Revelation: I still care about maps.

One revelation I had yesterday, when participating at BarCamp is… I still actually care about maps.

Now, those people who observe me probably know this. Although I have moved out of the map creation business — my day job is no longer hacking on OpenLayers, though amusingly, I actually end up *using* OpenLayers more now than I did most of the time at MetaCarta — I still enjoy maps, and still work in a field where maps play a big role, for example. However, I’ve felt for a long time like I was burned out on maps: After 5-6 years of working on the same thing, I was tired of the same discussions over and over again.

Turns out — that probably isn’t the case. Instead, what I got bored of was dealing with questions about Javascript-based web mapping. I got tired of only existing as “The guy people ask OpenLayers questions to”; I got tired of being a one-trick wonder, even if that trick earned me the title, for a while, of “Boy Genius” (literally: it was on my business cards).

I ran into Bill Wendel at Barcamp Boston yesterday, and when I pulled out my array of phones (Nexus S, Nokia C7, Nokia N9, Lumia 710), he commented that he remembered me talking at Barcamp Boston last year about the need to constantly reinvent yourself: if you’re not learning something new, you’re falling behind. I kept one hat on for what was — for me! — quite a while: Web mapping technology was the core of my existence in a lot of my development for 5 years. (Also changed in those 5 years: Got married. Child moved from elementary school to applying to high schools. Moved to current apartment. etc.) 5 years is a long time. A really long time. Being “the OpenLayers guy” just isn’t cutting it anymore.

But the mapping world still interests me: even today, it seems I have a lot of information in my head that isn’t ‘common knowledge’ about the mapping industry. (For example: Yahoo’s mapping platform is almost entirely provided by Nokia these days; something that most people aren’t aware of.) Even if I’m no longer as actively interested in doing the software development side of things, I still love talking maps — I love sharing information about how the world used to be, and how we’re seeing it change.

To me, this is news. I know that this is probably a sign that I’m insufficiently good at self-examination, but I really just thought that I was ‘done’ with Maps: finding out that indeed, I’m not done with maps, but just with mapping software, is an interesting revelation. I’m looking forward to Bill reaching back out and helping build up a group of people in Boston interested in mapping again. Back in 2006, we used to meet up regularly — and this was the early days of OpenLayers, so the meetups were more informal, and less code. (This is before we were part of OSGeo, for example.) As I moved more into the software development side, so did the meetups — but I realize that in doing that, I missed a key factor: the software of maps isn’t the interesting part. The *stories* matter. Software is the boring part. Leaving out the users and targeting the developers was the wrong way to go, and I want to see if going back away from that opens more interesting doors… again.

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