Geoshare Annual Users Group (May 1999)

It was stocktaking time at the Annual Meeting of the Geoshare User Group. The organization is strapped for cash and a survey of users underscored the difficulty of deploying a not-for-profit standard. PDM reviews the user meeting and also offers contributions from the Geoshare Board, and an independent Geoshare user.

Geoshare, the first attempt at providing universal software interoperability through data 'half-links' (see the side-box and PDM Vol. 2 N 7 for a backgrounder) is at a turning point. A survey of Geoshare users showed many users lukewarm towards the standard. The Geoshare funding model is based on voluntary contribution of time, and allows for limited development and promotion. A new three-year plan for the organization will ensure that the standard is maintained, but the current thinking is that within this time frame, something else will 'turn up' to replace the now mature Geoshare.

serious use

Despite signs of serious use of Geoshare in the community at large - particularly with the Conoco-Mobil-Vastar initiative, the Geoshare user meeting held last month in Houston was a very downbeat affair. Stuart McAdoo (the father of Geoshare), Paul Haines and Bill Quinlivan are leaving the board and moving on to other pastures in the Schlumberger group.

soul-searching

Much soul searching has been going on within the organization following the results of the survey of Geoshare take-up, and perception throughout the industry. Results indicated a preference amongst non-Geoshare users for direct links, and even a penchant for the simplicity of ASCII data transfer. Within the Geoshare user community, other problems revolve around the limited support offered from the main vendors for the standard, the difficulty of developing and testing links, and the lack of real end-users (as opposed to data specialists) within the Geoshare community.

mature

From the study results, the Board concluded that Geoshare could be viewed as a mature technology which may be doing the job that the industry needs, and that significant growth of the organization may not be necessary. This conclusion was also predicated on the fact that, given the modest resources of the organization, significant growth would be very hard to achieve.

ambitious

Notwithstanding the limited resources, Geoshare has given itself quite an ambitious program. The current strategy is to maintain the standard as a tool to be used by data specialists and to keep the standard stable over the next three years while continuing to respond to user-driven enhancements. Other aims include

More help for developers in the form of documentation and examples

Promotion of the Geoshare network throughout the industry through the website and communication with the membership

Continued development of the data model - with a new Version 12 to be presented at the July 16th data model meeting.

Current thinking is that within the three year time frame a new standard will come along to replace Geoshare in the interoperability stakes. In this context the OpenSpirit initiative, POSC and RESCUE have been evoked.

PDM comment : The strategy put forward by the Geoshare board reflects the organization's traditional low-key approach. The same package could have been presented as a 'new revitalized marketing initiative'. See the contributions from Ken Bastow (the new Geoshare chairman) and Carol Sumner for some more thoughts on the future of the standard.

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