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Speaker Interview with Paul Ramsey

Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m a core developer of the PostGIS spatial extension for PostgreSQL, and have been involved since the start of the project. I live in Victoria, Canada, and work as a Executive Engineer for the PostgreSQL support company Crunchy Data.
How do you engage with the PostgreSQL Community?
PostGIS is one of the largest, and longest standing, PostgreSQL extensions and as such we have worked with the PostgreSQL community to outline the core features necessary to support large, long-running, deeply integrated extensions. The extension framework itself was built using the requirements of PostGIS as the “outer envelope” of extension needs.
In the last few years I have personally engaged with the community by starting to provide small patches in areas of performance exercised by PostGIS (like large tuples), and by writing niche extensions (like the HTTP extension, and the OGR FDW foreign data wrapper).
When I can, I try to talk about PostgreSQL to audiences that might not be aware of its many charms. Too many developers treat databases as simple CRUD stores, which leaves 98% of the interesting features of PostgreSQL on the table -- full text search, JSON, ranges, partitioning, FDW, and of course PostGIS, to name just a handful.
Have you enjoyed previous or FOSDEM conferences, either as an attendee or as speaker?
I was lucky enough to keynote at the last, which was a great experience, since the database community doesn’t know enough (I think) about the power of spatial analysis to unlock value in data. Databases are amazing tools for filtering and summarizing data, and when you add location to the mix they get even more powerful.
What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?
PostGIS has been around since 2001, and as with PostgreSQL, most users exercise about 2% of the power, using it just for storage and bounding-box retrieval of geographic features. But in 18 years we have added over 300 different spatial functions, and the amount of data transformation and analysis you can do in the database is huge. My talk is going to try and touch on all of the features of PostGIS and give a little flavour of what each might be used for -- the ultime 30,000 foot view.
What is the audience for your talk?
Application developers, system architects, anyone who is called upon, in the course of their work, to specify what technologies are needed to solve a problem. Knowing about the features of PostGIS will help them accidentally add components they might not need, or write core processing from scratch that already exists.
What existing knowledge should the attendee have?
Knowing some basic SQL is all that is required.
What is the one feature in PostgreSQL 12 which you like most?
There’s an unknown feature (because it’s only useful to extension writers) alled the “support function API” which allows developers to supply extra information to functions during the planning process. We used it in PostGIS to change how we interact with spatial indexes, which in turn allowed us to fully parallelize spatial queries.
Which other talk at this year's conference would you like to see?
I’m looking forward to “IoT with PostgreSQL”, since the “internet of things” usually involves location information (things exist in space) and IoT usually involves interesting scaling problems as the fleet of things in question grows.
Which measure, action, feature or activity would—in your eyes—help to accelerate the adoption of PostgreSQL?
I think normalizing the term “Postgres” as a common way of describing the database what speaking would probably help a lot of managerial types feel less stupid talking about Postgrehs-cue-ell.