  The conference also included time and resources (room, food, beverages) for code-sprints. One of the outcomes of the conference-survey was to establish a public GeoPython mailing list at python.org. Details: to subscribe, send mail to:  GeoPython-subscribe@python.org with the keyword “subscribe” in the subject. or use the web-interface: https://mail.python.org/mm3/mailman3/lists/geopython.python.org/.

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So why a dedicated GeoPython conference? IMHO Python makes more and more  sense for Open Source geospatial development. Not just for custom geo-scripting or glueing with e.g. GDAL, or for developing plugins for QGIS and GRASS, but more and more as a mature framework language for geospatial processing and  OGC services. The projects PyWPS and PyCSW are an example of the latter. To access OGC services from Python clients there is OWSLib. Upcoming geospatial CMS frameworks like GeoNode and the very recent  Boundless Exchange, powered by GeoNode, show that Python has the potential to become “the new Java” within the Open Source geospatial world.

Did I say “Java”? Ok: did almost 20 years of Java, from the very first JDK somewhere in 95/96 (Applets!), through Sun vs Microsoft over Java, from the heaviness of J2EE/EJBs, to the lighter weighings of Spring, the settling of Java as a backend/server technology. Sidestep: “Java” seems to be a central keyword in my family’s ancestry: my great-great grandfather was one of the first people in the world to drink a cup of Java and also was one of the first to set foot on the Indonesian island of Java, being on the same ship with Jan Pieterszoon Coen. My grandfather lived for 20 years in Malang (East Java), working as a civil (Delft) engineer. But I am diverting. The colonial period was by times a violent (by the Dutch) episode in Dutch history, not to be proud of.

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But times they are a-changing, technologies are evolving. I am happy these days to develop in Python (and JavaScript for the web-frontend). Like moving from C/C++ to Java back then, and now from Java to Python, what appeals to me: shortened development times, lesser lines of code  to debug and maintain, ease of deployment, a central repository (PyPi) , an independent, vibrant community and possibly more.  But again I am diverting, there are great and stable geo-products in Java like GeoServer I use daily. Diversity in programming languages is good. Someone (Jody Garnett?) posted somewhere about the C-tribe and Java-tribe within the Open Source geospatial world, but can’t find the reference. Back to the subject of this post!

 

 

Like said, the organizing team has done a great job postprocessing the event, to be found via www.geopython.net so listing all talks/workshops will not add value here. My overall feeling was that this conference, like the very first FOSS4G in Lausanne I attended in 2006, was the beginning of a global community. Above all this was also an event where folks with a shared interest met and conversed. Often at conferences one learns and shares the most during breaks and social gatherings. In short: I learned a lot, being a relative newcomer in the geospatial Python community: GeoNode, GeoDjango, Python with Grass, and much more. For example I learned about some general Python technologies like the  Jupyter Notebook that many presenters used. I found that many (like me) are using Flask for simple Python webapps/REST APIs. Flask expresses one of features I like about Python: minimalism.

I am grateful to the organizing team that I could present Stetl in the last session on the last day, since I submitted past the deadline. Luckily the room was still filled, though the cold beer was tempting just ahead. Mind: during the conference there was a heatwave, above 30 degrees C each day, yes in Switzerland. But all in all this was a very cool conference! Hope to see you at GeoPython 2017!

 

 

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