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Monday, 17 November 2008

OSGeo Branding

A recent post on clever elephant has touched on a topic near and dear to my heart - the value (or lack there of) of OSGeo as a brand. This discussion; and the importance of it, was one of my initial passions with the idea of OSGeo (and one aspect that interested the GeoTools community in the process).

I find that the current web site is very much focused around the foundation itself and the member projects. I would like to see a different approach namly to focus on the products and the abilities of the open source geospatial software.

I started just such a discussion with the web committee in 2007 - before the prospect of getting GeoTools through graduation sucked up all my time and energy. My understanding is the marketing committee currently has the mandate in this area.

Here is the WebCom OSGeo Site Focus wiki page where I gathered up my ideas last time.  The idea was to profile example users - where each user has an answer they are looking for:
  • Government: Dave is checking out OSGeo after hearing good things during a recent visit by members of GeoConnections Canada. He is impressed with the public / private partnership represented by this government policy and wants some more information on how it is done.
  • Government: Mary is a volunteer from a small non governmental organization wanting to do local planning
  • Government: Josh works for a municipal government, and is highly constrained by both staff time and budget. He has looked at open source geospatial before, but was unable to dedicate the time to figure out how the pieces fit together.
  • Education: Sebastien is a graduate student starting research into his thesis and wants a platform to base his work on.
  • Education: Sarah is an undergraduate looking to have her homework done
  • Users: Peter is into Geocaching. He wants to have tools to help with his hobby. Ultimately he wants to share these tools with his friends.
  • Users: George is an ESRI Professional who has been told by his manager to look into what is going on.
  • Users: Lui is GIS Professional looking for cheap way to try out an open standard.
  • Developers: Chris is established developer will be annoyed at any change that slows him down.
  • Developers: Adrian is starting out wants to know what is here and how/if it works. Really wants to get working but cannot make sense of the documentation spread across 5 standards, three projects and apparently communicated via Zen
That is probably enough direction for a reorganization ..the really hard part here is to motivate the production of content for the website - in the past I had two hopes for content production:
  • Consulting Organizations (similar to Refractions, Camp2Camp etc...) that wish to demonstrate expertise in a particular area. We can ask such organizations to submit white papers; case studies, tutorials and so on. However to preserve the OSGeo Brand we really need to make sure the word
  • Incubation Committee really needs to communicate what information is expected from projects as they join up. For projects that are already out the gate we will need to catch up with their PSC representative and beg for source material.
I am less hopeful now - seeing the recent GeoServer branding exercise I am going to have to add:
  • Graphic Designer - we probable need to hire someone. Or if the marketing committee can scare up a passionate volunteer
In doing the research for the wiki proposal mentioned above I went through several websites; apache.org , eclipse.org and the OGC site. There was a contrast in approaches; apache reduced their branding to single logo stamped on each web site; eclipse.org and the OGC site were much more user aware providing common navigation; background papers and such like to help people make informed decisions and not lose their way.

The idea of OSGeo as a brand has also come up with respect to sponsorship and project participation. I have gone over the same three websites with a prospective sponsor - with the idea of seeing what they would get for their money with each a approach.

Several interesting observations were made - on our website currently sponsors are safely sheltered on small web page. This approach can be contrasted with the OGC site where a rolling banner shows sponsor logos. 

A second difficulty was that it was hard for a sponsor to communicate their expertise in a given area or with a given product. The pages for each product had no room for sponsor logos for example. In this the eclipse.org site shares our bias - on eclipse.org the only way to figure things out are to look at who members of the steering committee work for. 
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