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If you are a student or early-career developer and want to make your mark in open-source geospatial, the following geospatial organisations are participating in the 2024 Google Summer of Code:

Applications from candidates will be accepted between 18 March and 2 April, while the internships run for 12 weeks over the summer.

The Protomaps project, a set of protocols and software for serving fast map tiles over the Web, is transitioning to a new funding model.

Previously, Protomaps’ main source of funding was selling one-time downloads of basemap tiles. Now you can purchase access to commercial, hosted tile APIs and hands-on support through the project’s GitHub sponsorship page:

  • For $14, you get one million tile requests via the commercial API. The tileset is derived from the Daylight Map Distribution, which includes data from OpenStreetMap but has gone through additional quality checks.
  • For $140, you get fifty million tile requests via the API, plus an optional downloadable tileset in case you’re looking to host the tiles more cost-efficiently should you exceed the allowance.
  • Then there are two access tiers for $2,000 and $4,000, which give you access to Protomaps developers to provide support and consulting services.

In addition, all components needed to produce PMTiles and run the Protomaps infrastructure are open source; you can run the APIs yourself for the infrastructure cost only.

Developing open-source projects and financing them by selling professional services for development, maintenance and knowledge transfer is an idea some German geospatial businesses, like Terrestris or Wheregroup, have successfully implemented for years. But I haven’t seen it yet for a company selling map tiles.

Development Seed’s data team in Ayacucho, Peru has spun out to form GeoCompas:

I am pleased to announce that the skilled data and annotation team from DevSeed is separating to become an independent employee-owned company called GeoCompas. The Geo AI practice at Development Seed has grown, and the GeoCompas team has been essential in providing crucial mapping, annotation, QA, and automation support. Their expertise in geodata is now available to everyone.

The new company focusses on OpenStreetMap editing, data labelling and annotation for AI projects, but also development of data processing pipelines and web services.

Darren Wiens of SparkGeo demonstrates an AI-driven approach to generating audio descriptions for interactive web maps. The overall process is simple yet effective:

  1. Convert the current map view to an image.
  2. Upload the image to OpenAI’s API to return a text description of the images.
  3. Upload the text description to OpenAI’s API to receive the audio of the text description.

It’s one example of how new generative AI technologies can be put to good use. It is simply impossible for humans to provide alt-text for large interactive maps and AI is the one (the only?) way to make textual descriptions of maps scalable.

This looks like an interesting event: Element84 are hosting a three-hour workshop on user-centred design with a specific focus on geospatial applications:

Join us for a comprehensive 3-hour experience tailored for UX Designers delving into geospatial patterns, Frontend Developers honing essential UX design skills, as well as Leaders and Management keen to understand the profound impact of effective design on geospatial workflows. Immerse yourself in geospatial patterns, tackle hands-on design challenges, and absorb essential UX principles meticulously crafted to meet the specific demands of the geospatial sector. Whether you’re looking to seamlessly integrate geospatial patterns into your design mockups, enhance your understanding of how users will interact with your software, or understand the value of a targeted design process, this workshop ensures you depart with practical skills for creating useful and impactful geospatial applications.

The workshop is scheduled for 19 March. Tickets are 75USD.

Tom MacWright

In short:

  • MIT license
  • TypeScript codebase
  • Contributions welcome

Placemark is the map editor software-as-a-service that I built for several years. It’s a website where you can import, create, edit, export, publish, and visualize geospatial data.

The code is on GitHub and already receiving contributions.

You can serve PMTiles directly from a cloud object storage but in some cases, you want to control who accesses data and how often—and you need a server for that. Craig Kochis wrote up two examples of how to serve PMTiles using a NodeJS server application from a co-located file and S3.

A webinar on cloud-native geospatial technologies and their applications in the pacific region features four speakers:

  • Wei Ji Leong of Development Seed introduces cloud-optimised data formats for geospatial data, focussing on imaging, multi-dimensional data cubes, point clouds and vector data.
  • Alex Leith of Auspatious talked through the history of Digital Earth platforms, and how cloud-native spatial data have shaped and influenced their development.
  • Leo Ghignone from the University of Tasmania explained how IMOS, the Integrated Marine Observing System, use cloud-optimised data to support oceanographic research around the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Fang Yuan of Frontier SI shared a perspective from application developers who used cloud-native data to implement scalable and performant geospatial solutions.

The two-hour recording is now available online.

collection-transaction is a new STAC extension proposing an API for managing STAC collections and providing a clean REST interface for managing collection metadata:

  • POST to create,
  • PATCH or PUT to update, and
  • DELETE to delete an item.

stac-fastapi’s transaction extension already supports collection management, but its implementation is inconsistent with transactions API for items. collection-transaction will align both APIs and provide a consistent standard for managing STAC metadata.

Brian Timoney contemplates why talented GIS professionals seek employment in other areas, tracing the problem to broad scoped roles and lower pay compared to similar roles in other industries.

Even discounting the vagaries of job titles, the skew in the distribution of GIS Analyst salaries is notable because it implies a stagnant middle grinding away while effectively blocking the ability of new entrants to rapidly ascend the wage scale as you’d find in more “normal” distributions

I have no numbers to back this up, but my gut feeling is that most GIS Analysts work in civil service. Salaries in civil service are tightly regulated; you don’t just negotiate a higher pay unless your department has a role in a higher salary band and you land that job. That might explain why we’re seeing this skew towards lower salaries and the limited upward mobility.

That said, Brian’s point is correct: GIS-specific roles are often too broadly scoped and underpaid.

The recordings from this year’s PostGIS day are available on Youtube; just in time so you can add them to your festive tech playlist.

The very popular SatSummit is back next year on the 16 and 17 May, as always in Washington DC.

SatSummit convenes leaders in the satellite industry and experts in global development for 2 days of presentations and in-depth conversations on solving the world’s most critical development challenges with satellite data.

At this point, the organisers are looking for sponsors; if you have a couple of bucks to spare, consider sponsoring one of the few events that usually assembles a truly diverse set of speakers. The call for session proposals and registration have not yet been announced.

Sad news from Placemark today, the platform is shutting down in January:

Well, I’ve made the decision to wind down my efforts on Placemark - it’s been a lovely journey thanks to great folks using it (like you!) but ultimately wasn’t self-sustaining financially.

Starting today,

  • New signups will be disabled
  • Existing paid users will have free access until January 19, 2024
  • In January 2024 I’ll release the full source code for the application as open source

The writing has been on the wall since Tom MacWright wrote in January:

I’ve envisioned it as a tool that you can use for simple things but can grow into a tool you use professionally or semi-professionally, but maybe that’s not the future: the future is Canva, not Illustrator.

Tom was the creator and only person who worked on Placemark (as far as I know). It’s hard to compete as a one-person company, when products as impressive Felt launch at the same time.

LAT × LONG on Bluesky

A short programming announcement: In addition to Twitter and Mastodon, I’ve started posting updates to Bluesky.

I also have a couple of Bluesky invites to give away. If you’re interested, shoot me an email at Yes I prefer email; I’m that old. I’ll send the invites out on a first come, first serve basis. I will be using your email adress for this purpose only, I won’t store your email or sign you up for a newsletter.

I’d like to use the occasion to remind everyone that the feeds are the best way to get notified of new content on the site. No sign-up required, you get full articles delivered to your favourite feed reader, and you get to support the open web.