IMGeospatial to open source software

Should we, or shouldn’t we? That’s the question

We’ve often chatted in the office about the pros and cons of making part of our tech open source, so now we thought it’s about time to ask some serious questions of ourselves.

First off, we have to ask should we, and if yes, then what exactly would we make open source and indeed, why?  Alternately, if we decide not to go down the OSS path, what’s our justification for passing up on the possible benefits some companies claim, and ignoring this myth-busting blog from GitLab?

GitLab screenshot

We’re not considering offering AIMEE, our Automated Intelligent Multi-feature Extraction Engine you’ll be sad to hear, but the concept of licensing as open source selected apps we’ve created to control our data stack seems like a no-brainer, even though we’re aware that for some people, open sourcing hasn’t quite lived up to expectations.

The idea sprang from the thought that the AI, geospatial and business intelligence communities should be working together to produce something useful for our community members. Excluding each company’s IP and secret source code, there are a lot of similar apps and tools that are used and we all have to create them to achieve our desired data pipelines. It doesn’t make sense from our perspective that we’re all creating the same or similar types of apps or tools and then keeping them secret when we all know how to build them. Shouldn’t we be thinking about each of us developing and building an app that performs a specific task, then releasing it as an open source component we can all use, thereby letting each company focus on the important and interesting parts of the IP and concentrating on driving the communities forward? Does 2+2 really equal 5?

open source initiative logo

For IMGeospatial, there are a number of tools and apps we’re thinking about giving to everyone. One of the components we’re considering offering is a ‘Digester’ for data provided by some of our suppliers, which could be used in open data cubes. People and organisations across our communities each have apps and tools like this they could open source and this would not affect their own IP and would give everyone more time to focus on what is important, solving our customers’, and the world’s problems.

We’re seriously considering doing this, mindful of the notion that rather than working towards our separate goals, sometimes advantage can be conferred by actually collaborating with ‘competitors’. It certainly hasn’t done Google or Uber any harm sharing parts of their technology, has it? Careful choices must be made about which specific apps to make available and just as importantly, which type of license to use, but we’re already investigating our options, so look out over the next six months or so for open source apps freely available to use and develop as our communities see fit.

Posted: June 6, 2019

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