Review of FOSS4G 2023


FOSS4G 2023 was held in Prizren, Kosovo and there were 800+ attendees from 120+ countries. This was a great attendance despite Kosovo not being the easiest place to get to, especially if you were me. I had booked flights to and from Belgrade, Serbia because they were a relatively good times for me (I am missing being only 1 hour from a London airport). It looked like an easy 4 hour drive from the airport to Prizren. Then about a fortnight before the conference Kosovo closed it border to Serbian registered cars! A subsequent check all showed that most of the hire companies wouldn’t let you drive one of their cars over a border (and apparently despite the Serbian Government’s claims they considered Kosovo a separate country). So I fell back on the 9 hour overnight bus trip, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been but did mean I started the conference already somewhat sleep deprived.

Sort of Historical Side Note

When I was at school learning Geography all of this area was called Yugoslavia and it was behind an “iron curtain” so we knew little about it and cared even less (it was not on the exam). In history it was covered by the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the meddling of Bismarck as an “honest broker” at the 1878 Congress of Berlin (as I recall he rigged the Balkans in such a way as to start World War I, but history O-Level was a long time ago). So you can already see that there is a long a complex history and geography in the region. It became more complex in the 1990s when Yugoslavia broke up in a series of bloody conflicts, which I remember from the evening news. Kosovo only really came to my attention in 2008 when I was walking through New York with James Macgill and his kids and we saw a large group of cars flying large red flags with double headed eagles on them (and the one thing I retained from my history lessons is the ability to spot a double headed eagle at 200 metres). These were Kosovans celebrating the declaration of independence being proclaimed.

A man holding a red flag

So squabbling about car number plates was pretty peaceful really. Fortunately, for us most of KFOR (the UN/Nato peace keeping force) had gone home, except for some in the Northern predominately Serb areas where they were out keeping the piece over disputed elections for city mayors. This meant we could use their old base as a conference venue, which was great except for the lack of lifts.

Cool talks

This is a list of talks I found particularly interesting or fun and that stuck in my mind long enough to remember for this post. There were lots of great talks that I either failed to see because the room was too full or was too hot for my brain to have taken in the details, so I’m looking forward to the videos coming out so I can refresh my memory later.

  • Neiene Boeijen Let’s put it on the map!
    • Interesting discussion on why graphic designers shouldn’t make maps and geographers shouldn’t design user interfaces
  • Benjamin Trigona-Harany Aircraft trajectory analysis using PostGIS
    • Explains how PostGIS handles trajectories which are really just a Linestring with MZ values on the points where M increases along the line
    • We can create a foreign table based on a foreign “server” that converts to a REST API call in the background this allows real time mapping filtered by the bounds of the map and any other filters the API can handle.
  • Jody Garnett and Andrea Aime GeoServer used in fun and interesting ways & State of GeoServer
    • As usual Andrea and Jody were presenting way too many talks including this useful review of what GeoServer is capable of in production and a review of new features in GeoServer for this year.
  • Iván Sánchez Ortega Gleo
    • I was going to say this is a new WebGL mapping library, but apparently Iván has been going on about this for 8+ years now. Any way there is lots of object orientated style javascript code in there so you can extend your semi-transparent markers with bouncing. I don’t think it’s quite cool enough for me to start learning JavaScript or WebGL but the demo with 10,000 randomly coloured bouncing map markers is fun in a <blink> sort of way.
  • Sanghee Shin Let’s defense my country using FOSS4G!
    • Discussed how South Korea is modernising its military mapping with GeoServer, PostGIS, Cesium and OpenLayers, which makes me feel better about knowing North Korea is using GeoServer and PostGIS too.
  • Andrea Aime Processing and publishing Maritime AIS data with GeoServer and Databricks in Azure
    • Andrea standing in for Nuno discussed how to handle 1.5 Billion records in GeoServer. Looking at the AIS ship location data over 7 years at second intervals (I think) and how you could get GeoServer to display the relevant data in a fast way.
  • Logan Williams Investigating war crimes, animal trafficking, and more with open source geospatial data
    • Logan is a Bellingcat reporter who uses open source tools to look at open source data to help confirm stories. For example he described how they looked at tracking a GRAD missile launcher from Russia to Ukraine before Malaysian Airliner was shoot down. This included spotting scuffs on the road and distinctive power lines in posted dash camera footage of the convoy.
    • What ever you do don’t play GeoGuesser against these guys as they are going to be very good.