Desktop GIS – The Evergreen Topic

It seems that I tend to revisit the state of desktop GIS every so often. With the continued advancement of “web GIS,” as well as the increased power of mobile platforms, proliferation of spatial analysis techniques into non-traditional environments, the ubiquity of spatial databases, and a host of other factors, it’s tempting to speculate on the long-term prospects of traditional desktop GIS software. This seems especially true when the software in question originates in Redlands, California.

I was brought back to this topic by a recent discussion on Twitter, initiated by my friend, Atanas Entchev.

The ensuing discussion grew legs and continued much longer than I would have thought. The core of the discussion centered around confusion in Esri’s messaging or, more accurately, subsequent interpretation of Esri’s messaging with regard to the status of ArcGIS Desktop. Long story short: much ado about nothing. Esri is releasing new versions of ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap. There are primary sources reaffirming their commitment to desktop GIS, so we can all go back to what we were doing. Awesome.

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Looking Ahead

I started this blog because I love to write. At the time I started it, blogging was what passed for social media, but I wasn’t necessarily looking for a social experience. I just wanted to write.

I was at a point in my career where I was fairly cloistered inside the windowless rooms of the Washington, DC defense contracting industry. I went home every day without anything to show for it, having left my work behind in places few could access. Blogging became a way for me to craft the technical skills I was developing into something demonstrable, something I could point to and say “that’s what I do.”

I started programming young, around the same time I started writing for pleasure. This is probably not coincidental. Piaget would probably say that I had reached an appropriate stage of cognitive development for both skills to emerge, possibly late in the concrete operational stage or early in the formal operational stage. Whatever the explanation, they emerged at the same time for me and, consequently, both have felt to me like forms of creative expression.

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Thank You, Keith Masback

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet people throughout your career who provide the necessary influence, whether they realize it or not, that you need at the time. One such person for me in recent years has been Keith Masback, who recently concluded a 10-year run as the CEO of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF).

Geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT in Beltway jargon, is most closely associated with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), where the term was coined in the post-9/11 timeframe. The USGIF was formed shortly thereafter as the non-profit educational and outreach arm of the GEOINT community.

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Data Is Hard

Where I work, we have developed a nuanced philosophy to describe the niceties of collecting data, managing it, validating it, and preparing it for use: “Data is hard.”

This was brought to light in a very public manner by the vandalism that was displayed on basemaps produced by Mapbox. The responses by Mapbox  and their CEO, Eric Gendersen, are good examples of how a company should respond to such incidents. Kudos to him and the team at Mapbox for addressing and rectifying the situation quickly.

The Gordian Knot
By jmerelo [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Speculation quickly ran to vandalism of OSM, which is one of the primary data sources used by Mapbox in their products. That speculation was backed up by the edit history in the New York area, but it is interesting to note that the vandalism was caught early in OSM and never came to light is OSM itself. In this case, the crowd worked as it was supposed to.

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The Consulting Mindset and the War on Cubicle Body

I’ve been debating for a while whether I wanted to write this post, as the subject matter deviates greatly from the technical and professional writing I normally offer here. I decided to do so because my recent dive into fitness is intertwined with my professional life and affects how I approach my day, so I think it has bearing on my life as a 21st-century tech worker firmly planted in middle age.

I need to thank everyone who follows me on social media for putting up with my various “war on cubicle body” posts. You have been part of my publicly crowd-sourcing accountability for my fitness-related goals. I’ll dig into that more deeply later on.

I have been somewhat surprised, on social media and in person, to the reception “the war” has received. I expected the reception to be positive, which it has been, due to the supportive nature of the people in my extended circle. I was more surprised by the number of people who have told me it has motivated them to kick-start their own journey. I am truly humbled by that. Finally, I’ve also gotten a good dose of the expected “I don’t know how you do it” and “Where do you find the time?” comments. Because this begins to get at the conundrum faced by many tech and information workers in today’s society, I decided this post may be relevant. Settle in, there’s no TL;DR nor will I split it into parts.

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FOSS4G-NA 2018: People

A couple of my Spatial Networks colleagues and I spent most of last week in St. Louis, Missouri at the FOSS4G North America conference. Following up on attending the international FOSS4G conference in Boston, this is the most time I’ve spent with this community in quite a while. There has been no particular intent to stay away, but the ebbs and flows of life can result in absences from the scene.

I’m always struck by the diversity of imagination and content at every FOSS4G event and this one was no different. I am relative late-comer to FOSS4G events, having not attended one until the 2011 conference in Denver. That was the year of what I call ‘yet another javascript library’ because it seemed there were a lot of geo-centric libraries presented that year. It was also when I first saw CartoDB. The content, from my viewpoint, was very tech-focused, due primarily to a lot of new tech arriving on the scene and shaking up how even the more forward-leaning FOSS4G world was thinking about doing things.

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Lately…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, owing to 2018 getting off to a quick start. At work, we wrapped up the year at Spatial Networks by putting the finishing touches on a strategic plan that calls for the company roughly doubling in size next year. This has been reflected in our aggressive pacing of hiring across a number of disciplines, and it promises to continue.

I just celebrated my first anniversary with Spatial Networks and it’s been a great experience. Coming from a federal consulting background, I’ve learned a lot about the software-as-a-service business and have had a lot of opportunity to exercise the technical leadership skills I had been looking to expand.

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