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Inspiration from Victor Olaya at Boundless

Victor OlayaIt’s only been a week since I’ve joined OpenGeo but in that time I’ve had a number of of ideas that could turn into interesting developments, below you will find a quick previewof some of them.

I have to admit when I first arrived I was pretty nervous, I just wasn’t sure how I could contribute to OpenGeo, and more specifically to the OpenGeo Suite. After 8 years developing the SEXTANTE library for spatial data analysis, and with a strongly focused background in geoprocessing, I wasn’t sure I’d fit in. OpenGeo is full of  first-class developers who are heavily involved in the GeoServer, GeoWebCache, PostGIS and OpenLayers communities. Projects that I’m familiar with but have never worked on, being a desktop guy

But geoprocessing does have its place at OpenGeo, and it’s gaining importance. Look no further than the  recently completed work completed by Martin Davis, which opens up many new possibilities for processing through the web. One of many reasons I’ve joined the team is because OpenGeo has dedicated themselves to to expand geoprocessing, after all integrating SEXTANTE with web applications to bring true analytical capabilities to the web has always been a dream of mine. Although knowing little about web technologies had made it difficult to accomplish that task by myself. I concentrated on developing SEXTANTE hoping that others could later use it in a web context. As SEXTANTE gained popularity, a few projects began showing interest and some attempts were made to integrate SEXTANTE with map servers and similar applications, but eventually most of these development efforts were abandoned.

With foresight I see the primary problem was our approach. SEXTANTE was conceived as a library for desktop applications, and when put in a different context it had some scalability issues. It also had failed to reach the same audience that it does on the desktop. Needs in a web context are different than on the desktop, and that becomes especially important when we talk about spatial data analysis.

Now that I am working with people who have all the expertise that I lack, I see nothing but possibilities. The gap between the spatial data analysis people and those developing web mapping technologies has never been smaller, and I am happy to be on a team that has brought these groups together. Just like web mapping made digital cartography accesible to everyone (unlike desktop GIS, who were restricted to a more specialized audience), a similar change can happen in terms of spatial data analysis, reaching non-experts with robust, useful, well-designed and easy-to-use tools. I hope to contribute to it as much as I can to make it happen. Stay tuned!