The Map Is Not The Territory

A blog by Christian Willmes.

My summary of the FOSS4G 2016

| categories: conference, open source, geospatial, osgeo, research | View Comments


Last week I attended the FOSS4G 2016 conference in Bonn. I am still digesting my impressions, because there were a lot of them.
First, the location was really great. The new WCCB around the former german Bundestag parliament building is just beautiful, the technical facilities are brand new. I never sat in more comfortable chairs during a conference before. :-) See the FOSS4G flickr group photos to get an impression of the location (also embedded at the end of this post).

Then, the weather was just amazing, all three conference days with temperature of above 30°C, the venue is directly located at the river front, so you could just step outside and enjoy the weather with a beautiful view on the ships going on the Rhine river.

Besides this perfect boundary conditions for a successful conference, the presentations and talks were of very high quality and quantity too. The programm was very well selcted.

But one of the most remarkable thigs about FOSS4G 2016 is, that the video streaming and recordings of every talk of the conference were just perfect. I think this is because the @c3voc from the famous Chaos Computer Club (CCC) was in charge. Which is just priceless, or in other terms I know of no company you can hire to deliver such a video streaming setup, besides (maybe) a professional bradcasting company. You can find all the recordings from here, enjoy!

Additionally, I had two talks which went pretty well I think.

PaleoMaps talk

My first talk was on the first day of the conference, Wednesday 24th August, 15h at the Fireplace Room. The talk was about a new project we started within our Collaborative Research Centre, titled PaleoMaps: SDI for paleoenvironment GIS data".

Semantic MediaWiki @ OSGeo Wiki talk

My second talk was on the second day of the conference, Thursday 25th August, 12h in the Plenary Office. This talk was about my endeavours to improve the OSGeo wiki for collaboratively storing and handling structured information and data. The talk is titled "SMW @ OSGeo Wiki – How semantics improve the wiki and facilitate a collaborative database for OSGeo".

The conference

The rest of the conference was even more awesome. I was really happy to see the rising amount of talks concerning Linked Data and the Semantic Web. Here is a short list of talks I recommend you to watch the recordings:

  • How Linked Open Data finds the bar near you (Rob van Loon): Abstract | Video
  • Integrating the spatial web with linked open data using GeoDCAT-AP (Paul van Genuchten) : Abstract | Video
  • Spatial data and the Search engines (Paul van Genuchten): Abstract | Video
  • Leaflet.annotate - Semantic markup for geographic web maps in HTML (Malte Reißig): Abstract | Video

The talks on GeoNode and on CKAN were also very interesting to me, because I use those applications as Backend and Middleware for the Research Data Infrastrucutre CRC806-Database, that I develop, build and maintain during my research job at University of Cologne.

  • The Evolution of the GeoNode Community (Jeffrey Johnson): Abstract | Video
  • Implementing Open Geospatial Data Portals with CKAN, pycsw and PublicaMundi: the geodata.gov.gr case (Angelos Tzotsos): Abstract | Video
  • A RESTful API for linking geodata (Francesco Bartoli): Abstract | Video

And one talk, I really want to recommend, is the last Keynote given by Peter Küsterer. The talk was titled: "Sahana as an indispensable tool for disaster management", and it told about the application of the Sahana software to manage the refugee situation in late summer of 2015 in Germany, when >1.000.000 refugees made their way to Germany.

And finally there was the closing ceremony and there were some Awards. The most important award, the Sol Katz Award went to Jeff McKenna, who could not attend the conference, but was able to send thanks and acceptance of the award through a great video message. Jonas Eberle got the best presentation award from the the Academic Track, the award for the best Poster went to Lorraine Barrythat was awarded with 500,- €, and Evan Rouault won the best developer award, that is recognized with 1000,- €. And here you can enjoy the many fotos, that were collected in the FOSS4G flickr pool:

And next year Boston!

The organizing team of the upcoming next FOSS4G 2017, was showing a "wicked awesome" video presenting the next hosting location of the conference series. I am really got fixed to the idea of going to Boston next year. Need to come up with a new idea or project, that I can present there to get my travel fundet by my University. :-)

Have fun!


