Community GIS/Map Wiki

   Pursuing the idea of community GIS a bit further. The question is,”would it be possible to adapt a current content management tool to include an OGC component?” Currently, content managers are oriented to text/html. A portal that merges Wiki, weblog, and content editing with a GeoServer OGC service seems theoretically possible and eminently interesting.

    Once GIS features join the larger world of content management it is alluring to think about what that could mean. Currently content managers make communityportals easier to develop and maintain. The open source community adapted commercial portal interest into public community portals. We now commonly see Wikis maintained by, and for, a common interest community. The Weblog phenomena isanother specifically community type of content management, where blog sites intermingle in a larger web of interest oriented toward news and commentary. These are primarily verbal/text communities.

    Social networkportals such as Faces, Flickr, and Craigslist are also recent successful community interest portals. In these portals digital photos begin to see prominence. Older communities based on code sharing and versioning tools CVS, SVN have beenused for a long time both commercially and in the open source world. Podcasting is now being added to the RSS/Atom community of weblogging which adds an audio-visual component to verbal communities.
  
But, how would GIS/maps fit into these types of community portals?
  
There are some interesting developments in the map graphics arena that provide some hints. For example in the blog realm there is geourl or a2b which are community databases of location. These are essentially spatial point sets locating website ip on a global context. A similar idea is found at the GeoServer user map hosted by moximedia. Again a spatial point set of community users.
  
Google added a huge impetus to community GIS with their Google map api and KML. There are numerous mashups which mostly provide spatial point locations. Here is a javascript project that builds a bridge between Google Maps and the OGC WMS services, Brian Flood so that much more complex features can live on top of Google map base. Yahoo maps and Microsoft maps are belatedly following in Google map’s tracks.
  
OGC WFS-T which allows bidirectional spatial feature updates may be a key foundation block to the burgeoning map community networks. GeoServer provides an open source WFS-T that allows a datastore to be published and updated. Features can be complex entities such as polylines, polygons, and symbols. However, the client side is still problematic. Even with Ajax, html makes a poor tool for graphic updates more complex than point data. On the client side either a heavy weight tool like the uDig Eclipse plugin, or a lightweight tool based on SVG/XAML is needed. uDig is still early in development. SVG has been around awhile but acceptance seems to be growing slowly. Microsoft XAML is definitely a future thing, but promises SVG capability augmented with 3D and graphics hardware rendering performance.
  
WFS chaining adds a great deal of flexibility with interchangeable layer sources. Map sources from the Census Bureau, NOAA, JPL, USGS, FEMA etc can be intermingled. If the MS GeoTango rumor sees light there may be a shift from pure Ajax raster stacks to a more powerful OGC types of services in the future of the big map players. In an OpenGIS world services from all sorts of sources can be mingled as desired. As an example: Add a FEMA flood zone to a Google street base, over a USGS DOQQ, and pull currently available real-estate points from realtor.com, with links to automated appraisal sites for a better understanding of a property you are interested in buying.
  
But, what exactly would community GIS look like, based on a WFS foundation? Once there is a basic public map background whether from the Census TIGER, Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft what would a community add?

Commercial Intranet:
  
In the commercial Intranet zone there are numerous possibilities but security issues are a potential barrier. External infrastructure for utilities, electrical power, pipeline, cable, and telephone are obvious candidates. Customer locations are a big part of enterprise CRM. SAP inventory management and work flow are candidates. Tracking for fleet management, equipment and resources, physical networks, facilities management, and people all have spatial components. Security monitoring from remote cameras to dispatch are all possibilities. Collaborative engineering for complex projects whether civil engineering, construction, or architecture are again spatially located and graphically intensive possibilities for community mapping. Expanding GIS to include geometry in general encompasses a wider engineering audience.
  
Public Service (government):
  
This would include DOTs, county appraisers, land ownership and civil records, disaster planning, water and sewer, health and human services, public safety.
  
Public Community:
    Obviously point locations with comment are already popular. Route sharing is also a part of the major web map channels. Cell phone GPS feeds could aggregate large volumes of traffic for flow maps and traffic analysis. Katrina type disaster communities could provide a way for the local individual to feed information to a larger picture in a weblog manner. Craigslist local want ads could add location to real estate, garage sales, rental subleasing etc. Perhaps community GIS would develop around game plays such as geocaching? Perhaps site seeing and travel with routes and commentary online. It is difficult to predict what would be considered useful to public communities.
  
A first step is simply developing a web mapping portal or Map Wiki. Both comment and location are accessible to the user. The basic data layers are available as WFS datastores from selectable public sources. Community members can then add whatever, points, lines, polygons, or symbols they wish along with linked comment. Using a Wiki model maps and comment can be both public and private. Using a login mode users would add features to be published to just a small network of friends by invitation only; or in anonymous mode completely public features could be added. If such a Map Wiki portal was made available the community decides the content.
  
RSS feeds linking layer changes for community alerts are an interesting possibility. Automated alert entries would be very useful in inventory tracking, security, or SCADA networks. An authenticated user could click a point, line, symbol with an associated RSS feed to add to his feed monitor. Alerts are then sent on change. Monitoring networks of sensors with automatic feeds to a community map service add other interesting avenues to explore.
  
This is why a portal that merges Wiki, Weblog, content editing with a GeoServer OGC service seems theoretically possible and eminently interesting.

Comments are closed.