The Need for Open Source Geo Books
Why we started the company in the first place – to expand the global knowledge base for our favorite tools and encourage new users to join in the fun.
In 2006 I was proud to help launch the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). My dream was to have every geospatial user around the world know about the same tools I had grown to love and use in my daily work. At the time I was primarily using MapServer, PostGIS, and GDAL. Others were using GeoServer, GRASS GIS, QGIS, and more.
But the products struggled to grow because the community, for many of them, was just getting started and there was little to no funding available to promote them. There was oftentimes not even enough funding for proper infrastructure, so spending it on marketing was not a high priority.
So I spent five years at OSGeo driving the marketing, outreach, and fundraising side of these projects and while doing so I heard many power users, academics, trainers, and professionals complain about the lack of structured training material.
In particular, professors had trouble breaking out of the proprietary toolsets because they had easier access to training materials. I wanted to see if we could fix that.
Bridging the geospatial knowledge gap
Enter Locate Press.
There is so much great information that stays locked up in the heads of developers, power users, and project managers. My plan was to work with existing experts in the field and help them share their knowledge in a useful form. Then trainers, educators, and professionals would have their knowledge more easily at hand. We used financial incentives to help them get their title into the hands of their fanbase and beyond (50% royalties is well beyond industry standard).
And there are great writers out there who also happen to be open source geospatial advocates, but these people are hard to find because they may not be so vocal in the project communities.
Finding and inviting these writers, and connecting better with broader communities, requires a different approach than we’ve had so far.
As part of a renewed strategy, I view the next 5 years of book development in two buckets: domains and technology. Every professional, every writer, and every product user fits into one of these.
Domains: building the profession
Some geospatial experts just see themselves as geographers or teachers and may never think that their knowledge or training approach is worth sharing. Others work in areas of business like forestry or cartography and consider themselves a sort of industrial niche area that only a few people care about.
These are domain professionals and warrant their own series. It’s not always about technology, but how you apply it to solve problems — in your business or on the ground. It’s not just about making maps or analyzing data, the spectrum of knowledge that is useful to share is much wider.
For example, the more entrepreneurial-minded bunch that already lead workshops, write blog series, or run podcasts already have the kinds of knowledge that others enjoy or they would have no audience. They know how to tap into the needs of a diverse set of communities and bring interesting information to light.
We need similar vigor in our professional and volunteer activities. How can the project you are working on today get into more hands? In what ways can it help others produce a product or solution faster or better?
A domain-focused book series is needed to help bridge the gap and help coalesce communities of interest around us all.
Tech: advocating for solutions
There are still many powerful, useful projects that are going unnoticed today. So marketing in general is going to help get the word out and bring in new contributors. There is an amazing amount of value in contributors who can’t code and may not even be “pros” at using a particular software product. They can still be powerful advocates for other users to learn from.
If this is you, then your advocacy and passion can still help products that you depend on to develop further. By bringing more attention to it through a book, it helps developers know their market is strong and helps professionals know the project is a serious endeavor (because it even has a book).
The end game
Ignoring for a moment that books do eventually get out of date, our work here will be done when everyone can get the training they need from a book, in-person training, or professional outreach at a conference. When they can then pull together a custom bundle of the particular products they need and have accompanying training material at a professional level, things will be amazing.
At Locate Press we’ve focused on technology titles and will continue to do so. However, as we move more and more into the different professional areas, a secondary focus domain-related topics will eventually emerge. At the end of the day there can be some very interesting outcomes.
Imagine with me if you will:
- a box set of all the OSGeo project books
- re-usable workshop guide books for the top 10 most popular platforms
- how-to guides for new professionals in all major industries
- pre-packaged training materials to support those delivering in-person training
These are all possible given the right focus and timing. I hope you’ll consider joining us in this quest.
If you have a book idea or know someone who would be a great author for us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Even if it turns out to be mismatch, I’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime, check out our book catalog and let us know what is missing for you.