I’m very pleased to say that, as was announced Monday, I’ll be mentoring one of the four projects for the Wikimedia foundation in the 2009 Google Summer of Code. If you don’t know about the Google Summer of Code (or “GSoc”, as it’s affectionately called), it’s a fantastic program, fully funded by Google, that pays students around the world to work on established open-source projects over a summer. The student I’m mentoring is Jeroen De Dauw, a budding hacker in Belgium (and, coincidentally, one with a first name pronounced very similarly to mine, which is why some people when they first hear my name think I’m Dutch). He’s already got the requisite enthusiasm and programming experience that makes me think the project will be a success.
The planned project is different from what’s described on the site, due to some re-thinking. The current plan is for Jeroen to create a new MediaWiki extension, called “Semantic Maps”, that will hold all support for mapping services: initially Google Maps and OpenLayers (replacing the current Semantic Google Maps and (not-really-working) Semantic Layers extensions), and then, as time permits, Google Earth and Yahoo! Maps as well.
This project was easily accepted, which was great; it was mostly luck, due to not that many people signing up to mentor for Wikimedia this year; bringing to mind Woody Allen’s quote that 90% of success is just showing up.
However idiosyncratic the process of getting accepted was, there’s nothing idiosyncratic about the project itself. Geographical mapping is a very important feature in data visualization; judging by this somewhat-reliable list of active SMW-using sites, Semantic Google Maps is the second most-popular additional extension for SMW sites, after Semantic Forms. Of course, that’s Google Maps; and I don’t doubt that Google Maps will remain the most popular mapping service even as others become available, but all the others have their specific strengths and user base: OpenLayers allows for mapping on non-geographic surfaces, like anatomical images and blueprints; Google Earth shows a 3-D view of the world; and Yahoo! Maps has fewer license restrictions than Google Maps does.
So that should be an exciting project; I’m also looking forward to just being a mentor. I’ll hopefully post some updates about Semantic Maps here as it gets developed.