QGIS US User Group: The beginning of something big

David Dubovsky

Last week, Boundless and others hosted the first ever QGIS U.S. User Group meeting with 75 attendees at OpenGovHub in Washington DC.

The event attracted a diverse group of experts and novices from organizations as varied as NOAA, the World Bank, USAID, the American Red Cross, Deloitte, LockHeed Martin, the CDC and many others. As a new member of QGIS community myself, I was floored by the energy of the group and how quickly the project is evolving.

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Building QGIS

The day started with Jeff Johnson and Larry Shaffer setting the stage with presentations highlighting the history and evolution of QGIS from a shapefile viewer to full-fledged desktop application. Jeff went into detail about specific applications of QGIS, highlighting examples from NOAA and NASA. Larry picked it up from there and discussed the QGIS ecosystem and open source development community. He noted that plug-in development has been a long-time focus within the community and sees core development picking up steam in the coming year.

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Next, Tim Sutton from the QGIS project steering committee joined remotely. Thanks to OpenGovHub’s fantastic conference abilities, Tim being in South Africa didn’t pose a challenge. Tim provided further context to Larry’s discussion on core and plugin development and the steering committee’s focus for 2014.

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Later on, Gary Sherman joined remotely from Alaska and provided a brief history of QGIS development, including it’s origin as a shapefile viewer. Gary is also the author of the PyQGIS Programmer’s Guide on developing QGIS Plugins.

QGIS for Humanitarianism

After the remote sessions, Kate Chapman of the Humanitarian OpenStreet Map Team gave us an overview of InaSAFE, a QGIS plugin for emergency preparedness and response.

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Vivien Depardy and Yewondwossen Assefa of GFDDR then presented on the role QGIS (and GeoNode) plays in their emergency response and disaster recovery efforts. Larry provided context to their efforts, applauding their development model calling it a leading example of development.

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Workshops

After a quick lunch we split into two groups for hands-on workshops. Jeff Johnson led “Using QGIS with OpenGeo Suite” and Larry Shaffer led “How to Become a QGIS Developer”. I attended Jeff’s session, which provided a good opportunity to review the fantastic QGIS documentation with an experienced instructor. Jeff used the documentation as a starting point but added his tips and tricks along the way. He ended by showing us how to use the OpenGeo Explorer plugin to publish data to GeoServer.

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My colleague, Eva Shon, attended Larry’s workshop. Larry’s goal was to get more developers involved on the QGIS project. As the only core developer in the United States, he’s especially interested in increasing the number of developers from North America. He shared an early draft of QGIS core developer documentation and virtual machine images he’s working on intended to help new developers get started more quickly.

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Next Steps

Whether you were looking for an introduction to QGIS or were already active in the community, the day had something for everyone. The event ended with a happy hour and the only question left was when we’d do it again. To learn more about QGIS, download and install it using the OpenGeo Suite installer and check out documentation to see what it can do. Stay tuned for next QGIS U.S. User Group meetings being planned in Atlanta and Seattle.

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