 

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Preparations for FOSS4G 2016 in Bonn

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FOSS4G Conference

I am very much looking forward to participate in the 2016 FOSS4G conference taking place in Bonn, Germany this year. FOSS4G is one of the conferences I try to participate every year because I really like the spirit of the Open Source Geospatial community that gathers on this international conference series once a year during the dog days. My first FOSS4G was 2010 in Barcelona, then I was in Nottingham 2013 (my blog post about 2013 FOSS4G), 2014 I also attended at FOSS4G in Portland, about which I also blogged. So this year will be my fourth FOSS4G participation! And best is, it will be just around the corner from my home town Cologne, so I can stay at home during the conference and do not need to book travel and a hotel, which is quite weird for participating in an international conference :), but also quite comfortable and indeed cost saving. I will give two talks and will chair one session, on which I introduce some details in the following.

PaleoMaps talk

My first talk will be on the first day of the conference, Wednesday 24th August, 15h at the Fireplace Room. The talk will be about a new project we started within our Collaborative Research Centre, titled PaleoMaps: SDI for paleoenvironment GIS data". Strikingly (to me), the talk has the ID #555 in the conference system :). Here is the abstract of the talk:

Paleoenvironmental studies and according information (data) are abundantly pub-lished and available in the scientific record. However, GIS-based paleoenvironmental information and datasets are comparably rare. Here, we present an OpenScience approach for collecting and creating GIS-based data and maps of paleoenvironments, and publishing them in a web based Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI),for access by the archaeology and paleoenvironment communities. The Open Science approach to the publication of data, allows to properly cite the published datasets as bibliographic sources in research that builds upon these data sets.This paper has its focus on the implementation and setup of the Free and OpenSource Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) based SDI, and on the workflow for compiling and publishing the GIS data.

I submitted the talk for the FOSS4G Academic Track, on which I also volunteer as a reviewer and as a Track Editor, about which I will explain further below some more.

Semantic MediaWiki @ OSGeo Wiki talk

My second talk will be on the second day of the conference, Thursday 25th August, 12h in the Plenary Office. This talk is about my endeavours to improve the OSGeo wiki for collaboratively storing and handling structured information and data. The talk is titled "SMW @ OSGeo Wiki – How semantics improve the wiki and facilitate a collaborative database for OSGeo". Coincidentally, the talk has the ID #111, which also bugs me a bit :). The abstract of the talk is given in the following:

Recently, the OSGeo wiki was updated from an ancient version to the current LTS release of MediaWiki. This update broke the functionality of the first OSGeo wiki usermap implementation, dating back to 2008. The map shows the location of OSGeo members on a web map integrated into the wiki. A new version of the usermap [1] was implemented based on Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) [2] to replace the first usermap [3]. This presentation will describe the new features and possibilities that SMW adds to the OSGeo Wiki. After a short introduction to SMW, based on the OSGeo member model, that recently replaced the old usermap, a basic data model and its use in the wiki, as well as major features of SMW are explained. The data model development approach, using mobo [4], applied for implementing the OSGeo Members map will be explained briefly. Additionally, simple examples for bootstrapping smaller semantic models are given too. The presentation concludes with ideas for further applications of SMW in the OSGeo wiki, like the already implemented Advocate and Board lists pages, as well as possible applications, for example a collaboratively maintained OSGeo/FOSS4G service provider directory, or even a collaborative open geospatial data directory are proposed or suggested.

Session Chair

I also volunteer as Session Chair on the third day of the conference, Friday 26th August, Tunnel. The session will host two very interesting talks by well known members of the OSGeo community. The first talk will be given by Pirmin Kalberer on "Using and extending GeoPackages". And the second talk will be given by Sean Gillies on the topic GeoJSON and the IETF.

Academic Track

Additionally, I volunteered for organizing the Academic Track, together with Franz-Josef and Pradeepkumar. I was involved in three paper reviews as a reviewer, and in seven contributions as Track Editor, assigning reviewers and overseeing the review process.

...

I am sure, this will be a great conference. It will take place at the newly opened World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB), which is build around the former German Bundestag building, including the former Parliaments Plenary Chamber and further facilities of the Bonner Bundestag. It will be a great experience to meet at this historic, and also architecturally interesting place. As said, I am really looking forward to experience this special place, as well to meet all the great people of the Open Source Geospatial community.


 

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The daily kindergardening of OSGeo wiki spammers

| categories: osgeo, semantic mediawiki | View Comments

I regret to bother you with this topic, but I need to write something about my frustration with increasing spam activity in the OSGeo wiki. It is really unbelievable how much human time resources these spammers invest to put some links and upload some documents into the wiki.

