Light at the end of the tunnel
Time for a second blog from Denise and another meaty topic for discussion.
If any of you readers work with the OGC and have not seen or heard of the GeoServices REST candidate standard in the past 2 months – where have you been?
Just over 2 years ago a draft charter was put together to create a Standards Working Group (SWG) to advance a GeoServices REST API as a possible candidate OGC standard. To create a SWG in the OGC, you need 3 or more different OGC Member organizations endorse the charter. A SWG charter is developed and first reviewed by OGC staff for completeness and then reviewed by the OGC Technical Committee and the public for additional input and discussion. Further, if there are any objections to the charter, then we go back to polish it a bit more. After some discussion at the Taichung TC meeting in June 2011, the draft GeosServices REST API charter was completed and reviewed by the OGC membership. After a three week Technical Committee review period, the charter was approved and the SWG got underway.
At this point we had 16 charter supporting organizations representing industry, government and academia. Something that should be highlighted here is that when a Member brings a potential standard to the OGC, they are required to sign over all the related intellectual property in order for it to be considered to be approved as an OGC standard. In the case of GeoServices REST API, Esri did this with their GeoServices REST API and did so willingly and in good faith. This means that the only control the Member has over an OGC document at that point is the work they bring to the SWG. All the other SWG members have an equal voice and can recommend changes and additions and/or deletions.
Since the SWG began work, the group membership has grown, and SWG members invested significant time and resources to the development and shaping of this candidate standard based on the Esri supplied candidate technology. For more technical info on this candidate standard see http://www.opengeospatial.org/projects/groups/gservrestswg. There was a public comment period in late 2012, with a number of comments received and adjudicated. Finally, in April 2013 the SWG members moved that the OGC Technical Committee consider approval of the GeoServices REST API as an OGC standard and the 60 day voting period began.
The subsequent eruption of passion and discussion regarding this candidate standard was quite impressive. An array of issues were raised regarding technical merit, favouritism, competing standards, backwards compatibility, relevance of OGC and more. With respect to our Policies and Procedures, however, I do want to say that at all times in this process they have been followed and not compromised. Now I am not going to say the P & P are perfect, though they have worked quite successfully and have been developed and evolved over the last 20 years. I am quite comfortable in saying that we have learnt a lot through the feedback and events of the past few months that will ensure that our P & P are further refined. We are looking forward to making appropriate changes in partnership with our members and alliance partners to ensure we help drive agile, responsive, interoperability innovations.
I don’t think that anyone involved in our board, architecture board, planning committee, technical committee or SWG would disagree with me when I say that the path of developing this candidate standard has been a challenging one. But the outcome of this process to date has taken into consideration the votes and voices of members as well as public input.
So, I have mentioned Esri several times, and will mention them again in this blog. Does this mean that I am favouring them? No. Esri, like all of our members are a valuable and a vital part of our process. In my opinion, it appears they have been singled out in member discussions and online media over the past few months – in some cases unfairly and misleadingly. Whether for or against an activity in the OGC process, Esri and other OGC members and staff deserve a level of professionalism and respect, that has on occasion been lacking in discussions over the past few months.
On that note let me just clarify a couple of further misconceptions about recent events.
•The SWG did move to withdraw the motion to approve the GeoServices REST API as an OGC standard. This does not mean that Esri has withdrawn the candidate standard from the OGC process as has been reported in some media channels. The SWG is still active and looking for guidance and clarification on a number of technical, policy and procedural issues to determine the best paths forwards to continue their work.
• Secondly, we absolutely welcome the letters and public comments, such as the letter from OSGeo, as valuable contributions to the feedback process. However, please remember that the voices of feedback both for and against came from many areas – from OGC voting members, from the broader OGC membership, and from industry external to the OGC (and not just the open source community). These collective voices need to be acknowledged for the influence and impact they have had on the TC vote and the recent SWG actions.
As a relatively new OGC staff member I have found it quite disheartening to see staff integrity being called into question. Most notable is the accusation that any one of the OGC staff would favour one member organisation above another. I can but say that in my first 8 months with this organisation the people I work with have taken this matter extremely seriously and are always conscious to ensure that they do not show favouritism or inappropriately influence the OGC process. The OGC staff members are some of the most dedicated people I have ever worked with and most work crazy hours to try and keep up with the support needs for this great community.
We have learned much over the past few months and in many cases, that learning will help us to continue to grow and change the OGC to better meet the needs of our members and the users of our standards. I would like to express a sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone that has contributed in a professional and respectful manner. Without people who are passionate, caring and willing to contribute their time and expertise the OGC would most certainly become irrelevant. I take great pride in knowing I work for an organisation that so many people care so much about, and I am confident we will all be working together as we embark next year on the third decade in the life of the OGC.
As I close, I am excited to report that the public debate has sparked new interest from several organisations outside of the OGC who are now keen to join and contribute to the OGC’s work and to have a voting position as part of the consensus process. New people often mean new ideas and hopefully this will result in additional pathways for innovation and interoperability.