The hammer for every nail

I am going to jump on a bandwagon, one we are probably all on at some level, and give a mighty ‘hear-hear’ to Adena for pointing out that OpenSource isn’t always the answer, often open standards play as much, if not more of a role in our data oriented industry.  Despite a few slips of the keys or tongues in the past, and our apparent inability to nail down someone from the OGC for an interview (wink-wink, nudge-nudge…the microphone is your friend), I think open standards are huge.  The fact that ESRI let the shapefile specs loose on the world years ago (along with the geodatabase XML schema more recently) has made their vector formats a defacto standard in most of the GIS software packages, open source and proprietary.  Just to toss in my word on Intergraph, I have always been a big fan because of their attempt to take advantage of as many formats as possible (same goes for GDAL)…the opposite side of their breadth of compatability is the fact that there are so many formats for geospatial data. 

With the web services movement well underway and standards coming out such as the various W*S formats from the OGC, we can now begin to better unify around ways of serving data. However, I think that we are still missing a component in this mixture of open standards.  We still lack an ISO standard for distributing flat data.  SDTS, DEM, E00, DLG, it is the alphabet soup that leaks out of the goverment kettle of data servers, and even though I have a converter for each…can we not just go with 3 formats, one each for vectors, rasters, and tins.  Heck how about one format with the header information for the converter to figure it out…

So, to wrap up this little diatribe, I think that we should all keep in mind Adena’s suggestion that we keep an eye on interoperable standards, whether they come out of the semantic web or new computing ontologies that we haven’t latched onto yet.  Either way they can only help us in our day-to-day lives as we get access to more, and larger, datasets.

PS…OpenSource still rocks 🙂

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Jesse is Instructor in Geography and a PhD candidate in Geography focusing on the integration of phenomenology and geospatial technologies to study prehistoric cultural landscape. He is a GIS Professional and Registered Professional Archaeologist and holds an MA in Geography and a BS in Anthropology with a concentration in archaeology.