GEOG 585
Open Web Mapping

Lesson 8 assignment: Independent exploration of FOSS


If the amount of JavaScript in the walkthrough was intimidating, don't worry. You don't have to write that kind of code in the lesson assignment, although I hope some of it comes in handy in your term project.

For this week's assignment, we're going to do something a bit different. You will identify and report on some GIS FOSS that interests you. Your typical encounter with FOSS in the "real world" will be open-ended, with little direction other than what you can find online. Therefore, this assignment is designed to give you an experience of independent exploration.


First, read this article to get an idea of the many different FOSS products used with GIS, some of which we have not covered in this course. I have placed this article in the Lesson 8 module in Canvas:

  • Steiniger, S., & Hunter, A. J. (2013). The 2012 free and open source GIS software map–A guide to facilitate research, development, and adoption. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 39, 136-150.

With its many acronyms, this article approaches alphabet soup at times. But I think you are far enough along in this course that you will recognize some of them and have enough frame of reference to process the ones you don't know. Obviously, this article is several years old, but will help get you up to date on the major players in FOSS GIS. I am not aware of a more recent article as thorough as this.


Identify a FOSS solution for GIS that we have not covered in this course, download it (if applicable), and briefly experiment with it. Then use the software to accomplish something useful.

In fulfilling this requirement, keep in mind the following:

  • This should ideally be some software that will be helpful in your term project, although this is not required.
  • APIs, such as OpenLayers and D3, are okay for this requirement.
  • If you select a cloud-based service, be sure that it contains some open source element.

Use the Steiniger and Hunter article, as well as the Ramsey video from Lesson 1, if you need ideas about what to review.


Write a report of around 1000 words describing the following:

  • What software you chose, who makes it, and why.
  • How it relates to web mapping.
  • What useful function you accomplished with it. Provide screenshots.
  • What documentation you found and used in accomplishing the above things. Provide links. Please also comment on its quality.
  • How this software could possibly complement or extend the projects you have completed in this course.

If you reviewed a cloud based service or a FOSS product created by a for-profit entity, please delineate which elements of the software are FOSS and which are not. Also describe how the FOSS portion fits into the business model of the provider.

Remember that free software and APIs are not always open source. The software you review for this assignment must have some portion where the source code is openly shared and can be reused or modified.

You should submit your report into the Lesson 8 assignment drop box on Canvas.