Since some time I do some voluntary work in helping to maintain the OSGeo wiki. I do this because I have some Mediawiki and Semantic Mediawiki knowledge from my other research and work projects, that I am happy to share with the OSGeo community.

Originally the OSGeo wiki was linked to the central OSGeo LDAP directory for identity and account management, thus in this time the user account management was not carried out through the wiki but through that LDAP directory. Since about two years now, the LDAP integration with the wiki has been broken, because the extension we used would not have been updated to work with the newer versions of Mediawiki.

Meanwhile, because I myself felt not knowledgeable enough about LDAP and Martin Spott tried but did not succeed to get another LDAP extension to work, we had to manage the user accounts from within the wiki. Because the standard account request/creation procedure of Mediawiki is not well protected against abuse, its actually really simple to let bots create huge numbers of spam accounts, we first disabled the account registration, and had new users request new accounts via email to the OSGeo SAC mailing list. After this proved to be unhandy, we decided to install the ConfirmAccount Extension, to handle account requests.

This extension requires from new users, additionally to a valid and confirmed email address, to provide a short biography about them self. This biography is then reviewed by SAC volunteers, to check if the requester is not a spammer. The SAC volunteer has the options to Accept, Reject, Hold, or to qualify the request as Spam. On Reject, the requester is informed with a standard note, that his request was denied. On Hold, the volunteer can ask for additional information from the requester to decide upon that if the request is valid, on spam the request is denied, but the requester is not informed, further more his email address is blocked from further requests. On Accept the user account is created with a random password and notified by email about this.

So far so good, but from here it gets messy, because we experience about ~10 account requests a day of which about 99% are fraudulent and or spam requests. And the spammers are actual humans from SEO companies, I guess. They make up all kinds of things, that let me be certain that they have some human agents pasting this into the requests. Here are some nice example biographies, I got to read:

User:Maleshwar: Born as a princess into a royal family of Kingdom of Dagbon, in the Northern Region of Ghana, Gunu has been interested in dancing and music since she was young. She competed in regional and national dance competitions, winning the dance championship for the northern Region and second place in the 1998 National Dance Championship. She took second place in the Hiplife dance championship in 2003, where she met King Ayisoba and Terry Bonchaka, who subsequently become collaborators.

Or:

User:Marshrobin088: Hi my name is Robin Marsh and I've been in the digital design industry for 3 years. As a kid, art and technology always interested me. I could lose track of time doing art or messing around with computers.The way I approach web development is keeping in mind scalability, organisation, and clean syntax. As for the message or purpose is the nucleus,Self learner,highly interested in Geospatial development activities using open source tools. Having knowledge of GIS,vector graphics programming and data bases. Involved in teaching Geology, web and geospatial development. I am proficient in HTML/HTML5, CSS/CSS3, LESS, SASS, XML, JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX, and SQL/MySQL/PostgreSQL, to name a few. I am also proficient in many non-web-based languages, including but not limited to Java, Scheme/Racket, C, ACL2 (LISP), and MIPS Assembly. I have also worked on some smaller Python projects, and have used the language to create one-time use tools for data processing and similar purposes.

On these two above requests, for example, I asked the requesters back with a standard phrase like “Can you please elaborate about your relation/interest in OSGeo? ”, and never heard back. Some request are easy to identify as spam like the following:

User:Baarishi: baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi is a good boy baarishi

Or:

User:Mekee4444: im a person that need this web id to produce my business in whole world

And here are two example bios of spammers that got through, because I thought that these were valid requests:

User:Ehalu2016: Hi my name is Eahul and I've been in the digital design industry for 5 years. As a kid, art and technology always interested me. I could lose track of time doing art or messing around with computers.The way I approach web development is keeping in mind scalability, organisation, and clean syntax. As for the message or purpose is the nucleus,Self learner,highly interested in Geospatial development activities using open source tools. Having knowledge of GIS,vector graphics programming and data bases. Involved in teaching Geology, web and geospatial development

Or:

User:Mayerjohntec: A web developer and software engineer by profession, An open source enthusiast and a maker by heart. Honored to be sharing space among the Leaders we look up to and admire. I love contributing my best to take the Open Source Mission and OPEN WEB forward. I hold a Masters in Computers degree and have been working and contributing towards the open source community in all ways I can. Love Code, Privacy and Advocacy, learning, teaching and Community Building. I support Open data and Open Knowledge. As am a social person, and love interacting with new people,traveling, reading books, history, museums and listening to all kinds of music. Thanks John Mayer

As you can see from these above examples, I have to read a lot of BS on a daily basis fighting spam requests and cleaning up behind some spammers that got through. And in some cases it is really not easy to decide if its spam or not. Right now I tend to accept request were I am not sure, because it is really easy to block a user and delete/revert all his/her edits ever made to the wiki, as soon as I see them spamming.

