OpenGeo Connections: A Conversation with Jody Garnett
(ENP Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ENP Newswire - 16 August 2013
Release date- 15082013 - Last week OpenGeo had the pleasure of welcoming noted open source community leader, Jody Garnett, to our team.
Jody has worked on everything from uDIG to GeoServer and is an admitted programming junkie. But Jody is much more than just a programmer. He's a teacher, a consultant, and a very effective problem solver. Last week we sat down with Jody to find out a bit more about his career, interests and plans at OpenGeo.
OpenGeo's David Dubovsky: Hi Jody, welcome to OpenGeo.
Jody Garnett: Hi David, Thanks. I'm super excited to join OpenGeo, and maybe see what trouble I can make!
DD: Hopefully not too much. When we scheduled this interview I had one thought running through my head, what took you so long to join us?
JG: Coming right out swinging... I've been following OpenGeo for some time now, and have worked with much of the team in the past, whether that be with Paul at a previous employer, or collaborating with Justin on GeoServer. There have been a few times where discussions about joining had taken place, but the timing was either not good on my part (I had responsibilities I would not walk away from) or the company's. Well, the stars have finally aligned and now I'm here.
DD: We're glad you are. Do you know what you'll be doing at OpenGeo?
JG: I'm not exactly sure yet, but I am really looking forward to being apart of this great team. I relish the opportunity to mentor developers and teach them what I know about building communities. I'm also looking forward to learning from them, when Justin was just getting going I remember helping him out, now I know he'll be teaching me.
I also hope to lend a hand with our training program. I love educating, I've been lucky to have the opportunity to teach others while at LisaSoft and Refractions and look forward to doing it again with OpenGeo.
DD: You said you've worked with Paul before? How long have you known each other?
JG: Paul and I go way back to the late 90s, when I met Paul as a subcontractor. After the dot com bubble burst I took a chance and joined him in Victoria.
DD: But currently you're not in British Columbia, you're in Australia?
JG: Yes that's right. I'm planning on moving back to Victoria sometime next year. It's a really beautiful place. I met my wife there, we have family there, I was raised in BC, went to university there. I'm looking forward to returning.
DD: So before Paul, open source etc. how did you get into this racket?
JG: I've been in the general industry for about 18 years, saying that out loud makes it seem awfully long. At my first job out of university I was able to utilize my 3D graphics skills for a business intelligence company. It became really obvious that when you need to show information about the real world to make decisions, maps are a good way to communicate your data. That job ended up being my first step towards geospatial.
DD: What about open source?
JG: Ah, of course. When I started in Victoria, Geoconnections Canada was working on their spatial data infrastructure (SDI). Canada has a lot of stuff to map, rocks, trees, minerals etc. Geoconnections was building it up component by component and we won the contract to make the Web Feature Service (WFS). After doing some research I found a project that looked to be written by a graduate student and I thought it might fit the bill.
DD: Can I assume that graduate student was Chris Holmes and that project was GeoServer?
JG: Yes and yes. GeoServer fit the bill for the project and I was thrown into open source. Initially fixing the documentation so I could compile. After that I dedicated myself to helping where I could.
I began with working on GeoTools, and then committed to a rewrite of GeoServer. One of the additions we made was adding a UI, which was admittedly terrible but it opened the doors for more people and the project really began to take off after that.
DD: Very interesting, when did your work with uDIG begin?
JG: After the GeoServer rewrite, which was fun but a real stretch for me, I set up the uDIG project. We aimed to build up the success of GeoServer and GeoTools for a desktop application. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, got a lot accomplished, and now I'm proud to say it's being incubated by LocationTech.
DD: So it seems that a large chunk of your career has been dedicated to the open source community and developing open source software.
JG: Yes and no. You may know me as a community leader, or a developer but I also have a long history as a technical architect. I've been in more meetings than I can count with customers, going over requirements, diagrams and working out solutions. I've also done quite a bit of customer support work. For example, in the past I worked with SoCAL Edison to help them accomplish some complex GIS stuff. They wanted to know how to lay the lines with minimal impact. Power line placement sound simple but we used simulated annealing on a friction surface computed from the utility model of stakeholder happiness. I do enjoy that type of alternatives modeling.
DD: Sounds complex to say the least. It seems like there's a consultant Jody and a community leader Jody.
JG: Well, actually most of my professional work is with customers, but yes, you could say that.
DD: Do you prefer one to the other? How are they different?
JG: They are completely different experiences, but they are both about people! When you are building a product, you have to consider the people that will use it, consider the problems it aims to solve. You are having a conversation, but it is in code. In the other case you are engaging with decision makers, and gathering information for an informed decision.
In the first case the code is the craftsmanship, that's what you do to make it. But writing the code is not the end; it's about making the tool to help people get something done. So the bottom line is that I'm really interested in helping people, in one way it is with software, with the other its more directly helping people to make informed decisions. In both cases, you are having a conversation with data.
Jody Garnett lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife. When he's not working with computers you may find him painting, drawing or practicing his most recent interest, Photography. Jody also enjoys running and dancing (especially swing). Jody blogs at how2map.com and tweets at @jodygarnett.
Welcome to OpenGeo, Jody!
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