Run To Daylight

I am a huge football fan and the title of this post is one of my favorite quotes, attributed to Vince Lombardi. The concept is simple: find a gap in the defense and run through it. Spotting gaps is a little easier in football than in other endeavors, but the concept is broadly applicable: spot an unmet need and meet it.

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It is this very concept that has driven my consulting work and has also attracted me to the open-source world over the past decade-plus. It is, of course, not unique to open-source but I have come to understand that it is fundamentally baked into the culture.

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Perspectives

Today marks the first day of classes for the spring semester at Salisbury (Maryland) University. This is significant for me because it also marks my first day as an instructor in the Masters of GIS Management program, teaching an online course called “Leadership in GIS Organizations.” This is my first foray back into academia in the 22 years since I finished my own degree.

Aveiro March 2012-18
By Alvesgaspar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This new venture doesn’t represent a career change for me so much as an enhancement. I have spent my entire career working as a consultant, primarily developing geospatial systems for government (mostly federal government) users. This means I live in the for-profit private sector and interact with government fairly regularly.

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Toolbars

The convoluted user interfaces of most desktop GIS software is something I revisit from time to time. James’ most recent issue of his SpatialTau newsletter got me thinking about it again. A while back, I got caught up in a Twitter discussion about it. Tools like geojson.io and TileMill have fantastic interfaces, but they also perform narrow functions (data editing and map composition, respectively).

For a while, I’ve been thinking that this might be an approach worth investigating: rather than one piece of software with everything in it, a suite of tools dedicated to different aspects of the typical GIS workflow. This would not be a panacea as some tasks are just more complex than others. (Think of all of the editing options available in any piece of CAD software, and this is devoid of any analytical tools.) As attractive as this approach seems to me in concept, I suspect it would break down in execution. I think it could end up multiplying the problem with many overly-complex applications instead of just one.

Over the last year or so, I’ve become somewhat enamored of another approach: the search tool. This requires a little back story.

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On GeoHipster

This time last year, Atanas Entchev’s GeoHipster site was just getting started. I participated in the 2014 “predictions” round-up, but I was somewhat skeptical of the idea. For reasons entirely my own, I was primarily turned off by the title of the site. I am not one to wear labels easily and I have a bit of natural suspicion for those who do.¬†But a funny thing happened on the way to the artisanal map store: GeoHipster hit its stride.

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f=geojson, Part 3

So it seems this thing may be snowballing. The idea of GeoJSON support was originally floated (not by me) on Esri’s ideas.arcgis.com site a few years back. The entry can be found here.

A few days after Esri announced support for GeoJSON in AGOL, they updated the above entry as follows:

Note from Esri (Dec 16, 2014): We are considering this feature to be included in the next minor release after ArcGIS 10.3.

So, it appears ArcGIS Server users have something to look forward to after the 10.3 rollout. It would seem to me that, after implementing all of this back-end support, the next logical step would be to add consumption support in the web and (preferably) desktop clients. (Note: That is purely speculation on my part.)

BTW, the language in the note above is still a little ambiguous so now may be a good time to log in and upvote this idea if you haven’t already done so.

It’s great to see my favorite data format making inroads into the vast Esri user community. Perhaps all the tools I use will finally be interoperable in a modern, web-friendly way.

A Brief Retrospective

This is the time of year where retrospectives of the previous twelve months become all the rage as content providers have column inches and/or pixels to fill up while skipping out the door on holiday breaks. As an independent blogger, I have no such requirements and the topic of this post, while retrospective, has nothing to do with 2014.

sunrise_crop_small

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f=geojson, Part 2

In which I say nice things about Esri. You have been warned…

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk at a local Esri GeoDev Meetup (which also served as a convenient way to tell a room full of developers that my company is hiring developers) on a GeoJSON server object extension for ArcGIS Server that I open-sourced some time ago. I started that effort a little while after giving another talk in which I called on Esri to start supporting GeoJSON. I’m not one to wait around so I built an approach myself.

At the most recent meetup, the Esri staff who were there updated the group on upcoming efforts with regard to GeoJSON. Honestly, I’ve known for some time that there are a lot of people inside Esri who “get it” and that various things have been percolating with regard to GeoJSON.

So I was happy to see the official announcement of support for GeoJSON in ArcGIS Online (AGOL) feature services. Included in the support is access through the REST API using an “f=geojson” parameter. This makes it much easier to consume AGOL services in the web client of your choice. (The announcement shows a Leaflet example.)

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geospatial technologies and practices