October 13, 2008 @ 11:46 EDT

To PostGIS Or Not To PostGIS, that is the question...

Development of Photo Organizer has slowed down lately, in part thanks to RealLife(tm) getting in the way, but mostly due to the remaining feature requests becoming increasingly more invasive. This isn't to say that these features aren't a good idea, but rather that due to PO's craptastic code structure, a seemingly "minor feature" would require a major internal overhaul.

Features like replacing the internal permission model with a finer-grained group-based model. Moving to a real templating engine. Better "social" features. Adding an external RPC API. Adding some sort of caching of search results or other complex queries that involve permission tests. And so on.

One deceptively simple feature request is to integrate PostGIS support. While PO currently extracts GPS data out of images and stores it in the database, it doesn't really do anything useful with that data. Integrating PostGIS support would instantly give PO access to a very powerful geospatial backend that can tie in to all sorts of other spatially-aware systems. There is a near-endless list of upsides, even if PO never uses anything more advanced than spatially-aware searching.

The downsides, however, are doozeys -- From an administration perspective rather than from a code perspecitve. First, due to the level of effort it would take to make PostGIS support optional, we'd have to require it across the board. PostGIS is not part of the standard PostgreSQL distribution, and would consequently make setting up a PO installation more difficult. It would greatly complicate upgrading an existing PO installation to a newer version of PostgreSQL and/or PostGIS, and upgrading to newer PO releases could also get more complex.

So all of that said, PostGIS support would be interesting and cool, but is it necessarily the right direction to take? I know PO is already used by at least one municipality to hold photos relating to their tax rolls, but without a better idea of real-world workflows, I don't know what PO can do to better tie in to the rest of their (or anyone else's) systems.

Meanwhile, regardless of PO's support for PostGIS, more user-visible features like "pull up a google map with locations of this set of photos marked" can be implemented, and now that I have a GPS widget for my camera, I'm actually interested in such things. :)

I get nearly no feedback from PO users; indeed aside from the freshmeat subscriber stats I really have no idea how many folks actually use PO. My best efforts with Google show a few dozen public PO installations, including at least two which the admins have independently translated into Russian. Come on folks, send me patches so all users can benefit from this work!

So, peanut gallery, any thoughts?

Posted by Solomon Peachy | Permanent link & Comments | File under: Free Software