Timmy's Telethon #1

So, addressing Timmy’s concerns about open source geospatial:

  1. Staffing: The specialized skills necessary to build and maintain an open source app are hard to come by. There is a premium on any specialization, is the talent pool to build and support these open source solutions deep enough to maintain continuity in staff skills?

There is, as with any great argument, a kernel of truth in this item, but it is wrapped in a thick, low-calorie, blanket of misdirection, like a corndog at a state fair.

So, should you be concerned about staffing your open source application? You should, to the extent that:

Timmy sees that, compared to proprietary toolsets, people with prior experience with open source tool sets are fewer and farther between, and leaps to the conclusion that there is a skills provision risk.

However, the skills necessary to work with open source geospatial applications are either easy to pick up quickly, or transferable from other domains.

The slight disadvantage open source has in providing decent tutorial-level guides for new users is offset by the advantage in access to a very helpful user community and direct access to the development community.

Summary: No matter whether you’re building on ESRI or open source, if you are building something complex your staff will have to learn a few new skills. Their prior experience with core concepts like programming and IT will serve them well in both domains, and the learning curve will be no worse either way.

Caveat: It’s possible Timmy is talking about people who will only learn a new skill if force fed it through a training course, and even then will only retain 50% of what they are taught, who write point-and-click recipes and stick them up on their cubicle walls, who think that “re-boot the server” is a genuine solution. If those are the people whose “skills” he is worrying about, I can only say “go with God, Timmy, peace be unto you, you have larger problems than proprietary vendor lock-in”.