But in the end, its already more than half an hour of work per day, and it seemingly will not get less...


 

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New SemanticMediawiki based OSGeo Member Map

| categories: webdev, semantic web, geospatial, osgeo, semantic mediawiki | View Comments

In this post, I give some background on the new Semantic Mediawik based OSGeo Members map, that replaced the userMap. Starting with the Mediawiki update and introducing Semantic Mediawiki, some words about the history of the userMap and most important an overview of the new implementation and possible additional applications of Semantic Mediawiki in the OSGeo Wiki are given.

The introduction of Semantic Mediawiki into the OSGeo Wiki

Recently, thanks to an effort by OSGeo SAC (namely by Martin Spott), the OSGeo Wiki underlying Mediawiki software was upgraded from an ancient version (I think it was 1.12) to the current 1.25.3. Additionally the Semantic Mediawiki (SMW) extension, including Semantic Maps was installed, to enhance the OSGeo Wiki with its features.

SMW is a Mediawiki extension, that allows to structure wiki content (as data) and provides tools for queriying, export and visualization of this structured data. The Semantic Maps extension adds the capabilitiy to visualize SMW content, containing data of the special type "Geographic Coordinate" on maps. SMW even offers an API that allows to query the structured data stored in the wiki from external applications and export data based on queries. SMW is a mature project running on many large Mediawiki implementations, by well known organizations like NASA, OLPC, The Free Software Directory, semanticweb.org, to name just a few.

The OSGeo Wiki userMap

The original OSGeo Wiki userMap, implemented by me in 2008 during an internship at WhereGroup, is now broken because of dependencies of the not anymore supported Mediawiki extension called Simple Forms. The extension implemented a parser hook, that allowed to store the spatial locations of users in a PostGIS database. And parser hooks for including OpenLayers based map into wiki pages, displaying a users Location as well as a map of all were implemented in this first version of the userMap. The now deprecated documentaion is for now still available in the wiki, to get an overview.

SMW based OSGeo Members map

The SMW data model was developed using a tool called mobo. Due to using mobo, it is possible to develop and maintain an SMW data model from a central point in a consistent manner, enhancing maintainability, coordinating possible collaboration and also allowing to grow the Schema to additional applications and scopes over time. Mobo is a command line toolset that helps building Semantic MediaWiki structure in an agile, model driven engineering (MDE) way. The Schema is formulated applying the JSON-Schema specification, in JSON or YAML notation, in a defined folder structure considering file naming conventions. A bit similar to some MVC frameworks for building a web applications domain. The documaentation including a tutorial and examples of the mobo toolkit, can be found here.

The development code files of the mobo model are stored and published in a GitHub repository, for community review and allowing anyone to send pull requests for helping to improve the SMW based capabilities of the OSGeo Wiki.

It was even possible, to save the locations entered through the previous userMap implementation into the mentioned PostGIS table. This was possible by exporting the data from the PosGIS table as CSV, applying some Python foo on the CSV (especially on the geometry wkb notation using Shapely) and importing the data into the wiki as CSV, using the Mediawiki DataTransfer Extension.

Conclusion and Outlook

The application of SMW technology in the OSGeo wiki has, with the introduction of the OSGeo Members model, created a valuable directory that gives a nice overview of the OSGeo community. It is possible to extend the model in the future, to a directory of Charter Members, or OSGeo Advocates. This would yield sortable tables and of course maps of these contacts.

It is even possible to develop models for the Service Providers, to replace the sometimes hard to maintain current Service Provider directory, or for example a model of the Geo4All laboratories to generate directory and an according map. But one of my favorite possible models would be a model for an Open Geo Data directory in the OSGeo wiki.

All these models and the emerging directories would be collaboratively created and maintained by the OSGeo community by just editing the wiki. And not yet to speak of what is possible with the Mediawiki API for querying the structured data and getting the results nicely in JSON format, and by far not yet to speak of enabling the SPARQL-Endpoint which comes with Semantic Mediawiki.

So, the OSGeo Wiki has a bright future If we want. I will do my best for this goal.

Have fun!


 

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